Friday letter(s): To my mam

Just one letter this Friday, to my mother who turns 50 today.

Mum I love you xxxxxx
Photo credit: Andreas-photography

Dear Mam,
When I said I would be attending your 50th birthday while in England, a lot of people were surprised. Other people my age have parents who are already in their 60s… sometimes even late 60s. But you always were younger than most of my friends’ parents. Mostly, I thought that was a good thing – you were always so much more fun than those other stuffy, responsible adults, and now I’m older I love that I can go out for a drink or a shopping trip for you and actually feel like we have something in common. But our relationship hasn’t always been this great. For a lot of my childhood, my sister and I were basically left to raise ourselves (and later I helped raise my brother). I was 8 the first time I made tea for the three of us (sausages, chips and beans!) and started babysitting at around the same time I started secondary school. Even before that, one of the local teenagers would come and look after us every Friday and Saturday night. For a long time, I resented that. Looking back now, as an almost 30 year old, I still can’t 100% agree with everything you did back then, but I can certainly understand it a lot better. Going from living at home with your parents in the place you’d been brought up to being an army wife and new mother in a strange town within the space of 6 months can’t have been easy for you! And no matter what you did “wrong”, you always came through when it was important – whether it was baking a cake for the school fair, showing up to cheer us on at sports day, providing money (that we technically didn’t have) so I could go on school trips or driving me to and from sea cadets every Friday. And throughout everything else, I don’t think any of us ever doubted that you loved us. HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY MAMMY! Here’s to many, many more.
Love you!
Beverley xxx

On being a squaddie brat

army lifeI joined a group on Facebook ages ago called “British Forces Brats” then promptly forgot about it.

Recently, for some reason, it has exploded into life and started appearing on my newsfeed every day. A lot of the posts are things like “Who else was stationed here?”, “What regiment was your dad in?” and “How many schools did you go to?” (five for me, in case you were wondering) but there are some posts describing characteristics that I can relate to and that I never even thought to relate to my army upbringing!

  • You are always on time if not early for everything and often end up waiting ages before anyone else turns up – YES! I am always at least on time, and usually way too early. If I have arranged to meet someone, turning up late is just plain rude!
  • You find it hard to make close friends because as a kid everyone you knew always moved away after a mximum of 4 years (or you moved and they didn’t). ALso, you find “civvies” (civilians)much harder to talk to than fellow army brats – Yes, definitely! I thought my complete inability to make friends or strike up a conversation was because there’s something wrong with me, but it’s true that before leaving the army life I never had a friend for more than three years (with one or two exceptions), not becasue we fell out, but because one of us moved and we never thought to exchange addresses. There was no Facebook to stay in touch back then! Maybe I do subconciously still think that any friend I do make won’t stick around for long… And not so much now, but certainly when I started at my first “proper” civilian school up North, people found me weird (the school before that was technically a civvy school, but being in Aldershot – home of the British army at the time – at least half the pupils were squaddie brats and another quarter had some association with the army. And come to think of it, a lot of people there found me weird too… the only people I hung around with had parents who either were still in the army or who had got out and decided to settle down in Aldershot…
  • You get itchy feet every three years or so and want to move – Okay, that one I did attribute to the army. I’ve been in Karlsruhe for over 6 years now (record!) but this flat is the third place I’ve lived within the town. I’m also on my 4th “job” now (I was a language assistant for a year then I did a year-long internship… I can actually hold down a job, honest!), which has probably helped me not get bored. Ironically, I absolutely hate packing up to move house… but you can’t have one without the other. If I want to move, I have to pack…

There were positive aspects to being an army brat, of course and I wouldn’t change it for the world! But reading that other people have had the same experience was like having a blindfold removed from my eyes. Now I get it… I’m not a freak, I’m a squaddie brat! And while I may be no good at making friends, I am open minded and able to adapt to living just about anywhere!

