The day of the Squirrel

Day 30 Red squirrel

Monday … 1st June …6am … And here is the Sun accompanied by a gentle breeze, this could be a good day … turned out to be freezing cold outdoors, and when the rain started about 5pm, it continuing until past bed time.

Today Norma drove us to visit a very friendly and welcoming couple I had met earlier on a number of occasions, her cousin Olwen and her Hubby Ken who live in Formby …    a town in Merseyside. The area is a civil parish and within the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton in Merseyside, England … a fair distance to travel from Hindley, but being a new comer to the area I personally enjoyed what appeared to me to be a very scenic route.

            On our arrived we were given a hot drink and nibbles, all set out on the table in a warm and welcoming, what we Aussies call a sunroom, whereas the English call it a conservatory. This annexure predominately constructed of glass extended out into the closed in back garden, giving me the impression of sitting in a fish bowl looking out upon a beautifully cared for garden of flowers, trees and bushes encircling a manicured lawn.

            Ken pointed out in a corner of the yard adjacent to a corner of the house, a small BBQ area, set up on a paved section that included a cane table and chair setting. On the fence just above one of the chairs he had affixed a metal flip-top metal box with a glass front panel and a little front standing platform,  in which from time to time he would drop a handful of  in-the-shell peanuts for a family of red squirrels that lived in the tree near his back fence

            In time we were invited to make ourselves comfortable in the dining section of the home where Olwen had set out a variety of tasty sandwich fillings along with a selection of breads, and we were invited us to help ourselves. Again, I marvelled at the generosity and friendliness I have experience since my arrival in this country.

            Following lunch Olwen and Ken drove us to the National Trust Formby Pinewoods… http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/formby/ …where a renowned Red Squirrel walk is located, although we had a bracingly cold wander around the park, we were not lucky enough to see any of these delightful little creatures. Since the introduction in 1876 by a Mr Brocklehurst, of the first pair of Grey squirrels that were released in Henbury Park, Cheshire, Grey squirrels are thought to steal nuts and seeds from Red squirrel winter stores, resulting in weight loss in Red squirrels, and therefore reduced breeding success, as Red squirrels need good body fat reserves in order to reproduce and successfully rear young in the spring. Being so cold it’s no surprise the inhabitants of these woods were not out running around.

            On returning to the home we again ventured into the conservatory with our hot drinks to thaw out, even though the sun had been shining the bitter winds blowing had chilled us to the bone. We had only been sitting chatting for a little while when a movement in one of the bushes, had us on alert with Pat and I grinning like Cheshire cats, for there, running across the lawn was a red squirrel. We watched hushed and unmoving, as it ran over a flower bed jumped up on the seat of a cane garden chair, then leapt onto the top of the back rest, hesitate for a minute and finally sprang up onto the platform, there it sat looking through the glass at the goodies inside. Much to our astonishment, using both adroitness of mind and body the creature stretched up and with it’s pointy little nose lifted the lid, wiggled into the container and removed a peanut, placed it in his mouth then clambered out of the feed box onto the platform, down on the chair back, across the seat and scampered across the lawn into the shrubbery.

         Enthralled we watched this nature pantomime for over an hour, during which we observed not only that one squirrel but two smaller ones, who had joined in the action of quickly removing the peanuts, then either racing away with their loot, or sitting to remove the outer casing and nibble the exposed nut.

            With the depletion of the nut supply, all three little actors withdrew from the main stage to behind a curtain of spring flowers and bushes, while we the audience adjourned to the dining room, where we were treated to an evening meal of delicious meat casserole, slow cooked in a rich onion and mushroom gravy, accompanied by a side dish of roasted spring vegetables, a platter of crackers and a cheese selection to please any palate.

            It was three rather contented ladies that wended their way home, all with their own individual special memories of an afternoon spent with close cousins, distant family, best friends and three little red creatures that not only melted a couple of hearts, but delighted us all.

