James and the Giant Gaff

1979 and my three eldest children share the same pony……a fat would-be Shetland called Willie. That is, until Mr Snow arrived on the scene. Willie was a black, rotund, hairy character with a most endearing habit of lying down to roll when the mood took him, even when being ridden. So dismounting was a skill the children learnt very quickly.

One Saturday morning on a Bank Holiday weekend and  ‘en famille’ we were looking at bedroom furniture in our local store. We knew the owners quite well. All was calm, no piped music in those days, just  the odd couple browsing beds and wardrobes, some flicking through carpet samples. Our friend James, the proprietor , wandering through his domain, spotted us deliberating over a new bed and came over to pass the time of day ( and hopefully secure a sale).

A quiet, respectful and gentle man with a kindly manner, he knew our children well and made small talk with them; hands behind his back rocking on the balls of his feet slightly.Willie I can see him quite clearly as he looked down on my small son and asked ‘ So, what are you going to do this weekend then? Are you going to get your Willie out?’

 

Buying a Pram

Pram

Joyce tells me there are at least twenty charity shops in Chester – le – Street . None of them sells second-hand prams.

But you can get a good one off e-bay for little money.  In the end she bought one off e-bay.

Joyce didn’t want another pram really; well, she did, but it was for her husband. Not exactly FOR her husband,  but to give to him as part of the equipment for his new hobby.

He’s got a cap with a suitable motif on the peak, an embossed tee-shirt,  casual slightly elasticated cotton trousers, for bending and  a pair of non-slip trainers.. To her surprise, the grand-children have taken a keen interest too in this pastime, so they have  the same ‘gear’ too….all matching. The pram was the last piece of equipment they needed. It had to go in the  back of the car with everything else so it needed to fold down.

Health and Safety measures don’t allow charity shops to sell used prams but that wasn’t going to put Joyce off. She still visited every single charity shop on both sides of the main road in Chester –  le  – Street;.well, I suppose you never know. That was while Ian stood outside, hoping for success. After more than half of the shops explained why they didn’t handle prams any more,  Joyce  simply said to the assistants, ‘Don’t say ‘No’ to a pram if you’re offered one……we don’t want it for a  baby. This is our telephone number. Thank you very much’.

It’s exciting having a new hobby. As a grand-parent myself, I can see how there is a definite attraction to participating in an activity with one’s grand-children: especially when it is akin to something close to your heart  during your professional life……well, nearly.  Ian was a sub-mariner.

I think Joyce is happy to see her family enjoy themselves, but, sadly, she can’t participate because of the new puppy. She has to keep  Sheeba at the other side of the lake as they while away the hours ‘of a Sunday afternoon’: and sometimes Saturdays and all of the school holidays.  But she assures me that the dog is really good company and that she’s met lots of nice people at the far side of the lake because of the dog.

Seemingly, most of the other participants have a second-hand pram too  as part of their equipment. Joyce can keep an eye on it from the far bank.

Have you ever seen a grown man pushing a pram laden with remote-controlled boats?

Recipe For Life

English: Miner's lamp, Stadium of Light, Sunde...

English: Miner’s lamp, Stadium of Light, Sunderland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Pinch of You

Sometimes the best recipes are those  made in error.

My principal ingredient is

1 Whole  Makem (Sunderland born)  a.k.a. Mak’em or Maccam

         Do not  be tempted to replace this principal  ingredient with a Takem   ( Newcastle born) a.k.a. Tak’em or Taccam

         The resulting mixture may curdle.

Allow the Makem  to settle in a rural village in post-war Durham in a safe environment.

When suitably mature, press the Makem   daily into a local colliery school; at the same time, nurture a wild imagination. If you find the Makem at any time under a dirndl skirt, this is merely shyness  and in time the Makem will cope with this trait themselves – often combating it by displaying   extravert  traits with over-excitement.

Introduce before maturity a sibling Makem. This adds colour and flavour and purpose at an early stage.

At this point the Makems two generations above will now one

by one disappear, leaving the young to grieve and wonder.

The care of animals has always been a recognised ingredient to counter-balance loss and foster self-discipline. Rabbits, dogs, ponies will all suffice; in later life caring for others can induce the same sense of purpose.Danielle  and Parc 017

  Repair any lack of confidence at this stage: in this ‘recipe’ the Makem  became National Poultry Trussing Champion………a lucky digression.

Now add sporting ability ; I added athletics, hockey, horse-riding and tennis (Howard Kendall was my mixed doubles partner at Grammar School). A little drama perhaps ( Bryan Ferry was Malvolio to my Viola). .

 After a musical parental indoctrination of ‘The Standards, gently immerse an Everly Brother or two ,Joan Baez, a guitar and you may find that a morsel  of brashness appears.