End of my childhood

As a child growing up in the 80s, there were a few TV programmes I watched religiously. One of them was Jim’ll Fix It. I never actually sent a letter in (I have a sneaking suspicion I may not have been allowed), but I would spend hours dreaming up things Jim could fix for me. I would have loved a Jim’ll Fix It medal – even more than a Blue Peter badge, and that’s saying something considering the things those badges could get you in to! I always said when Mr. Fixit died my childhood would officially be over. And now it has happened – Sir Jimmy Savile has passed away, 2 days short of his 85th birthday. Despite the fact that I never met the man, I am genuinely sad. A legend of my childhood has gone; an era has come to an end. RIP Sir Jimmy Savile, first and last presenter of Top of the Pops and  fixer of children’s wishes. You shall be missed!

But I don’t WANT pretzels and Bratwurst…

Isn’t it funny how, when you’re ill, you crave comforting, familiar foods. Foods that you were brought up with, that accompanied you through your childhood. Much as I love local specialities, like Käsespätzle (small, thin dumplings covered in lashings of melted cheese) and Flammkuchen (tarte flambée – technically from Elsace but Karlsruhe is so close to the border that they’ve adopted (and adapted) this dish for themselves), for the last few days I’ve been craving English things. Crumpets literally dripping with salted butter. Heinz chicken soup. Mashed potatoes with a large helping of cheddar cheese mixed in. A chip butty drowning in gravy. Horlicks.
I just know I’m going to be disappointed no matter what we have for tea tonight. Plus, I’ve run out of Lemsip. Doooom!

I promise to tell the truth…

So I’ve been given an award by the lovely Welsh Girl whose blog you can get to by clicking the link. It’s a very cool award. Just look at it:
honest_award_black

Cool no?

However, this is not an award that’s made purely for the purpose of decorating your blog. Oh no. It comes with strings attached. You see, as part of the deal I’m supposed to tell you 10 honest things about myself, then pass it on to other unsuspecting bloggers whose days I want to ruin.
I’m a little worried about this whole “honesty” thing though. Something tells me what the award is actually asking for is a bunch of embarrassing secrets that I never had any intention of sharing with the world.

Oh well, it’s not like I have that much to hide.
Here goes…

  1. When I was younger I desperately wanted a twin sister. So desperately in fact that a friend and I went around telling everyone at school we were twins but had been adopted by different families at birth. Nobody believed us of course. My friend is two days older than me and at the time our mothers were best friends, so for our 6th birthday the two of them arranged for us to have a joint birthday party at the Family’s Bar (it’s an army thing). We even had a birthday cake with both of our names on it. After that everyone believed us.
  2. I once snogged a girl for a pound and a bottle of Reef. I was at uni at the time. When you’re a student you don’t turn down free alcohol! (I did know the girl in question by the way – she was my housemate at the time). A few years later I snogged one of my best (female) friends because she thought it would be a good way to impress a guy she fancied. It worked – he went home with her that night.
  3. When I was 17 I dumped a boy by posting a letter through his door. I know, awful right? I was too much of a wimp to do it in person. I don’t feel too guilty about it though – a few months later he got with a friend of mine. They’re now living together and are apparantly getting married in 2010.
  4. I had my first real kiss when I was 6 years old, behind the garages on our estate in Northern Ireland. I no longer remember what the boy’s name was but I do know he was 9. After that I wasn’t kissed again until I was 16.
  5. When I was about 12 I sat on some broken glass while at the park with my sister and my friend. My friend had to pull the aforementioned piece of glass out of my bum. My mum was out at the time and we weren’t supposed to leave the house so I hid my blood-covered knickers in a bush so she wouldn’t find out. (I can’t believe I just admitted that. On the internet! Eeek!)
  6. I have a scar on my chin from falling down the loft ladder when I was 14. I bled everywhere and had to be taken to hospital to have it stitched up (actually I only got steri strips). My friend insisted on coming to hospital with me and was given a card with the symptoms of concussion on it just in case.
  7. I cry really easily. If I know a book is going to be sad I won’t read it on the tram in case it makes me cry in front of everybody. I also cry when I have arguments with Jan, even when it was me who started it.
  8. I have incredibly long toes. The three in the middle actually remind me of fingers. I find this quite disturbing.
  9. I have completely forgotten all my times tables. I have to use a calculator or my fingers to work them out. My year 6 teacher would be disgusted.
  10. Part way through year 3, when I was 7 years old, my family was posted from Northern Ireland back to England. Shortly after starting at my new school I wet myself in the playground at lunch time because I was too scared to ask the prefects on duty (big scary year sixes!) to go to the toilet. Later, when we were back in class, the teacher asked me if I had wet myself and I completely denied it.