Aunty Eileen

Day 29

Sunday …31st Good morning rain, and your friend Slight Breeze.

Today again saw Susan, Pat and I off to meet yet more relations, albeit only a small twig of Pat’s family tree on her Mother’s side, this time in Wavertree in Liverpool.

It was an elderly lady who answered Pat’s knock on the door, and replied no! Aunty Mary! to Pat’s somewhat hesitant querying  Aunty Eileen! Please do come in Eileen is in the lounge room. Introductions made and we were led into meet Pat’s Aunty Eileen, a very frail little old lady of eighty seven years, who we were soon to discover was recuperating from a broken hip, resulting from a fall taken in her lounge room not long past.

In the mean time while awaiting those family members still to arrive, we had a chance to get to know these two lovely ladies, Mary is Eileen’s eighty four year old sister and fulltime carer, who readily informed us that there is a constant stream of family members that do drop in daily for company and moral support, not to mention the two visiting nurses who regularly attend, not only to ensure the hip healing process is going to plan but to assist in any other day to day concerns Eileen and/or Mary may have, be it medical or personal.

Honestly Eileen may have been frail of body   but good lord her mind was as fresh and sharp as a twenty year old, her memory was without a doubt faultless, she was answering Pat’s questions on family matters, such as who married who, and what their children’s names were, going back beyond fifty years, as well as naming family members and telling stories from her own childhood.

It was after the rest of the family turned up that we discovered what a wicked sense of humour Eileen possesses. Being an ardent Everton supporter, she knows the name of all the players in the team (both past and present), and wouldn’t think of not watching every single game. We were left without a doubt that she has no time for any other team or their players. Just listening to the teasing repartee ricocheting back and forth between her and her beloved grandson, who happens to follow a different team than hers, had us all almost rolling on the floor with laughter, albeit in admitting her love for him as a grandson, she was very quick to add how sick he was for following the other team.

Of all the new members of my friend’s family I have met in the past six weeks, I have to say that my visit with Aunty Eileen and Aunty Mary was the most rewarding for me from an insightful perspective. It was with a feeling of regret that we had to leave after a very pleasant visit, where again everyone that attended had made us all feel very welcome and proved genuinely pleased that both Susan and Pat had taken the time to look them up and to reconnect as family.

Again I occupied the backseat going home, while the other two chatted about their different thoughts and feelings resulting from their visit to this group of the family that until now had been lost to them. As I had come to expect from UK hospitality, we had been treated to a delicious afternoon tea, consisting of sandwiches, half porkpies and sausage rolls, to name just a few of the goodies on offer, leaving us with little appetite for a big dinner, so tonight we settled for a grilled cheese sandwich, before adjoining to the lounge room where Pat caught Norma up on the news followed by a bit of TV before heading off to bed.

The first family reunion

Day 28

Saturday … 30th … There is sun albeit a very cold wind is again taking the limelight

I was first up this morning, had showered and my hand washing was done and on the cloth line before the others ventured out, there wasn’t a lot planned, just a catch up shopping trip before lunch.

We weren’t home long when Norma’s friends Dot and Bert arrived, Dot to chat and Bert to get into the hothouse where he discovered much to his delight, I had repotted a tray of snow peas out next to a bamboo curtain attached to the outside of the hot house, in the hopes that they would climb there. Norma has started taking a great interest out there, in the last few day she has been busy repotting some seedlings and planting others.

This afternoon Susan, Pat and I went off to Walton in Liverpool to meet up with some of Pat’s family from her Mum’s side. Norma refuses to come as she feels she was slighted by them a while back. It turned out to be rather a fun afternoon watching Pat getting to know the family members she hadn’t seen for over sixty years, and for Susan meeting distant cousins for the very first time.

For Pat being the instigator of the get-together it was a highly emotional time, she had been tracing her family tree diligently for years, then contacting each one she could find on facebook, renewing family ties with the hopes of someday meeting up with them again, and this possibly being her last trip back to her homeland it was somewhat surreal that it had actually come to fruition.

