The Lure of Those Old Papers

Have you ever been tempted to tackle a little DIY and begun by spreading those long-out-of-date newspapers to protect the carpet and anything in the surrounding area that might get splashed or messed up before you make a start? Well you might guess where I’m coming from, or going to, when I tell you that I’m still in the process of trying to de-clutter by emptying shelves of lever-arch files that are crammed with outdated material relating to defunct organisations that ceased operations years ago.

It was decided that all paperwork relating to the matters of which I speak should be kept for five years and then destroyed. Just as well, because I was deeply committed to my final year of study with the Open University, I delayed any action; I wouldn’t have had time for my studies if the current rate is anything to go by. This brings me back to the beginning of this blog and the irresistible urge to read the old papers that I’m having to look through in order to shred what is sensitive and dispose of the remainder without problem.

At the start of the millennium following the 1997 election, there was a renewed vibrancy to the campaigning movement among older retired people living on their state and professional pensions. Here in Wales, Wales Pensioners represented many individual groups throughout the country. Like their counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Wales Pensioners were affiliated to the NPC National Pensioners’ Convention. Groups held monthly meetings and hopes were high when, in 2002, the newly devolved Welsh Assembly set about appointing a Commissioner for Older People.

Indeed, hopes were so high, representatives of different groups dared to believe they might be in danger of duplicating responsibilities so Wales Pensioners disbanded as a campaigning body believing they now had a champion for the cause of all pensioners in Wales.

What a damp squib that turned out to be. Ruth Marks’ was eventually appointed as the first older people’s champion but her contract was not renewed at the end of her first year. Although, as a graduate of Common Purpose she went on to bigger and better things and another commissioner was appointed,  the Welsh pensioner movement was hoodwinked and demoralized because, although much was promised, little or nothing was delivered.

The papers I was entrusted to keep and eventually dispose of are now being sorted. They are reawakening old memories, but I think they are better left dormant and the paperwork shredded. Times change, and we move on.

Mae Rose Cottage in Dublin

I suppose you could say I have had something of a charmed life in many ways, and added to all that magic, I met, and later married, the love of my life at a party on a night in the very last week of our final term at our different colleges, but the same university. For me, at that meeting, all the bells in the world rang and the ground shook under my feet – or my legs were wobbling so much it just felt as though the ground was shaking.

We had known each other only three weeks when he proposed; later claiming during his bridegroom’s speech, ‘There was little else to do sitting in a car in a thunderstorm on top of the Brecon Beacons in west Wales…’ I accepted and we married some three months later in December 1956 and I was able to join him and live in one of the most magical places on earth. Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

Life Changing Memories

Recently, I received a letter from a friend. At the time, I was thinking about events that happened on the same day, more than fifty years ago; it was the anniversary of that fateful day when my late husband had been the victim  of a drunk driver, and spent the next two years undergoing twenty-two surgical operations.

The accident was life-changing; with the amputation of his left leg and the rebuilding of his right, but with his career as an engineer apparently over at twenty-six  he decided to embark on studies that eventually led to a successful medical career as an ophthalmologist. This letter from Irene in Australia contained a story about someone who’d experienced something that would evoke memories for me too. It seemed a woman had written:

‘I was walking around a Target store when I saw the cashier handing back the money a little boy, (he was probably about five or six years old, had handed her saying, ‘I’m sorry, but you don’t have enough money for the doll.’

The little boy turned to the older lady who was with him and said, ‘Granny, are you sure I don’t have enough money?’

The older lady said, ‘You know you don’t have enough money dear. Now be a good boy and put it back while I go and finish the shopping,’ and off she went.

The little boy stood with the doll in his hands, but when asked, ‘Who do you want the doll for?’

He said, ‘It’s the doll my sister wanted so much for Christmas, and she was sure Santa Claus would bring it to her.’

Trying to be helpful I said, ‘I’m sure Santa Claus will bring it for her.’

But his reply stopped me in my tracks; ‘ No, Santa Claus can’t bring it to her where she is now. I have to give it to Mummy so she can give it to my sister when she gets there.’ His eyes were so sad as he continued, ‘My sister has gone to be with God…and Daddy says Mummy is going to go soon to be with her…so I thought she could take the doll…so I asked Daddy to ask Mummy to wait until I got back from shopping so she could take it with her…I don’t want Mummy to go…but daddy says she needs to be with my little sister.’

He was still holding the doll and looking at it with those sad eyes, so, while leaning over and suggesting,  ‘Why don’t we check your money in that pocket in case it is enough after all?’ I managed to slip some extra cash into the pocket I’d seen him put his money into without him seeing.

‘OK…I hope it is enough’ he said, as we started counting. There was enough, and a little to spare, then I heard him add, ‘thank you God for giving me enough money.’ Then, looking at me he said, ‘Last night, before I went to sleep…I asked God to please make sure I would have enough money to buy the doll for Mummy to take to my little sister…He’s given me enough to buy the doll…and a white rose for Mummy…Mummy loves white roses.’

I got home but couldn’t get that little fellow out of my mind, then, as I remembered reading the local newspaper article about the hit and run by some drunk driver having hit a car in which a little girl had been killed outright and the mother was in a coma; I wondered if this had anything to do with the little boy. A couple of days later there was a follow-up stating the family had decided to withdraw the life-support as the mother was brain-dead; there were details of the funeral.

I felt compelled to go and pay my respects at the funeral home and joined those who had come to pay theirs, so saw the young woman lying in her coffin holding a beautiful white rose in her hands with the photo of the little boy and the doll placed on her chest. You can guess my eyes were full of tears too as I left my bunch of white roses alongside.’

Memories came flooding back as I read Irene’s letter and thought how, in a few seconds, the lives of another family had been wrecked by the stupidity of another drunk driver. This one, robbing a little boy of his mother and his sister, yet enabling a perfect stranger to answer his prayers while gaining a golden memory for herself. I couldn’t help thinking that life is full of little ironies as well as cherished memories.