The phone rings it about one thirty in the morning. I do not open my eyes; there is no need. The conversation is fairly short, Liz begins to cry. There is nothing I can do to help; this is the moment of ultimate truth; nothing is more certain. For a minute, we embrace, Liz gets […]
Patience … or, Some things are worth waiting for
In August of this year we took a boat trip across Poole harbour to Brownsea Island. We were on holiday in Dorset and thought it would make a nice day trip. In addition, we were hoping to spot red squirrels which are native to the island. It was definitely a ‘factor 50’ day, clear blue sky, sunshine and only the lightest breeze – perfect!
There was a tour guide in the church who was more than happy to explain all the features of interest as well as recount the history of the island and its former owners / inhabitants. We were happy to linger in the church and enjoy the coolness of its interior – a very welcome respite from the heat of the day.
I asked the question, do you see many squirrels?
The answer ‘The last squirrel I saw was about two months ago, it came into the church and ran over my foot’.
‘So will we have a chance of spotting some today do you think?’
‘Today? oh no, its far too hot and there are too many people about, you won’t see squirrels today’ came the reply from the knowledgeable guide.
We stepped outside, my granddaughter feeling a little disappointed as she, like us, had been looking forward to ‘squirrel hunting’. A walk around the churchyard followed, a beautiful and peaceful area, perfect for a final resting place. It was while we were exploring around the church that two photographers were spotted, in full camouflage gear, with huge telephoto lenses and tripods. My curiosity got the better of me and we moved closer to the clearing where they had set up their gear. All was quiet and still, a handful of people, like us, waited patiently.
‘What are we waiting for?’whispered little Alice… ‘I don’t know – but we’ll wait and see’
Sure enough, we were rewarded, a red squirrel came into the clearing and proceeded to scamper about, darting here and there, I struggled to keep up with it and couldn’t see how i’d be able to capture it on camera. However, it then discovered a store of food and so the scampering stopped and the photos were taken. What a wonderful 20 minutes, although it was shaded area, the bright sunlight shone through the canopy of leaves and highlighted the little fellow’s red colouring.
I managed to take several photos and when the little fellow was joined by another we were overjoyed.
After the ‘show’ was over, we walked away and continued with our exploring of the grounds.
Acres of woodland, grassed areas for picnics, Brownsea Island is truly an oasis situated in Poole Harbour, one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Take advantage of the restaurant and tea room too. There’s also an interesting exhibition centre which details the history of the island and its occupants as well as an activity table for the youngsters to draw and craft.
As we sat and waited for the boat to take us back to Poole, Alice turned to us and said ‘She was wrong wasn’t she? ‘The lady said we wouldn’t see any squirrels and we saw two, she was wrong wasn’t she Grandma’
Yes Alice, she was wrong.
Patience provided it’s rewards for us that day. Happy Alice Squirrel Hunter!
Words and pictures by Lizzy Clark
Memories – snapshots of moments stored in the deep recesses of our mind. When we recall a memory we recapture the feeling / experience even just for an instance.
Having lived for over half a century already, my mind’s recesses are chock full of memories which can be triggered by many different things. A song … a word, phrase or accent even … a smell … the title of a book … soundtrack to a film … So many triggers.
For me I think smell and music are the main keys to unlocking memories. For instance, there is a certain chain of hardware / homeware stores which, as soon as I walk in remind me of my Grandparents shop and warehouse. Its not a single scent, more a mix of bars of soap, firelighters, turps, polish, wooden brooms, and general household stuff… One whiff and I am whisked back in time to the age of about 7-9 years old, walking through the passage which joined the house to the warehouse and shop. The warehouse had all manner of items stacked on shelves, hanging on hooks – galvanised buckets, mops, watering cans, as well as tinned food stuffs, bags of tea, sugar and flour and the jars of sweets. The shop itself was a village general store – very reminiscent of the one which features in the TV sitcom “Open All Hours” – same counter, shelves around the shop stocked with groceries of all description, a cold counter with bacon, cooked meats, butter, cheese and milk, and my favourite, the sweet counter – liquorice pipes, strawberry laces, sherbet flying saucers, bonbons and chews.