Being that, not only was I unrelated to, nor had had any sort of contact with all those waiting to greet us, I found it very interesting observing the reactions and body language as we entered their home. considering both Susan and Patricia were relatives, albeit never having had any contact with them other than on Pat’s F/B page. As expected it took a little while for everybody to relax and feel comfortable enough to be themselves around the newcomers in their midst,.

It wasn’t long until the conversations started to flow naturally thus generating a wave of warmth and friendship that I could sense filtering through the collective group that made it fun to be part of this family reunion.

By the time we had to take our leave, so many questions had been asked and answered, opening the way for new family links to be forged while others were strengthened with promises to keep in touch. On the way home Susan and Pat reminisced about their discoveries and feelings in becoming newly acquainted with this branch of their family, while I dozed quietly in the back seat.

I was so tuckered out that as soon as I sat down in to lounge I was struggling to keep my eyes open so did the only sensible thing, I wished all a good night and went off to bed. I heard the next morning Pat had done the same thing a few minutes later.

The Inn on the Lake

The above photo was taken off the inn’s web site

Pages 26/27

Thursday …28th … A slightly overcast sky greeted me this morning, although the sun was expected to shine.

Rest day, with a strong gusty wind blowing and intermittent sunshine, you guessed it, laundry day, once the washing is done and flapping merrily on the line, and the morning chores are taken care of we three all do our own thing.

Norma tends to the plants in the hothouse for a while or potters around her garden, as we all have our own laptops we adjourn to our rooms and catch up on emails, friends or writing.      Lunch today is a sandwich of choice, and then it’s back to reading, typing or just chatting until it’s time o prepare dinner and as it wasn’t a very active day we just have a light dinner before adjourning to the lounge room for a spot of TV before bed time.

 

   Friday … 29th Woke to the sound of rain, and I ask myself, why wouldn’t it be a wet day, we are being taken to the Lake District as a treat,

This trip to Glenridding  Village had been arraigned by Ian and Lindsay a couple of weeks back, the lake district being a must see for visiting tourist, it’s also where they were married so remains a very special place for the both of them. We set off in two cars being that there are too many of us  to fit comfortably in one, Lindsay and young Harry in one, while Ian is chauffeuring his mum in the front passenger seat, Pat and myself in the back with Ozzy … the dog …  sitting quietly  in the boot section behind us.

                        The rain had eased during the drive but not the wind, on alighting from the vehicle I could feel its freezing bite heading straight to my bones. Majestically imposing, the building itself was what I have come to expect here. The Inn on the Lake, Glenridding, Ullswater, Cumbria, CA11 0PE. Recently awarded 4 AA stars and two rosettes, it enjoys one of the most spectacular settings in the Lake District on 15 acres of grounds, with lawns sweeping to the shores of Lake Ullswater. The village is popular with mountain walkers who can scale England’s third highest mountain, Helvellyn, and many other challenging peaks from here. A dog friendly hotel with its own outdoor activities including 9 hole pitch and putt golf course, croquet lawn and children’s outdoor play area.

We decided to wander through the village itself first, and seeing the Glenridding Public hall was having a craft market we headed over there, where  talented locals were selling their creations, Pat bought a lovely wooden wine glass holder that fits over the neck of the wine bottle as gift for her hubby Bill. There was so many beautifully crafted treasures, jewellery, hand knitted goods, or toys, albeit our main trouble being we are so limited in what we can buy to take on the plane.  Next stop was the quaint little tourist shop that seemed to sell anything from postcards, snacks, and souvenirs through to kiddies wear.

It was soon time to return so we could explore the grounds of the inn, rounding the corner of the building itself to an awe inspiring panoramic view  spread out before us, framed by side boundaries of various flowering shrubs and bushes all doing the dance of the uninhibited to the beat of the relentless gusts of icy cold wind,  the vivid green of manicured lawns separated by a wide arrow-straight path, itself defined by a meticulously clipped low hedge, both leading to the edge of the lake that today is dressed in her best shimmering slate grey,  appearing to almost meet up in the distance with … save but for the misty smudge that depicted the distant shore … the dark rolling nimbostratus clouds that had blocked the sunlight, thus preventing what would have been to all intents and purposes a picture perfect vision.