One Makem could now well become two. Two Makems becomes four until early tragedy may hit; in my recipe a young  husband dies and a first-born is dangerously ill for 3 years. At this point ingredients can clash. Withdraw the natural anxiety trait if at all possible without disturbing the equilibrium. Tragedy is a good leveler and can contribute to enhancing others’ lifes by acquiring a soupcon  of empathy. However, this more than  troublesome hiatus in my mixture wrong footed the other natural ingredients, causing confusion. Mistakes  are often made at this juncture. Triumph over adversity can also lead to taking the wrong direction whilst beating a hasty retreat. Have a Wet Wipe to hand.

Here is where I added a false ingredient. Wrong-footed by events, but full of good intention and care I stifled the mixture with agoraphobia and tension. This rescue attempt turned the mixture sour, and a second tragedy meant that the Makem had to be saved by loved ones. Along with  dependents.

Remember, however,that  the true grit of a Makem, available at local supermarkets throughout Wear-side to the discerning buyer in Family-size packs, can never be totally removed. In time , determination, stubbornness, experience and family dedication can overcome (nearly)  all.

I moved my  Makem in it’s entirity to France at this point, whilst ingredients were ‘proving’.

 Here we can add  1/3 of an architect, 1/3 Rhythm guitarist/rock-folk singer and divide the remainder into equal portions of choir-mistress and gite proprietor /head gardener. Plus dollops of long-distant mother, grand-mother and friend. But too much naivety shows itself. The  Makem  did not foresee  the roller-coaster of emotions that would ensue. Watch out for any tendernesss if this segregation technique flounders.

My advice. Finally. Avert further suffering. My mix was looking pretty good when further tragedy bestowed itself;my Makem &nbsp demonstrate much care. In this instance, chance had brought true love and further tragedy in equal measures. The ensuing qualities were evident and with forgiveness and nurturing it  made for a good consistency.  I added here more than a smidgin’ of compassion to compensate for the devestating predicted results. Sadly, the catalyst to the forgiveness and care in this scenario was the soul-mate and  dies, leaving the Makem with a hefty  burden of loss to bear.

The Makem licks her  wounds aplenty this time and knows her person is now whole and equipped for what might be left.

The Makem was almost complete.
<p class="MsoNormal"……Essential ingredients…….

1         A Pure-bred Makem

2         Timidity ( including respect and a reluctance to be decisive and discriminate).

3         Determination to succeed and overcome .

4         Creativity. i.e. home-making, building bridges and commercial enterprises.

           A photographic memory.

5         Compassion.

6         Ability to forgive……..an excellent ingredient.

7         Love .  Unadulterated. Essential for growth.

           Nourishment of animals and children.

8         Bottles that are only ever more than half full.

           Consider on the grounds of balance…..

           For  a fuller personality, omit half of the nervousness and anxiety that have proven   to be a downfall in times of dire  straits.  Adding surplus of less damaging attributes can balance a slip into an abyss of self-pity, doom and gloom.

         Don’t overdose on the panic buttons. There could be a misguided assumption that  rusing  head-long gets the job done quickly, but it’s not so….leave the bulk of that disruptive  ingredient aside too. I added that one mistakenly.

         Acceptance. This is a much discussed and rare commodity. Reader; if you find it in a generous helping, please notify.

Malvolio and the Countess

Malvolio and the Countess (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        If anyone has tried this recipe before, could they inform me know at what point the worrying stops and pleasure takes over, as I have struggled to know how that ingredient is built into the above framework for life?

        Different strengths and proportions of any of the above qualities  will create a variation but a not altogether distasteful  Makem.

        Thank you.

F

 

Addendum: For the unitiated: a Makem made boats in Sunderland. A Takem sold boats in Newcastle. They are often confused, but a true Makem wouldn’ even suck a Black and White mint.

Horse-boxing

  

We thought we knew every trick in the book…….on how to box a pony for travelling. We had had everything from miniature Shetland ponies that happily hopped into the back of a Land-Rover to huge beasts that lumbered into a wagon without a glance behind, but sadly more than our fair share of obstinate and difficult loaders. But ‘Misty’ was a mystery. Misty was one of the ponies on our livery yard. She was a very fit and agile competition pony who had never enjoyed travelling, so my belief was that she needed a calm environment for this procedure. We were always there to advise or help when asked, but generally left the family to their own devices; and anyway, if it was a show day there was always plenty to do, we were usually run off our feet in any case.
Misty’s owners, the Grackle family, parents and two more than competent riders kept their three ponies with us and were successful show jumpers.

We tried to take a selection of different ponies and riders to competitions from the yard each weekend. The trouble problem?] was that Misty would hold us up.