Memories have lain dormant within my mind for many years – without a thought, until they are triggered into life. Perhaps its age which triggers memories?
We talk to elderly parents, relatives and realise their time on earth is drawing to a close. Perhaps its a way of preparing for the bereavement that we reminisce – remember good times, extract the memories and replay them to recapture the moments. Perhaps its our increasing years. We reach a stage in life where the days ahead will be fewer than those past, we think back and remember…
The arrival of children, grandchildren, new generations brings with it more than a hint of nostalgia and revives memories of our own childhood and those of our children.
Enjoy your memories, treasure the moments, remember the good times by all means – but don’t forget to live in the present, the here and now. Live – and by doing so create more memories for yourself and those around you.
The memories we leave with others are our legacy – their inheritance, some would argue that treasured memories are possibly more valuable than monetary riches?
words and pictures by Lizzy Clark
“Lincolnshire Life – the early years”
memories of a Lincolnshire lad
John Bartram Clark – retold by Lizzy Clark
I was born at ‘The Bungalow’, Mill Lane, Donington, Near Spalding in South Lincolnshire on 17 September 1933, the first child of James Bartram Clark and Gwendoline Martha Clark (nee Sandy). I had a younger sister and two brothers, all were born at the same bungalow, home births being the norm in those days. In attendance was the local district nurse/midwife and in all of our cases my maternal Grandmother, Grandma Sandy was also in attendance.
My father was a grocer, working in my Grandfather’s shop ‘Ince Clark’ at the Market Place. The Bungalow was the last on the left hand side going down the lane from the direction of the main road through the village. It was here that I spent the first seven years of my life. A spacious home with front, side and back gardens – a haven for a small boy. At the bottom of the back garden was the chicken hut and pen, and the vegetable patch, then came the trellis fence to separate the rear lawn and flower garden.
To the side of the garden was the detached garage which my father kept the shop’s Morris Van. It was in this vehicle we would travel to the coast at Chapel St Leonards and holidays in Skegness where we stayed in a boarding house on the Wainfleet Road run by a Mr and Mrs Speakman. Unfortunately the van trips came to an abrupt end when my grandfather (Ince Clark) crashed the van on a trip to visit his sister at Swayfield. Had had an accident at Swayfield crossroads and the van was a write off – the actual details of the accident were never made clear! Following this incident I recall that Grandfather Clark was confined to a bed in the front room of the house in Market Place, I remember visiting on my way home from Sunday School. It was no chore to visit my Grandparents, as my Grandmother used to make ice cream! Home made ice cream, from milk supplied daily by Mr Hall, the village milk man, fresh from the farm, and my Grandmother would churn away in the back yard to ensure the shop always had a supply of fresh ice cream. ‘Clarks’ Fresh Dairy Ice Cream was a speciality of the shop. Like the holidays in the van, this treat too came to an end – the outbreak of the Second World War and rationing put a stop to my ice cream treats.
The Bungalow was new when my parents took up residence after their marriage. Although considered ‘modern’ at the time, there was no electricity and no direct mains water supply to the house. Fresh water had to be pumped from a well reservoir into a roof space storage tank. From here it fed the hot water system and the cold water tapes in the kitchen and bathroom. There was a water closet (WC) which was something of a luxury in the early 1930’s village life.
I enjoyed by early years here as I had plenty of garden space in which to play. Friends would come to play and I would go to other houses on the lane to join in games. There were a few village boys of my age and so we were never without playmates. In the holidays my cousin Doreen would come to stay from Lincoln. Doreen was much older than I and it was she who taught me to ride my small ‘Hopper’ school bicycle. After many hours practice, she was eventually able to leave go of the seat and I was away on my own. It was an idyllic way of life down the lane pre war.