Wandering to the water’s edge where Ozzy is let off his leash, this freedom has him racing to what appears to be a lake overflow pool which on close inspection houses hundreds of tiny little fish that are constantly weaving in and out between the water weeds growing there. Without any hesitation Ozzy runs into the water splashing and thrashing around having a wonderful time.

Harry had wandered to the end of a small pier, Ian found a stick which he threw into the lake, sending Ozzy off with tail wagging and an open mouth tongue lolling grin into the water in a mad dash to grab it, with Harry yelling encouragement and pointing to the floating stick as it drifts to and fro in the choppy water, the dog happily retrieves it and returns it to shore, this game went on until we were all feeling the need for warmth and a comforting hot drink so headed  back into the Inn.

Passing through the Lake View lounges to the unique Orangery with 360 degree views of the lake and surround- fells to enjoy afternoon tea. To my utter amazement  the moment we were seated a waiter came bearing a dog bowl containing fresh water and placed it on the floor at Ozzie’s paws, gave him a friendly pat and with a warm smile in our direction quietly withdrew. Our waiter took our drink orders, and confirmed the afternoon tea menu was to our liking then left only to return a short while later.

Placing alongside a fresh fruit, sliced ham and cheese platter a basket of aromatic  warm garlic bread that immediately had our mouths watering, soon followed by two three tiered serving plates of sandwiches, little pork pie halves, sweet and shortbread biscuits not to mention an assortment of cream cakes to please any palate, without a doubt a spread fit for royalty. Harry unimpressed by all the delicacies before him ordered his favourite bacon barm, English for bread roll, and  a hot chocolate drink.

While we were enjoying our sumptuous respite, we were watching with great interest a wedding party assembling on the patio outside the Lake View lounges. With her elbow length veil floating in the wind and wearing a figure hugging snow white wedding gown the Bride looked dazzling, resting her arm on that of I assume her father’s, while her attendants dressed in sleeveless what appeared to be Cadbury blue gowns, waited for the cue to lead them down the path to the gazebo, set up halfway down the lawn towards the lake.

It was while they were signing the register certificates that the rain came slicing down on their guests who were not under cover, causing them to leave their seats and make a run for the shelter of the Inn, it was only a short wait until the rain passed so the newly married couple were able to walk with dignity back to their guests without getting wet.

After a second round of coffee and hot chocolates and with most of the afternoon tea consumed, it was time to make our way home, bringing to an end what had been a wonderful fun day, thanks to Lindsay and Ian’s generosity. On being dropped off at home, we three girls went straight to the lounge room for reminiscence on the day, a little TV and bed

A rest before the birdsong

Days 24 and 25

Tuesday … 26th … looking out my window I see patches of blue here and there, the leaves on the tree near the front entrance are dancing to what I assume is a chilling breeze.

After all the excitement of yesterday we decided to have a take it easy day today, we did have to go to the supermarket, so took a leisurely stroll around Wigan, I bought a little gift for Bindy, seeing I missed her birthday.

            Following lunch, because Norma’s lap top had had a seizure and died she’d given it to John to do his magical resurrection trick, so she ventured out into the hothouse, she is taking an interest in the little seedlings, repotting some and sorting out those she doesn’t want, to be  given away to those who want them.

            Pat and I went on our lap tops sorting photos, catching up on friends and family news on F/B, and typing our diaries, until a knock announced Ian’s arrival for a cuppa and chat. By the time Ian left it was time for dinner, which consisted of a toasted cheese sandwich in front of the TV, It as a pleasant and restful day. 

 

 Wednesday … 27th … and again today my window reveals a gloomy view.