The whole family would get more and more anxious as the preparations neared completion, voices would get higher pitched and I was often asked to complete the plaiting of the manes  and tails of the ponies going to the show as their ponies would not stand still,  their owners’ ‘joie de vivre’ rubbing off on them.
One particular week, we left the wagon available for them to quietly try the loading process without the buzz of an impending show. Every evening they would arrive with fresh resolve and sit for hours on the ramp feeding Misty; if she ventured in,they fed her and made much fuss of her. Hoping for a repeat success the following evening they would be heartened, but still they struggled.
Finally, when Sunday came around again and everyone else’s ponies were ready, rugged and booted for the journey,
Mr Grackle announced that a mate at work had offered him a great idea for loading a pony. You took the pony a little way from the ramp of the wagon, turned him several times until he was slightly bemused [and disorientated?] and then directed him or her at the ramp as sharply as you could. It worked a treat, he said. Never failed. Job done.
It sounded worth a try, so we asked bystanders to stay very quiet and well away from the area and let Mr Grackle have his first and best chance at a trouble-free loading. Taking the lead-rope firmly in his right hand under the pony’s head and the remainder loosely in his left hand he started the circles as described .Always walking the pony away from him to avoid trodden toes. It was going nicely and the pony was obediently doing what he wanted. Hope he wasn’t over-doing it, this was going on for quite a while! There was plenty room for him to straighten up and encourage Misty up the ramp. Still he continued circling.
Finally he took a look at the ramp himself and made towards it…………oops!. He was too dizzy himself, and fell flat on the
ramp.   Ah well!
Image

Flash Photography

It was 1972 and our cow-man responsible for milking the treasured herd of 120 Brucelosis Free Accredited Friesians  was leaving us. A replacement was soon found. One of the main attractions for the job was a ‘tied’ cottage and soon the new member to our work-force moved into the house next door to our farmhouse with his wife and two infant boys.

Things were running reasonably smoothly and each Friday, right on 6p.m. Elaine would knock at the back door to collect her husband’s pay packet .Neil’s job was a pretty mucky business to say the least, so we provided a Burco Boiler for his wife to boil his dungarees in.

One firiday evening in early December at the allotted time, Elaine arrived for Neil’s pay packet. As I handed over the brown envelope she asked me if we liked Christmas Pudding. ‘Yes’ I replied, with a quizzical expression. At which point she handed over a large, heavy, tepid dome wrapped in a tea-towel of questionable hygienic standards. I said how kind it was of her to give us such a tasty treat so soon in the Christmas season. She assured me that it had been no problem at all as she had actually made a big batch of the said fruit puddings.  She said it couldn’t have been easier as she had used the Burco Boiler. She had put all the ingredients inside and simply turned it on!. At this point I must have been lost for words and  she realised that an explanation  was needed……….no need to worry……….. she had bleached the boiler out first.

So, I belied my inner feelings with an understanding and reassuring expression. I took the pudding into the house, pensively closed the outer door and placed the delicacy onto the kitchen work surface. Where it stayed for several days until I could wait no longer and it saw the inside of my waste bin.

The following friday arrived and I had rehearsed my lines. I was going to say how delicious the whole thing had been and what a really good consistency it was. And I did just that, handing over the weekly pay packet with a smile. I can picture her now, her straight hair gripped at the side, her fringe still managing to cover half of her eyes and sporting a slightly mischievious grin. With a furtive glance my way she tottered off across the gravel drive to her home, but I could see from my kitchen window that she was  returning immediately with a wide grin and clutching another package. I opened the door for her. She was pleased we were so happy with our pudding………and here was another one !

It was Neil’s duty when milking was finished, to attach the muck-spreader and drive to whichever field was in need of fertilising and drive around spreading the proverbial. Whilst Elaine was busy mastering bulk baking from a Burco Boiler,  her husband had been up to more tricks. Seemingly, this week’s needy field backed onto a brand new street of houses ; spying a solitary young woman washing up at her kitchen sink, looking out onto the fields beyond, he had stopped the tractor, stood up on the tractor seat and given her the benefit of a full-frontal in the trouser department. He duly buttoned himself up again and having finished his work he came home for his breakfast.

The following morning, he repeated this display, which was obviously somewhat distressing for the on-looker. The recipient of his attentions notified the local Police  and for his third (and what was  to be his final revelation) a Woman Police Officer was positioned at a bedroom window directly above the kitchen. And she was armed…….with a Polaroid camera. Neil arrived, temporarily stopped to reveal the benefits of his wares, then carried on his way.