We had some harsh winters in the thirties, and on one occasion the Brick Pits were frozen over. The ice was so thick that people came from all around to skate on the ice. It was only a short distance from the bungalow and myself and my friends would go to play on the ice too. The area was lit with braziers from the local farm. Even my father came along, he had a pair of ancient skates and joined us on the ice. PC Thomas and his wife occupied the Police House on Mill Lane, Mrs Thomas was a skater of high standard and showed off her racing skills on the pits. In the summer the Brick Pits were the a popular haunt for boys and boats. Henry Shaw, a neighbours son made model boats as a hobby and I watched him sail his large model yacht. Being much older than me, Henry was conscripted into the Royal Air Force following the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 – he wore his full uniform with pride on his first home leave, little did I know that would be the last time we saw him as he was killed in action soon after at the age of 18.
The war changed our way of life. Food rationing was introduced and was to last until after the duration of the war. My father went to Grantham for his military medical but was given the lowest grade due to the fact that he had had a big toe amputated when he was a schoolboy. His failure of the medical meant my father stayed at home in the village and worked in the family shop. My friends and I started to play ‘war games’ and we formed our own ‘Dads Army’ with our motley collection of bits of uniform and armaments. My Hitler would have run for his life if he had seen this band of ‘brigands’!
Some school holidays I would go and stay with my maternal Grandparents. They lived in a very isolated cottage in the middle of a field at West Rasen, North Lincolnshire. The cottage was about a mile down a green lane off the main Market Rasen/Gainsborough Road. There were no public utilities to the cottage. Oil lamps suspended from the ceiling provided the only lighting, heating was by a coal fire and the only toilet was at the bottom of the garden of the ‘long drop’ variety. Fresh water was obtained from a pump outside the cottage door. However, despite these deprivations I spent many a happy holiday there. Granda Sandy was a tailor and I would sit and watch him at his work. It was fascinating to see a suit evolve from a roll of material. His customers were mainly farmers from nearby villages and would make the journey over the fields to the cottage for fittings. The coal man would deliver the coal in sacks in bulk, all other provisions had to be fetched from Market Rasen which was the nearest market town. Market days were Tuesdays and Saturdays so it was a regular outing on the weekly market ‘bus on both of these days to shop for milk and groceries. As I grew older I would take my cycle and ride around the area, I found the countryside much more interesting than the flat landscapes of the fens of south Lincolnshire.
Aside from the war, another big change affected my family. My Grandmother Clark became ill and died on 13 November 1940. This meant my Grandfather would be alone in the big house that joined on to the shop. As a family we moved out of the Bungalow at the beginning of 1941 and moved in with him at the Market Place. This would be my home until I left the village in 1957. A new chapter in my life began.
John B Clark
retold by Lizzy Clark
We’ve all set out on a journey at one time or another – indeed you could say that every day is itself a journey.
How do you prepare for a journey? Do you plan, plot? Do you countdown to the start of the journey? Or are you more spontaneous? To some degree I’d say there has to be some level of planning involved in a journey – however long or short – for a start, how are you travelling? by foot? car? public transport? Once the decision has been made on how to travel, do you plan where your journey will take you? Often we embark on a journey with a destination in sight, already planned and anticipated. We know where we are starting out from, we know where we are headed – the journey itself is the adventure. Some embark on a journey not knowing where they will end up – and that’s a real adventure!
As a child we often went out as a family for a drive on a Sunday afternoon – no doubt my father had some idea of where we were going – perhaps to visit a relative? Or perhaps he formed an idea of where to go based upon how long he anticipated being out and how far we would travel. I always thought of these trips as ‘mystery’ journeys. I was an avid reader of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven – so as we travelled along roads, through villages, down lanes, I would gaze out of the window imagining we were on some secret mission, or adventure and make up the stories in my mind. I often would look at the road map and trace with my finger the route we travelled, looking out for road signs or landmarks. My parents would often drawn my attention to a church or landmark, or village sign so that I could plot where we were. This served two purposes, it fired my imagination and interest, and it kept my mind from the ever looming travel sickness which afflicted me during my early years. One whiff of a barley sugar boiled sweet and I’m back in that place, sitting in the back seat behind my father, legs sticking to the pvc seat, no air conditioning, but a gentle breeze from the partially wound down windows of my parents. No in car entertainment, CDs, MP3s, DVDs, just watching the scenery pass by as I gazed out of my window and followed the coloured squiggles of the roads marked on the map. I both loved and feared the holiday journeys of childhood. The ones I can remember being long – we didn’t travel on motorways, as frequent stops were necessary to ease my queasiness, I hated the aftertaste of the travel sickness tablets I had to take before such journeys, they dried the mouth, and so the inevitable boiled sweets and barley sugars were sucked throughout the journey. We often travelled through the night, I remember once arriving at Brixham, Devon just before 6am and watching the fishing boats in the harbour as we waited until the time we could gain access to our holiday apartment overlooking the bay.