We seem to be turning into late starters, too many good late TV shows I reckon, so by the time we finish brekkie and clean up it was time to leave. Today the three of us headed out, taking what Pat and I appreciated as a very scenic route, albeit as Norma commented, it was owing to the fact that she had taken a wrong turn, had she gone the correct way it would have been a shorter and less interesting drive to arrive at Slimbridge, a village near Dursley in Gloucestershire, and the home of Martin Mere Wetland Centrewetland nature reserve, managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust   http://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/martin-mere/  which was our destination.

            We wandered around this tranquil wetland oasis for about four awe inspiring hours, I personally was enthralled by the feeling of serenity I experienced while visiting all the different sections. It was astounding to see so many different duck species, and copious breeds of bird life happily co-existing together, albeit the outstanding flamingos, both the Greater and the Chilean breeds are separated by fences from each other as well as all other birds.

            In our meandering we came across a ticket office for guided boat tours, the next tour was to leave in twenty minutes, so we decided to be brave and bought three tickets; being it was well past midday and we could see a hot dog stand close by, you guessed it, we bought one each for lunch … well we had twenty minutes to fill prior to the boat tour start, so what better way to do it.

            After getting on the boat our nerves soon abated, as it was well balanced with seating enough for, I would guess ten to twelve, as well as the driver; our tour only had ten passengers so there was ample room. The driver who was also shouldering the guide responsibility, was not only well informed in reference to the waterway and it’s history itself, but to everything that lived in it, his vast knowledge and cheeky wit he passed on to us, and was happy to answer any question we hurled at him.

As he guided the boat silently through the water channels, we could see the different ducks some swimming along side, or playing in the long reeds that lined our path. Some of the children on our boat had purchased a bag of feed, they were tossing that over board and the birds and ducks would swim for it, the ride went for about forty five minutes, but like all good things it came to an end.

            From the boat we continued our journey by wandering through corridors formed by thick bushes, brightly coloured spring wild flowers and  copious  trees, these form a lacy canopy overhead sheltering the hundreds of small birds that flitter through the foliage while filling the park with a birdsong chorus that is gentle on the mind, these particular walking tracks led to the  … Hides … thoughtful structures scattered intermittently throughout dense foliage areas for unobtrusively observing the birds. We came across many passionate bird watchers sitting in them with binoculars as well as camera’s, we were lucky enough ourselves to see a pair of swans with six little cygnets happily swimming around, unaware of our presence while we were sitting in one.

            By four o’clock the overcast sky had started to look rather threatening, the cold gusty wind that had been whipping through the trees all day was starting to almost freeze the smiles on our faces and every now and again we could feel a sprinkle of rain, so we decided it was time to head for the car. We had only gone a couple of miles … yes distance is measured in miles here … when the weather broke and the rain started, it  stayed with us all the way home, during dinner, TV time  and was still falling when we went to bed, but I didn’t mind , it had been another wonderful day.

Day 23 … The Three Queens

Monday…25thDidn’t have time to lament over the doom and gloom that met my gaze as I pulled the drapes this morning, I was on wake-up duty.

Seven am had me knocking, albeit very gently on Pat’s door, she in turn knocked on Norma’s door and it was all systems go from then, we were being collected at nine thirty by John, he was driving us to the local train station to meet up with Susan and Gemma, from there we were all to catch a train to Liverpool for Memorable Merseyside day.

            I had visited Liverpool once before, about twelve years ago, I remember thinking then that it was a bustling city, the crowded streets were not what I was used to in Melbourne, but the moving mass of people that we encountered this morning, once we left the station and headed down towards the water front was almost overwhelming.

            The biting wind whistling down the streets and around the buildings, gathered more sting the closer to the water we got, albeit never dampened the spirit of excitement, radiating throughout the ever jostling crowd, all hoping to get some sort of vantage point permitting a clear view of what was to come

            We were fortunate in that Norma’s nephew owns a unit on the seventh floor of a building overlooking the Mersey River just prior to it entering the pier head. Norma had instructions as to where to go, once we got close she phoned ahead, and her Brother in law came to meet us, it is a secure building, so we needed to be escorted in by someone the doorman knew.

