Memories Are Funny Things


Memories are funny things. The older one gets, the more vivid they become, especially when related to things that happened long ago. I was sitting and thinking about nothing in particular, when a childhood memory flashed up from somewhere in my brain and there I was, about eight years old, sloshing through puddles in a yellow raincoat with matching sou’wester hat and black wellington boots. The turned-down broad brim protecting my face and the back of my neck from the rain which was falling like sheets of pins, like the ones my mother used when pinning paper patterns to the material she somehow turned into dresses and things for me, and for herself.

This particular memory resurrected itself while I was in Pershore a couple of months ago, house-sitting for my daughter and looking after her elderly dog plus two doves because she and my grandson were in Sussex at the wedding of her goddaughter and his childhood friend. It was Saturday morning. I had ventured as far as the garden intending to get a few things at the local shops but changed my mind as the first large drops fell just as I reached the gate, even so, I got soaked to the skin by the time I had got back to the door.

It was while I was sitting, watching the water swirling along the footpath and road outside the front window that the memory flooded back.
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Magic Moments Become Golden Memories


This was yet another morning when, at around four o’clock, the mongoose family in the roof space above my bedroom ceiling decided to play their own version of rough and tumble, or seeing who could throw one another furthest. The sky was still dark, but with that hint of grey that foreshadows the sunrise and causes the darker silhouettes of the trees to show clearly against the horizon. Somewhere a cockerel was doing his best to waken all with his clarion cry, and there were sounds of birds waking and adding their music to the dawn chorus.

With the passing of my last few days in Sri Lanka, my friends took me to the Mada Ganga  Sanctuary last Saturday. It was a never-to-be-forgotten experience. A paradise of exotic flora and fauna that enabled me to hold a baby crocodile in my hand and watch it appear to smile as I stroked it under the chin, but I was saddened that the young fisherman had tied a cord round its middle to prevent it swimming away.

Three members of the family enjoyed the experience of a foot-massage courtesy of hundreds of goldfish swimming in some special pens, but I decided that walking along narrow wooden gang-planks was adventure enough for this septuagenarian, and that discretion was better than risking a dowsing by falling in the water because my arthritic knees no longer take kindly to me bending down without something to grab hold of when I need to get up again – their elasticity has passed its sell-by date.

I have taken some great photographs, but will need to download them on to my computer at home before I can share them on my webpage. However, that will be a bonus enabling me to relive every moment captured all over again

Animals Can Teach Us A Thing Or Two


Being woken in the early hours by what sounded like the entire contents of one coconut tree falling on the roof above me, is not the kind of awakening anyone would choose, but the thunderous bumps and thumps were proof that the mongoose family that has chosen to make its home in the space under the roof of my host’s house, were waking up and enjoying their daily dose of furious gymnastics before starting their work for the day; hunting and killing any snakes or rats lurking in the garden before they could enter the house. They would be gone for the entire day, returning at dusk to climb up the wall of the building, via a banana tree, to get back through their entrance hole to sleep off their daytime exertions. Hearing their noisy wrestling matches has reminded me of Rikki- Ticki-Tavi and Kipling’s Just So Stories and what a lot we can learn from animals.

My grandson, like everyone in the family, is a walkover where animals are concerned, so when one of his birds, he keeps pigeons and doves, was being systematically bullied and persecuted by its fellows, it was taken into the house where it quickly became domesticated (as far as birds can be) and accepted by the elderly dog, another rescued refugee, to such an extent, that soon pigeon was taking a daily bath in the dog’s drinking bowl. When it became apparent that dog didn’t mind, grandson decided that providing an extra water bowl, exclusively for the daily ablutions, might be worth a try. It’s worked, as pictures put on Facebook by my grandson have proved.

This reminded me of a stray kitten I found in the middle of a dirt track almost twenty years ago when I was living in Cyprus. I braked hard when I saw in the car headlights, something move in the road. It turned out to be an un-weaned kitten, perhaps it had wandered away from its mother, but more likely had been dumped by the side of the road, as so many unwanted puppies and kittens were. Picking it up, I quickly dropped it in the lap of my passenger and took it home. We cleaned it up and dribbled warm milk into its mouth, then put it in one of my carrying baskets ( I already had several cats), and hoped it would sleep; it didn’t, but howled all night in the basket by the side of my bed.

All three of my rescue dogs slept on the floor around my bed. The smallest and fiercest, a Cypriot hunting dog called Perdy, although spayed, was fascinated by this latest arrival and was even attempting to lick the kitten through the grill of the basket. Holding my breath I tried opening the door of the basket, and before I could stop her, the wee kitten was snuggling up to Perdy and suckling her empty teats while the dog began a frenzied licking of the tiny body. With peace and quiet restored, we all fell asleep.

When I awoke, I saw one bedraggled kitten that had obviously been licked for hours by one would be canine mum, but who was now hungry and wanting rather more than Perdy could offer. Later, having taken the tiny creature to the vet, I was told that dog’s instinctive licking had saved the kitten’s life as it needed the constant stimulation of her tongue to help it to keep warm; as well as helping with its circulation, the constant licking aided digestion by encouraging the body to expel waste. What had appeared to me to be a near drowning with excessive maternal love, had in fact been a life saving instinct to preserve. Sufficient to say that from day one, Kittypuss was the recipient of canine devotion par excellence from all three dogs, including Rambo the giant German Shepherd.

