Monday 29 November 2010


fIRST PUBLISHED:Sep 10, 2008 11:44 PM

by Moannie
After a disastrous summer we are told to expect an Indian summer. Well, it will be welcome if it comes, but we Brits are made of stern stuff. Everyone knows we take cold baths, have smoky fires, outside loos, bad food and teeth, stiff upper lips and field a straight bat [whatever that means] All I know for a fact is that the leaves on my
 Virginia creeper are beginning to turn a glorious red, and no... I don't have a picture to illustrate the fact and if I did I wouldn't be able to find the place to put it...even if my scanner was working, which it isn't for some reason I have not been able to fathom. So come on folks, you all know what a sight to behold Virginia creeper is in its full autumnal glory, so I shall have to ask you to use your imagination, and further, to use it again to picture the scene I am about to describe to you.

In October 1966 we emigrated to Canada, Quebec to be exact, me, JP and our three children aged, at that time 8,4, and six months. We had chosen Canada because Australia was too far, the USA too full and because JP is French and we figured, wrongly as it turned out, that being French we would have a head start [but that isn't the story I want to tell.]

As you can imagine, with three very young children the trip over was more of constant gallop around the deck chasing the four year old, amusing the eight year old and taking care of the baby...none of these activities helped by the fact that JP was sick from the moment the ship left Southampton until we docked in Quebec and also explains why we missed the session arranged for immigrants on the last night,  consequences  meant we landed as lost and alone in that vast Hall as strangers on the moon. However, as usual I digress.

What I wanted to tell you about happened very early in the morning of our last day aboard.

I woke before dawn and so did daughter no 1. We dressed quickly and warmly and went up on deck. We seemed to be alone on that huge ship. The air was still and the ship glided along as if magically powered, engines must have been working but we didn't hear them, so beautiful was the sight that met our eyes. I don't know how far we were from the banks of the river, a hundred metres perhaps. There was a very low, white mist over the water and to our right, glowing in the light from the rising sun was a frieze of autumnal colours, reds, oranges, browns and yellows, that went on for mile after mile. As the sun rose the colours intensified against a backdrop of the bluest sky. As we glided past I don't think we spoke, we just held hands and stood, in awe for a very long time. What a welcome that was.

Nothing that happened to us on our Canadian adventure would ever match the magic of that morning. And that too is another story.

Saturday 27 November 2010


First posted : Sep 7, 2008 6:42 PM

by Moannie
I was reading [ sadly these two posts no longer exist] who have written posts along the same lines, concerning our obsession with aging, and 'looking good.] and I thought, why do we do it? Why do we fret about our laughter wrinkles and our smile lines? Why do we test every product promising permanent perfection?  [lord how I love alliteration] and baby skin? What has made us so vulnerable that we fear encroaching signs of life's battering?

Obviously we are genetically programmed to be the hunted, and so we must - if we want to be caught - make ourselves as attractive as possible.  But having allowed ourselves to be captured then it is up to us whether we want to continue in our efforts to be ever young and lovely.

Or, do we do it for ourselves? Surely we do.

I think poet lady had the partial answer when she talks about the invisibility of the old. It is true, it does happen I'm afraid. Gone are the days when you got 'wolf whistles' [I loved it...don't talk to me about 'political correctness'] or heads turning when you entered a room, but like everything else that occurs in old age, it creeps up so slowly that when you do realise you are just another statistic, you don't really care too much.

[Liar liar pants on fire!]

Actually, you do care, and if you are anything like me you keep fighting it. You don't ask the usual questions of your mate, those awkward questions designed, if you had only known, to give him the heebie jeebies - like, will you still love me when I'm old and grey - does this colour suit me etc. because if you are still together it is either because you are both stubborn old coots who won't leave home, or he loves you, you idiot. So you go on slathering on the creams and lotions, increase the stomach crunches and watch the calories and keep dyeing the hair, unless, like me you finally have platinum hair that doesn't require you to sit for hours under the nimble fingers of Claude or Charles.

Monday 15 November 2010

My mother was beautiful.

Sep 7, 2008 9:46 PM

by Moannie
My mother was beautiful. I know, all mothers are beautiful in their children's eyes, but mine truly was lovely; slim and delicate, with legs that went on forever, large china blues eyes and hair which became progressively more platinum as the war progressed and uniformed men flooded London. Unfortunately she was also flirty, frivolous and a bit too free with her favours [good alliteration there, Annie] which is why I was the only one of her three children to be born under the respectable cover of a marriage licence. Not that that made me favourite, on the contrary, the boys were first and second and I came a long way behind. I didn't mind this, well, to tell the truth I only noticed it later, much later and by then it was a done deal, and anyway it would all change in her MS years when JP and I looked after her and 'her boys' more or less abandoned her.