            The warmth hit us the moment we walked through the door, although we weren’t the first to arrive, four others were already there and had set up a buffet of cheese, crackers, a variety of cold drinks, chips and dips, to name only a few of the assortment of goodies  provided for us.  The others chose to have a cold drink, I headed for the coffee pot, and we all settled down to wait

            As the time grew closer everyone took up a position at one of the three double windows to witness … Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, and Queen Mary 2… Meet at the mouth of the Mersey, move into formation and then glided slowly up the Mersey toward the city. They made a majestic sight with tug boats spraying a giant V of water in front and behind the convoy, continuing all the way passed Liverpool’s Royal Liver Building, Cunard Building and the Mersey Dock and Harbour building, collectively known as The Three Graces, and the hundreds of thousands of people waving and cheering on the riverside.

            Once past our vantage point, each ship was greeted as they reached the Cunard Building with a gun salute by 103 Regiment 208 Battery. The ships responded with a long low sounding of their horns, which echoed across the city. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the ships forming up to do their synchronised 360deg turn in the river but we could hear their horns  sounding their salute to their spiritual home. The sun actually broke through as the Red Arrows streaked overhead, trailing their trademark red, white and blue smoke behind them, this again we couldn’t see but heard the roar of their engines.

            After that excitement we all settled down for a chat, drink and a light lunch of tiny pork pies, garlic bread and quiche, that had been added to the aforementioned snack table. It was while we were sipping our after lunch coffee, that the Queen Elizabeth again glided past our line of vision, escorted by the tug boats still straying water in a giant V form. It was then time to start the trek home,   profuse thanks were delivered prior to  us taking our leave, and again we forged our way into the thousands leaving their vantage points at the docks.

            The walk to the station in the freezing cold wind was akin to salmon swimming upstream, people all intent on leaving the city at the same time, albeit was an almost jovial exodus, which for me proved an extension to the excitement and magic of this totally unexpected thrilling day. The bank of people at the Liverpool railway station had to be seen to be believed, as we got closer we realised the station had closed all but one entry in, and the people had formed queues from at least six different directions, and all merging at the main door.

            I honestly couldn’t believe how efficient this method was in clearing so many people, I suppose the whole wait was only about twenty five minutes, everyone was chatting and joking, no one showed impatience or agro, when I told Norma how impressed I was with her countryman, she just shrugged and replied The English are happy to queue, they do it all the time. Once we got through the door, within five minutes we were in the train and on our way home.

            Once home the kettle was boiled and we had a hot drink, then prepared a meal of homemade meat pie and veggies, before tidying the kitchen and making for the lounge for our nightly TV fix

Day 22

Sunday … 24th … Open the drapes to be greeted with a cold wet day being fanned into life by a gentle breeze, I silently closed the blinds and crawled back under the covers, 🙂

Eventually I have to get a grip and except  not every day can be sunny like yesterday, so I get out of bed, it is now seven am and not a sound from down stairs. I check my email, type up some notes and still no sound, so type up more notes, eventually there is movement in the rooms below mine, I try to be quiet as I go down the stairs, albeit in the silence it sounds like I have football boots on.

            I enter the kitchen to find it empty, although there is signs of a coffee having been made and I assume taken back to bed with the perpetrator, being by nature an early riser, to be in a home full of people still sleeping at nine am is so foreign, leaving me unsure of what to do, so I made myself a cuppa and took it back up stairs.

            Eventually  I hear Norma and Pat chatting so I wander down and join them in the kitchen,  by  the time showers are over and brekkie is all finished it’s almost eleven.  We hadn’t planned anything for the day and the rain had stopped, so we decided to chance it and head off to a pet welcome public Oasis, called Pennington Flash, a 200-hectare country park. Located between Lowton and Pennington, Leigh in Greater Manchester, it contained all the ingredients for a fun family day, colourful playground equipment for children, food and ice-cream vans doing a roaring trade, public utilities intermittently scattered throughout.