A Symphony of Curries


Since returning to Sri Lanka, my first visit was seventeen years ago, I have been captivated by the daily assortment of curries placed before me. I have had to beg to be excused from indulging more than once a day , I couldn’t face curry for breakfast, though homemade hot roti, eaten with one of the myriads of varieties of bananas, is hard to refuse; as are pineapple slices washed in salt water and then sprinkled with ground chillies. The sun-ripened fruit, freshly caught fish and garden-fresh vegetables that appear at mealtimes in small and large dishes with an equal number of spiced sauces, or alone, are as numerous as the notes on the page of a Mozart symphony, while the flavours that burst on the palate could well have inspired Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. For those who claim they cannot eat anything highly spiced, I offer my commiserations. Since childhood I have enjoyed spices. Thankfully my digestion remains robust, as long as I’m not confronted with meat, although the amount I can eat has decreased with advancing years.  

Yesterday, I was the guest of family friends at one of Colombo’s finest beach-side hotels. The decor in the foyer was sumptuous, and air-conditioned, with a cool fruit drinks being offered within seconds of our arrival. Making our way to the lower ground floor, at garden level, we were confronted with a buffet offering a vast choice of curries and sambals. It was delectable, and although for the many tourists sitting down in their tour groups, or individually, it was authentic and appetizing, the difference for me, having eaten authentic village cooking, was that it was too bland – a musical interlude rather than a symphony.

 

Nothing Wasted


No act of kindness, however small, is wasted. Sometime, somewhere, it is repaid with interest by someone. In the same way, acts of the other sort can bring interest of a different kind; as can those little pangs of conscience that come back to haunt us years after the deed was done. I still squirm when I think of certain little nasties that plague my conscience from time to time; you know the kind of thing: trying to escape the retribution you know will follow, but hoping to delay that moment as long as possible. My mother had a nose that could smell out any attempt at deception.

September meant my mother made her mincemeat, Christmas puddings, and Christmas cake with all the ingredients guaranteed to ring alarm bells on today’s diet sheets. Being seven or eight years old, I thought nothing of scrambling up the vertical shelves in the larder to reach the bowl of mincemeat maturing on the top shelf. Although the war had ended, food was still rationed and I knew my mother had been saving ingredients for months.

I only wanted a taste to make sure it was alright, so dipping my finger over the edge I felt the sticky contents, but before I could put it in my mouth, I slipped and tumbled to the stone floor, bringing the precious bowl and its contents crashing around me. Retribution was swift, and despite my attempt to blame the cat, it did not need Sherlock Holmes to make the situation clear to my mother who looked at the scene of devastation and simply said; ‘Tell me the truth and there’ll be no punishment; tell me a lie and you’ll not want to sit down for a very long time.’ Needless to say, telling the truth proved the better option.

I suppose with autumn approaching, it slipped into my consciousness again. Certainly, we are enjoying a late flush of sunshine here. Yesterday, my garden was invaded by bumble bees and butterflies in their hundreds. I went out around two in the afternoon to feed the birds, and was besieged with these multi-coloured winged visitors dancing among the flowered shrubs. I went in and got my camera; as I was saying; our actions can have repercussions; the following photographs were among the results.

Blue-tits enjoy some water.

Blue-tits enjoy some water.

Blue-tits share a feeder

Blue-tits share a feeder

A bevy of butterflies feast together on a Buddleia

A bevy of butterflies feast together on a Buddleia

A bumble bee enjoys the nectar of an echinops

A bumble bee enjoys the nectar of an echinops

Bumble bees and butterflies teach us all about sharing what we have.

Bumble bees and butterflies teach us all about sharing what we have.

One sozzled bumble bee drunk on nectar

One sozzled bumble bee drunk on nectar

The Core of Human Nature


Boats and surfers on the Towy

Boats and surfers on the Towy

Old friends in new places

Old friends in new places

A summer visitor to my garden

A summer visitor to my garden

Look into the heart of a flower and be amazed.

Look into the heart of a flower and be amazed.

A feathered regular.

A feathered regular.

A tranquil place in my garden; much favoured by my feathered friends.

A tranquil place in my garden; much favoured by my feathered friends.

The longer I live, the more convinced I become that the core of human nature is rooted in thousands of ordinary acts of kindness that define our days. Oh yes, there are also thousands of evil deeds to counteract the effect; to make us feel the world is a lousy place at times, but when you look around and see the smiles on the faces of children; hear the sound of laughter; walk in a garden, or just wander through a wood and stop to smell the flowers, the overwhelming feeling one gets is that our world is a wonderful place.

Sometimes, when I’m just walking through a supermarket, or ambling along through the small town of Carmarthen on a Saturday morning, I look at people’s faces and by just smiling as I pass, the recognition of a friendly gesture is met with a reciprocal lighting up of their eyes and a slower lift to the curve of their lips. Just for a moment, we share a bond of mutual comprehension and the world is a better place.

Just two weeks ago I was looking forward to the visit of my daughter. She was driving from Pershore, in Worcestershire, with two old friends who had been staying with her. They live in Hamburg and we had last met up over thirty years ago. During the interval, we had lost husbands and become widows; our daughters had become mothers, gone through the trauma of separation and divorce, and as grandmothers, we both had grey hair, as well as more than a few laughter lines that will never feel the plumping effects of Botox. Despite the separation, we have always continued our correspondence, and discovered that our conversation at this first meeting, after so many years, flowed just as easily as if there had been no interval since our last face to face conversation.

It had all started when the oldest daughter of their family came to our home as an au pair to improve her English, and later, our daughter went to Hamburg to do the same. Friendship blossomed through mutual acts of kindness, and the rest is history – but that’s life, a catalogue of kindnesses.