I tell you all this to give you a picture of how she looked on the day that she left us, Mick and me [Anthony. would come ten years later]

When I see a dark road glistening with rain, and hear the tap, tap, tap of high heeled shoes, I can go back to that late autumn afternoon. St.Edith's was hugely terrifying and mum was in tears even before the front door was opened by a nun and we were shown into the Mother Superior's office. Mick was taken away immediately and I was told to sit still on a chair outside the office. Soon another nun came for me and I followed her without question. She took me into what I would learn was the common room and, saying 'Sit', left me there. I stared round the room and saw a long bare table with many chairs around it. A black stove stood at one end of the room with a wire guard in front of it; against one wall was a large cupboard-like piece of furniture with large metal discs ... the name of it escapes me now but it was a musical instrument which was never played, was it a Polyphon? Against the third wall was a wide, shallow bookcase and on top of this was the largest dolls house I have ever seen. I jumped down and dragged a chair over to it and clambered up, just managing to see into all the many rooms, each one exquisitely decorated and peopled by dolls so tiny and beautifully dressed that my imagination went into overdrive. I turned on the taps in the ornate bathroom, pulled the tiny chain over the lavatory and flicked on lights, moved the mistress of the house down to the kitchen that had food prepared on the table, scullery maids tending the spit over the fire and scullions at the sink piled with pots and pans.

Suddenly I was dragged from the chair and shaken, the nun's silent anger more frightening than any words. Out of the common room and along dark passages, up a secondary staircase [no-one ever used the main curving Victorian beauty of a fine staircase that rose opposite the front door]- and into the dormitory. Before she closed the door behind us I saw Mick, on a chair, his hands on the glass and his nose to the window of the room opposite. Many years later he said he had been watching mum going down the street, and in my mind the streets were shiny with rain and her heels were going, tap, tap, tap.

The picture was taken on one of her infrequent visits. We would be dressed in our best Sunday clothes and the tight lipped nuns would harrumph at the sight of the pretty, well dressed woman who had placed her children in an orphanage. We would have a lovely few hours and then the long walk back along Dial Hill Road, and she would sing : Just Molly and me, and Micky makes three, We'll be happy in our, blue heaven. Then to finish we all sang Twinkle Twinkle little star and at the end she would always say 'Make wish'. 'Find us a new daddy' we always begged. And she did, oh yes, she did.

Thursday 11 November 2010

The Freedom of Eccentricity

Aug 24, 2008 10:47 PM

by Moannie
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me,
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
From, Warning, by Jenny Joseph

Don't you just love poetry? You can read a poem and be reminded that there is nothing new in the world; every emotion that man has ever felt has been covered in prose and rhyme: love, lust, hate, fear, anger and, well, you get the picture.
I believe this particular poem was written for me. Comfort comes first, then colour swiftly followed by thrift [a bargain from TkMaxx makes my day] I was the first girl to wear Jeans in my home town, and was hissed by a woman in Barcelona in the early fifties for wearing them on The Ramblas.
I wore filmy lavender to the Sports day at number two daughter's Boarding School, when all the other mother's were in twin sets and sensible shoes-terrible of me, I know and I did have frisson of apprehension that I might have gone a step to far.
I wore paper panties on a long hot car journey in Spain, only to find on reaching our destination they had disintegrated. As I was also in a mini skirt [in my forties, daring or what?] I spent the day glued to the front of JP.

Today I walked the dog wearing Uggs, flared jeans, a purple sweater and my Borsalino, [I mean me, not the dog] I stopped to talk to an old friend and she said, 'You look nice, dear.' I said that I had decided to become officially eccentric and she replied 'But I always thought you were, Annie.'
Favourites: My Last Duchess by Robert Browning, Seamus Heaney's poem: When all the others were away at Mass, a heartbreaking declaration of his love for his mother. Tony Harrison, Cristina Rossetti, John Donne, Dylan Thomas, and on and on and on.
And for Fat, frumpy & fifty... Wendy Cope's Faint Praise

And here's one I made earlier: Had I known then what I know now, I'd do it all again, and how.