            One of the premier bird watching sites in the North West a haven for geese, white swans, ducks and an assortment of bird life, all happily coexisting and running up to any newcomer in the hopes of being thrown a scrap of food, We were lucky enough to see two parent swans with their three little Cygnets, a little further along a mother duck busily gliding along the water’s edge surrounded by six tiny little fluffy ducklings.

            Had it not been for a freezing breeze whipping off the water, through the foliage and down the tracks, it would have been perfect walking down the somewhat rustic pathways, flanked either side by tall trees that not only shaded and protected the lush undergrowth of bushes and colourful spring flowers, but played host to the many tiny birds flitting almost invisibly through the canopy of leaves, while filling the air with enchanting birdsong.

            With time getting on, combined with the exercise, our thoughts turned to food, because of the late brekkie none of us had eaten lunch and it was almost four pm, so we set off to the nearest family farmhouse-style Harvester Restaurants. Being Sunday, it was rather crowded, four squealing children running wild between the tables bought no interference from a doting young mum, sigh.The food menu offered was  fairly extensive albeit inexpensive, the servings were generous, self serve salads aplenty were available as were a variety of sauces and condiments. Both Pat’s gammon and Norma’s ribs were delicious, although my choice of creamy pasta with pulled pork was rather bland, this wouldn’t stop me returning at another time, but I would defiantly not be choosing pasta.

            We eventually arrived home feeling very satisfied with our day, all the walking around the park  had left us all a tad tired, so armed with a hot drink we headed to the lounge room for the ritual TV session before heading off to bed

Day 21

Saturday … 23rd … A beautiful warm sunny day greeted me as I pulled the drapes open his morning.

Getting over yesterday is something that will take a day or two for those, who find themselves feeling both  physically and emotionally battered and bruised, an understandable result of the harrowing past few weeks, with this eventually in mind nothing too strenuous was planned.

I get the feeling that Norma and I may be alike in the thought that a sunny day and a half-full washing basket should not share the same day, so naturally on goes her washing machine, the only trouble with that being, she didn’t hear me say I’ll just grab mine to add to the load, I’m beginning to see a pattern emerging here ;-).

Just as we were finishing off Brekkie, a knock on the door and in walks, Ian, Lindsay and  Gemma,  soon to be followed by Susan, and John, all whom have returned to collect their cars that had been left here overnight.

After a family chat over warm drinks and cakes left from yesterday Ian and John headed home, whilst the ladies of the family decided to go and photograph the funeral floral arraignments that are left out on display at the Crematorium, they each then took a bloom home to press and keep as a memento, I took the time to myself to take a shower and to do my washing by hand, seeing I missed the washing `machine call.

The sun continued to shine all afternoon, so Norma headed out into the hot house and transplanted the seventy tiny seedlings that had arrived in the post into small plant pots Pat and I sat on chairs outside enjoying the sunshine until it was time for diner, consisting of salad and gamin or salad and salmon, all being left over from yesterday,

It was then time to bring in the cloths off the line, clean up the kitchen and head off into the lounge with a warm drink of our choice and an ice-cream, watch some TV and head off to bed.

Day 20

Friday … 22ndOpening the drapes revealed a flat slate grey sky presiding over a damp world, not a flicker of movement in the trees, the perfect setting one would expect to come across in any Stephen King novel.

Number one … let me start by saying Happy Birthday Bindy.

First and foremost this diary was my way of backing-up memories of a trip I offered to participate in to support my friend, feeling it was not a good time for her to make such a long tedious journey alone. That being said, I see no point in noting down or expanding on the sadness experienced by the family and friends that gathered today to farewell Joe, suffice to say that the three Eulogies delivered in turn by Pat, Gemma and Ian, will stay with me for the duration without any need of notes.

