Gather ye roses

Alfreda Claire Mansell (nee Whitlock)

Today is the anniversary of my mother’s death. She died in unusual and tragic circumstances – quite suddenly and far too early. It doesn’t really get easier with time. I feel sad every June 5th about the years she missed and the time I’ve spent not knowing her.

There are no photos of my mother at my wedding and there are no photos of her holding a grandchild. She left us as my sister and I were on the cusp of adulthood.

It’s a sharp reminder, (as if any of us needed one), of mortality.

Poem about my mum’s singing!

No knitting, but a little coherence

I will not be knitting my way out of lockdown blues. There will be no pots thrown nor will there be macramé potholders. No creations in crochet, embroidery, tapestry or tatting. Craft-wise I am challenged. As a child I was both very left-handed and rather clumsy. Dyspraxic might be the term used now. My mother gave up on me in frustration.

Two years after my mother died, I taught myself to knit plain squares. I was twenty-three. My first baby had a blanket made of knitted squares and a couple of little jackets…also made of knitted squares. All in red, white and blue. That was my first and last foray into knitting.

My daughter’s mother-in-law is a keen and skilled knitter. My mother was too. This poem was partly about her knitting but more about her fierce loyalty, her protectiveness towards family.

Today the walk almost didn’t happen, but the spaniel initiated it, leading the way and smiling. His movement was laboured, but the tail wagged. It was gain above pain. We were remembering the oak and ash saying:

Oak before ash – you’re in for a splash. Ash before oak – you’re in for a soak.

Oak leaves are out earlier in the hedges, but does it mean anything? Or is the delay something to do with ash die-back? It’s hard to pinpoint why I feel so positive this evening. It just feels like somehow there’s a little coherence through and around the chaos. Or acceptance anyway.

On wit and gin

My mother worked in nursing, apart from a few brief months as a GPO telephonist, from the age of 17 to her premature death at 50. While she worked nights, I recall watching old black-and-white films with my father. Not all were age-appropriate but, if my father had been asked to justify exposing me to such material, it would have all been about the dialogue. He admired a snappy one-liner, a withering put-down. The English-only rule was broken for Raymond Chandler and a couple of those quick-fire sparring movie partnerships from the 1930s.

More modern films left my father unimpressed. He found them banal and saccharine. World-weary cynicism was one thing,  but when it was combined with a laconic delivery – superb.

The first TV I remember was acquired, or rather made, by him when I was six, convalescing in bed for just under two months. Recuperating, trapped, I read a little but watched much more. Now, confined to home in the nationwide notgoingoutclub,  I’m forgiving myself the dip in energy levels, the short attention span. I’m letting a lot of barely average TV wash over me, except of course for the ever-present, unavoidable news. Luckily, there’s usually an evening G&T to take the edge off the relentless sadness, the vitriol of journalists, the incompetence of politicians.

And luckily too, there’s this place, and there’s family.