As an adult I’ve taken great pleasure in planning journeys. I write numerous lists – what to pack in suitcases, essentials needed for the journey and during the time away, jobs to do before going. Then there is all the preparation, booking accommodation, booking tickets, checking personal paperwork is in order, which cameras to take, notebooks and pens, maps, guidebooks route planner. Researching the destination for places to visit, ‘must do’ tourist attractions, local cuisine. One of my favourite parts of the journey is planning the route before we go, looking for interesting stop off points or places to pass through.
I was in my element with the preparation required for a recent visit to the USA. One of my favourite journeys and one I’m sure I’ll write about in great detail at a later date. I still think of it as ‘The Journey’ rather than ‘a journey’.
23 days, 8 states, 5000 miles. Car, Plane, Train, Boat.
During 23 days we flew half way around the world, hired a car, drove 5000 miles through 8 states and during this time took a train ride and travelled on a boat. The Journey took in desert, city, prairie, forests, lakes, rivers, ocean, island, mountain, beach, sunrises, sunsets, snow, wind, rain, fog, sunshine.
So many memories, some real landmarks too – driving miles and miles on the Interstate highways – we covered many miles on the old route that took the early explorers across the country from east to west – much of it now replaced by a state of the art double lane highway, running parallel to the old route 66 – and we could see deserted gas stations, diners and stores that stood empty and forgotten now, alongside the unused road, discarded for the bright shiny diners and casinos along the Interstate.
Some days we drove many hundreds of miles, something not possible to do in our home country, indeed in one day we travelled further than the length of Great Britain – when we set off one dark Sunday morning from Amarillo in Texas, I couldn’t help but think of the lyrics ‘When the day is dawning, on a Texas Sunday morning’ – our destination that evening was to be Las Vegas in Nevada – I programmed the hotel address into the Sat Nav of the hire car and the calculated miles to travel was 854 miles – we stopped along the way for fuel and rest stops, met some interesting people who were very friendly and eager to chat to us when they heard our accent. Even the hire car drew attention as we drove across so many states with Californian plates. We arrived at our destination, our hotel, on the Strip in Las Vegas at 6.30pm – we’d crossed Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, saw the sun set on the mountains of Nevada and as we rounded the bend before descending into the valley the bright lights of Las Vegas were a sight to behold.
Our Journey continued to California, where we saw the sun set over the Pacific ocean from the great vantage point of the Griffith Observatory, we walked the sands of Santa Monica beach, took a train up the Coast to San Fransisco and a boat over to Alcatraz. You can see why I can only think of this time as ‘The Journey’ – so much to write and I will set down more memories, descriptions and details in future blogs.
Yes, I’ll write about The Journey in great detail – I took thousands (seriously!) of photographs and kept a journal as well as collected leaflets, newspapers, maps so I have the resources to write all about The Journey.
On journeys these days I’m sometimes the driver, often the navigator. But still, part of me is that young child who’s mind is full of imaginations and the anticipation of adventure.
I take great pleasure in all journeys – a day trip, a visit to family, or a holiday… the planning, preparation, and anticipation are all part of the journey. The return home, with a mind full of memories, a camera full of images – to view and relive the experiences.
Where are you going on your next journey?
Enjoy your journey – where will it take you?