The wake held after the service started out as most do, and then all adjourned to a separate venue for a light lunch and chat, assuming this part of our day would take a couple of hours was surely underestimated, family members catching up after long absences, life sometimes just gets in the way of visiting back and forth, long lost friends reunited in a common grief.

After almost four hours it was time to exit the venue, hugs, tears and promises of more frequent visits in the future as many guests took their leave, allowing the family and close friends the chance to return to Norma’s home for a more intimate wake.

There was food and drink aplenty laid out, toasts were offered up for Joe, as the stories relating to his adventures,  sporting achievements, the mischief he got up to and the normal day to day little things were told, memories returned of fun times. I wasn’t long before there was more laughter than tears as the day slipped unnoticed into night. It was very clear that he was much loved and respected and there was many sides that made up the man these people were honouring.

After the last guest left, the usual kitchen tidy up took a little longer, but was attended to willingly, as Norma still running on adrenalin, I think, chatting about how well it went, and how surprised and grateful she was that so many came to say goodbye to Joe, and how pleased she was that so many had chosen to make a donation to his favourite charity, instead of taking flowers to his funeral.

            She is a strong lady, I admire her strength and her courage, even though it won’t be easy for  her, I am in no doubt with the loving family support she has in abundance, given  time she will be fine.

 

R.I.P. Joe

Day … 19

Thursday … 21st … Cloudy with only a gentle breeze, but still damn cold outside

Was a late start today, didn’t hear anyone moving around down stairs, so I lay in bed until eight thirty, when I arrived in the kitchen I see Norma has indeed been up and put the gammon on to boil, this takes about an hour or so, after which she scores the fat surround and inserts cloves into the slots before popping it into a hot oven, for about twenty mins to half an hour.

Pat wandered in so we all had brekkie, cleaned up the kitchen and headed off to the local supermarket to pickup last minute goodies for the family get-together Norma’s catering for tonight, once back home it’s all systems go, Pat starts making a tossed salad, Norma prepares the gammon for the oven, I am sent out into the hot house to attend to a  parcel of seedlings that we found on the doorstep. on our arrival from the supermarket, it appears Joe had ordered them prior to becoming ill.

Next came lunch where we all ended up having cheese and crackers with a hot drink of our choice, just as we were finishing,  a knock on the door and in walks Ian, just dropped in to check his mum was doing ok, I did the dishes and een upstairs to my room, leaving the three of them discussing family  matters.

Once Ian left ,while  Norma tended to cooking a large slab of salmon, Pat and I  bought in extra chairs,  I ducked into the shower while the other two set the table up with glasses and nibbles, the gamin was by this time out of the oven cooling, but the mouth watering aroma was almost cruel knowing we couldn’t sample any.

My only contact with the family results from a forty one year close friendship with Joe’s sister Pat, Patricia whom I accompanied on a visited here for a month twelve years ago, admittedly Susan and her hubby John came to Aus last February, for a visit with Pat and her family, and of course we reconnected.

Tonight was a bitter sweet gathering, where I, as last time was treated as a long standing member of the family, the memories shared bought forth laughter as well as tears, they toasted Joe as a Husband, father, Grand Father and as a friend, with Champagne, and bubbling grape juice for we non drinkers, tomorrow   morning we will all gather again to say a final good bye, it will be a sad, sad day.

On a brighter note, after everyone left we took  our hot drinks of choice into the lounge room for a spot of TV, I was waiting in anticipation until ten forty five pm, being  six forty five am Aussie time, so I could safely ring our daughter in Aus to wish her a happy birthday, she is a sleepy head in the mornings, I knew it was fifteen minutes before her alarm goes off, I’m sure she will find it in her heart to forgive me when she thinks about it later J. It was lovely touching base and having a chat, luckily home sickness doesn’t affect me as such, but every now and again I miss my family and the pets, but it’s a more peaceful sleep I’ll get tonight thanks to chatting with Bindy.