OK, that’s your lot. Phew, that was hard! Now it’s time to pass it on…
Soo… Sleepyjane, Hails and Lauren, over to you…

Bevchen to the rescue

It was dark when I left work today. Dark and cold. I hate that. And things are only going to get worse – it’s another two whole months before we even reach the shortest day!

Anyway, enough whinging. Welsh Girl has tagged me for this meme. Apparantly if I don’t do it the world will end. I suppose I’d better do it then…
So, I’m supposed to tell you seven random things about me. Sounds pretty simple. I’m not sure it is though. Seven whole things? I just don’t think I’m that interesting. I shall give it a go though…

1. When I was younger my favourite colour was purple. I even decorated my room in it – or rather the decorator did. Actually, the wallpaper’s still there – purple with silver swirls. My entire family then decided it would be a wonderful idea to buy me purple stuff for every single occasion they could think of… birthdays, Easter, Christmas… I have an entire room full of purple candles, purple lamps, purple photo frames… and now I can’t stand the sight of the colour any more. I refuse to tell my relatives what colour I like now in case they put me off that one too.

2. I can only eat eggs if they’re mixed with milk. That means scrambled eggs and omlettes are fine, as are eggs in cake. Boiled and fried eggs make me throw up. It’s really annoying cos I actually like soft boiled eggs with toast soldiers but it’s just not worth the vomiting that I know will follow.

3. I once ate a beetle. Well, half of one anyway. I was sitting out in the garden when my mum noticed I had something in my mouth, so she came over to take a lot and discovered half a beetle in there. We can only assume I swallowed the other half. Clearly I was a sick child… but in my defence I was only about three years old at the time.

4. On my mum’s side, I’m the oldest of 18 grandchildren. My youngest cousin is a bit more than year old. There was one cousin who was older than me. She was born six months before I was and died at three weeks. Her name was Deborah.
I’m also the oldest grandchild on my dad’s side of the family, but as the other grandchildren are my sister and half brother it doesn’t really count.

5. My blog is the only place I ever refer to my mother as “mum”. In real life she’s mam.

6. I went to five different schools, three primary and two secondary. We moved around a lot.

7. My absolute all time favourite film is A League of Their Own. I still cry every time I watch it.

OK, now I’m supposed to pass it on to some of you lot. Most of the people I would have passed it to have already done it though. Hmm, I choose sleepyjane, Lauren from Half Deserted Streets and anyone else that wants to do it.

Now I have to go to a meeting with my floor. Hopefully normal blogging service will resume tomorrow… unless someone goes and tags me for another meme.

Happy Birthday Paddington!

Google UK just told me Paddington, the marmelade loving bear featured in the books by Michael Bond, is 50, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to say Happy Birthday to one of my favourite bears.

I used to have a Paddington Bear when I was little. He was about 15 centimetres high with a red hat and a blue duffle coat that could be fastened with real wooden toggles. He was brilliant. I knitted him a scarf once. I was about 6 or 7 and someone had bought me a kids knitting set for Christmas (with red plastic needles). It was probably my Grandma – she was always into knitting. I got some bright pink wool to go with it so I decided I was going to knit a scarf. I had only knitted a tiny, miniscule scarf (maybe 10 centimetres long) when i got bored of it, so I announced that it was going to be a scarf for Paddington, as if that had been my intention all along. And so it became Paddington’s scarf. Not too long after that both Paddington and scarf went missing – I suspect it happened during our move from Northern Ireland back to England. Lots of stuff went missing during our various moves. I was quite upset about losing Paddington. After all, I had loved him enough to knit him his very own scarf.

Now I have a new Paddington. I spotted him at Heathrow airport the week before last and told Jan, who doesn’t know the Paddington bear books, the story of how I knitted my Paddington a scarf and lost him. I must have sounded pretty nostalgic because Jan promptly counted out the last of his English money to go towards buying me a new Paddington. Naturally I chose one with a red hat and blue duffle coat – some had them the other way round but in my memory Paddington’s coat was blue! My new bear is holding a briefcase and has a label round his neck – “Please look after this bear”. His toggles aren’t real, but that’s ok. I still love him, and I love my boyfriend for spontaneously deciding to buy him for me.

