While I was in England I actually managed to make some headway on clearing out my old bedroom at my dad’s and in the process I found some old photos, so I thought I would completely embarrass myself and share a few of them with you. Apologies if the quality isn’t the best, I had to take photos of photos again.
This is one of the very few photos of little me where I was actually (sort of) smiling. There’s writing on the back of it: “Hello there. Looks like mam’s bringing me food?”. Apparantly somebody (presumably my mother?) is trying to imply I was only happy when I was getting fed! Also, what the hell colour paint is that on the wall?! The army has a lot to answer for, I’m telling you! (They’re also responsible for the awful brown carpet… although the “lovely” sofa was entirely my parents’ doing. What can I say… it was the 80s!).
It seems I wasn’t too impressed at having to hold my little sister! Not sure who I’m giving the evil eye to here… (Usually I don’t post photos of other people, but in this one my sister is a baby! I’d love to see someone pick her out of a lineup based on this!).
Check out my fabulous snowsuit! I actually remember it because my mum kept it til I was about 10, but I don’t remember ever wearing it. The photographic evidence says I did though.
There you are. I hope you enjoyed your glimpse into my babyhood. Maybe one day I’ll share more…
As you all know, my 30th birthday was on Tuesday, which means I’ve now been older than my step mum for a whole three days. Well, technically I’ve been older than her for a while – she died just over a month after her 29th birthday – but that’s something about the number changing that makes it seem more official. So I’m dedicating this week’s Friday letter to my step mum. I apologise now for any abundance of emotion, and also for the length.
It’s weird to think that I’ve now reached an age that you never did. For all these years, I’ve thought of you as the adult and me as the child. And now I’m 30! I wonder what you would think of me now? I was 12 the last time I saw you. You didn’t see me though… you were in hospital and although you’d woken up that morning, by the time we came to see you in the afternoon, you were sleeping again. It was the 23rd of December, and the next day my mum was picking us up to take us home. The plan was to come to the hospital before making the drive back down South, and my last words to you were something like “See you tomorrow”. I never saw you again. At 1 a.m., you stopped breathing and quietly slipped away. Christmas Eve – your favourite time of year. I still can’t remember if I told you I loved you before leaving the hospital that day, but I hope you knew.
We didn’t always get along. Of course we didn’t! I was an argumentative child and you could be incredibly stubborn. But I never once resented your marrying my dad. You made it perfectly clear from the start that you weren’t there to take my mam’s place – to this day, I remember you saying “You’ve already got a mum. I’m always here if you need me, but your mum is mum. I’m Shirley.” So instead, my sister and I would make you mother’s day cards labelled “To the world’s best step mum”, and in my eyes you really were. You were always interested in what we were doing at school, you listened to me recite my times tables for hours (although I’m sure it must have bored you senseless!), and whenever we came to stay, you were perfectly happy to bake and do crafts with us – no matter how much glitter we got on the dining room carpet! It’s true, you were not our mum, but there was a time when you were more of a mum to us than our real mother was. I wondered why somebody so great did have kids of their own, but you always told us my sister and I were enough… and I’m sure that was true. But It wasn’t until later that I discovered breast cancer ran in your family and now I believe part of the reason was that you didn’t want to leave your children without a mother. Losing you broke mine and my sister’s hearts as well, but like you always said, we at least still had a mum.
After I moved to my dad’s at 13 (just over a year after you passed away), I would have loved to speak to you on many occasions. I love my mam, but 360 miles is a long way, and back then phone calls were expensive. I love my dad, too, but as a teenage girl, there were some things I just didn’t want to discuss with him. Since then, there have been many occasions that I wished you could have been around for. My 18th and 21st birthday parties, the day I graduated and, more recently, when I became a godmother. I always wondered what you would think if you could see me in whatever situation I was in … finally becoming a legal adult, getting a degree, moving abroad, being chosen as a godmother. Not being religious, I have trouble believing in a “heaven”, but if you can somehow see me now, I hope I make you proud.
You’ve been gone for more than half my life now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember you. I still think of you often. You may not be here, but I still love you with all my heart, and always will.
Love from your now-older-than-you step-daughter
Just one letter this Friday, to my mother who turns 50 today.
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
Very quick blog post today.
Jan has gone to fetch the car and I’m supposed to be finishing the packing/cleaning. I thought I’d take a break for a few minutes though and say bye bye to my bloggy friends.
I shall miss you all! Try not to have too much fun in my absence ok, I’m going to be having withdrawel symptoms as it is 😉
It’s a little weird to be leaving the student residence. I’ve had some good times here. The first time I left (in July 2004) I actually cried. It was the end of my year abroad and I was going back to England. At the time I had no idea whether I’d ever come back here. Jan and I had agreed to try the long-distance thing, but as he was going all the way to America I wasn’t all that hopeful. We survived the year though, and the folowing year when I was in Austria and he was back in Germany. And now here I am, leaving the residence again. But this time I’m only going round the corner – to my very own. I’ve never had my very own flat before! So I’m excited and nervous and happy but also just a little sad. Talk about emotional rollercoaster!
Anyway, must go. It’s time to get back to dealing with the dust… and dragging heavy boxes outside…
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.
This shall be my last post for a few days. Not that I’m going to a place without a computer, but the chances of me being able to get my hands on that computer are pretty much zero, so no more blogging til I return at the weekend.
I’m returning to the Motherland (England) for my brother’s 18th birthday. Righteen! I can’t believe it. This is my little brother we’re talking about here. The baby I helped to bath, the toddler whose first word was my name. I remember helping him with his reading, playing schools with him, giving him piggy backs around the park. When did my baby brother get all grown up? He’s doing his A-Levels this year and will be starting uni next September. My little baby brother off to university! I know they say time flies but this has gone just a little too fast for me. I feel old now (again!).
So the next few days are going to busy, busy, busy – starting tomorrow when I’m going to have to leave work 5 minutes early to catch two trams and a bus to the airport. I feel tired just thinking about it!
And now I have to clean out the bag for my luggage (it got grape juice splled in it – don’t ask!), find clean clothes and pack them and somewhere in between that I need to find time to cook tonight’s tea and tomorrow’s lunch. If I’m lucky I might even make it to bed before midnight!
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…