Before 9 a.m. that day, and modern technology in the form of a Polaroid camera making this incident  immediately memorable,  the Police were then able to identify my husband as the owner of the tractor and they duly made their presence known at the back door.Short introductions followed and a verbal warning until finally the WPO took the photographic evidence from her pocket and asked me ‘ Do you recognise this man’ ?

It’s No Picnic

Picnic BasketIn May 1971, our young son is poorly and I can’t do the annual pilgramage to the Great Yorkshire Show with my husband, Michael. Our ‘ Best Man’ calls to say he’ll go with him, plus another pal and…..oh, does he mind if his new ‘girlfriend’ comes along ? Tricky one really as she is married and this was meant to be a boy’s away day ; however, the request was swiftly followed by a tribute to her culinary skills and her offer to prepare a picnic for them all.
Well, that was decided then. Three men and a cook travelling in one car. They set off early in the morning, after all this was definitely not primarily a social occasion. There was equipment to see, cattle to check out, beer tents……well, only if there’s time (wink).
So here’s the arrangement ; every-one will go off and ‘do their own thing’ in the morning and get the work side out of the way and they’ll meet up at the car at 1pm in one of the umpteen fields chocka block full of the vehicles of like-minded visitors to the show. There was a bottle of fizz on offer and a revolutionary idea of a ‘Cool Bag’ keeping goodness knows what secret delights from curling at the edges .
Having done the necessary tramping the grounds, Michael made his way back to the car as arranged, hung around a bit, checked he was in the right area, right field (this was before mobiles of course) and the car. Confident he was at the right car, Michael duly waited, but after half an hour still no-one arrived ; [as] so he presumed that the others had been delayed. Checking the car door, he discovered to his absolute delight,(being now famished) , that it had been left unlocked ! So he opened the boot and tucked in.
There was the’Cool Bag’ and the basket complete with the promised ‘fizz’ and bottle opener, the paté, the melon, the delicately presented sandwiches, glazed morsels of tiny sausage rolls, thinly sliced ham wrapped around asparagus. And iced decorated chocolate cake. Wow, this was great. But still no sight of the other members of the party. Bit by bit Michael waded his way through the unopened boxes and ate his fill; that done, he hung around outside the car for a minute to ensure his erstwhile companions weren’t on their way.
Ahh ! There was someone waving. Shame they were now too late to all eat together. Never mind.
But what was this ? They were sitting in an identical car eating a picnic. ‘Come on. You’re late’ they shouted. Doing a swift double take at the identical car three rows backIt was then that the penny dropped….wrong car, same make, same colour. Wrong picnic !
Yikes !

A Prize Idiot

RosetteCarol was a member of our Riding for the Disabled Group and was chosen to ride at the Mini-Olympics one year.

Although she was a capable rider, she was very timid and chose to enter with somebody leading her pony. As she was small of stature her pony, Candy, wasn’t very big, which meant as we trained she could easily lip-read – a necessity, as she was hard of hearing.

She was a super little rider at the walk and trot so we were fortunate to have a ‘test’ to teach her which was not too demanding.

Week after week we practiced until we were foot perfect…synchronised, and Carol no longer needed any instructions from me. Finally, our dress code was co-ordinated. I would don my felt ‘showing’ hat, and the whole thing would be complete. Candy’s tack would shine like new, and our leather lead rein would glisten in the autumn sun-light as we daintily made our way around the designated area.

An extra special final lesson the night preceding our departure was organised. All was going smoothly, until to my complete and utter horror…idiot, idiot, idiot that I was….I realised that I had taught Carol the wrong test! I tried not to let the panic show in my face, as I uttered in subdued tones to my husband what I had just discovered. “I’ve taught Carol the wrong test”.

“What”, snapped Carol, from a distance of 10 metres. “The wrong test”?  Oh no, she’d just lip-read the conversation!

Naturally, I reassured Carol that I would learn the new test overnight and all would be well. Honestly. And pale-faced and anxious she was taken home. My insides were knotted  knowing that through my negligence  Carol was now worrying about her big day. And so was I!

The competition site was set on a wet and very windy hill-side. The rules dictated that the lead-rein had to stay reasonably slack, our shoulders parallel and we were both to look forward all the time. The rules dictated that she learn the test off by heart, with no prompts from me….ahem. But, I had to rely on her hearing me…. ahem.   So, this was my first shot at being a  ventriloquist.

“Gork on”, I try, hoping that that would be just loud enough for Carol to hear and she would nudge Candy  into the gork/walk as I had indicated, whilst not loud enough for the  judges to hear. I tried then  with my body to suggest that Candy turned to the right and then I proferred  “ And chwot”… ‘trot’. And later we had “shirkles” and “shtand”. And a final “shalute”. Well, no glaring faults. Carol was smiling.

What a surprise to be given a ‘shecond” prize!