Happy Birthday Paddington Bear! May you continue to eat marmelade sandwiches for another 50 years.

School’s out forever

I was reading this article on BBC news today. It’s about the children’s TV programme Grange Hill. The last ever episode was broadcast just a few weeks ago, apparantly.
I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness as I read the article. Just like when I read a similar article last year, except that time it wasn’t a school that was closing its gates but a youth club. Yep, I’m talking about Byker Grove. Now I know Byker Grove hasn’t been that brilliant for… well, quite a few years now. And for all I know it’s the same with Grange Hill – it has been a while since I last saw it. But I grew up watching those two programmes. We didn’t have sky or cable in those days. No Disney Channel, no Nickolodeon, and the CBBC channel hadn’t even been invented yet. Children’s TV back then was about 3 hours in the afternoon (plus Saturday morning cartoons), and Grange Hill and Byker Grove were a big part of those afternoons. And back in the day they were actually good as well. It just doesn’t feel right knowing they’re not on any more. It’s as if somebody’s gone and taken away a part of my childhood. Next they’ll be telling me Jim’ll Fix It (aka Jimmy Saville) is dead…
Now please don’t anyone go telling me he actually is dead. I don’t think I could take it…

He isn’t, is he?

Blogging for blogging’s sake

When I was about nine years old one of my aunties bought me a diary for Christmas. You know the type i with My Diary scrawled across the front in pretty writing and a lock with a miniature key to stop people from reading your “secrets”. I’m sure every little girl gets one at some stage. Mine even had my name on the front, inside a giant red heart. Exciting stuff. Up until that day I’d never even thought about keeping a record of my life, my thoughts, my feelings. But as soon as my auntie presented me with that diary I felt compelled to use it. Every evening I would record the events that my nine year old self considered to be important.
It was sunny today so we were allowed on the field at lunch time. After school I played out. We had sausages and chips for tea. S__ (step-dad) is mean. He wouldn’t let us put cartoons on cos he wanted to watch Countdown.

Now that I’m older I seem to feel the same compulsion to keep my blog up to date. Even though my life is boring, even though all I do most days is go to work, I can’t possibly go more than a day or two without writing something.
Why is that I wonder?

Buying back my childhood

We moved around a lot when I was a child. Not as much as some army families but much more than the majority of ordinary people do. And things tended to go missing during these moves. I still remember a black haired doll called Lynsey who disappeared somewhere between our house in Northern Ireland and our new house in Aldershot. Then there were the books. We always had a lot of books. Even back then I loved reading and would sit all day working my way through a pile of books if the grown ups would only let me. There are so many books I remember owning back then that I now have no idea of the whereabouts of. Like my original copy of What Katy Did. My Grandma let me take it away from her house and I was convinced it must be really old because it had belonged to one of my aunts when she was a little girl. When you’re 8 or 9 aunts are ancient, therefore the book must have been too. The book disappeared at some point and I was devastated. Later I got another copy in one of those children’s classic collections but it’s just not the same. Then there were my Peter Rabbit books. My sister had the whole set in miniature. I only had two, big versions of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle Duck. Gone. All gone. I had a puffin 50th anniversary collection of books as well, containing things like Ballet Shoes, Stig of the Dump and the Silver Sword. They came as a box set and when you stood them next to each other the sides of the covers made up the number 50. Three or four of those are missing now though, so that the 5 is missing part of its belly and the 0 looks weirdly deformed.

There are other books too. Ones I never owned, but remember reading during silent reading at school. Things like Ace (who was the sheep-pig’s great, great grandson) and The Way to Satin Shore. And books I borrowed from the library. I remember gradually taking out the entire Ramona Quimby series from our local library – the first one was chosen mainly because of the authors name. Beverly like me, except I have an extra e.

I’m slowly, slowly making a list of all the books I remember reading and adoring back then. Then once I’m earning a proper wage, I’ll start buying back my childhood. I just hope the world doesn’t go and end on us tomorrow as some people are predicting. I’d hate to be sucked into a black hole without having a chance to read When Marnie was there one last time…