Back Again!

When I read one of my favourite blogs, Cecilia at http://thekitchensgarden.com/2015/04/01/did-you-find-your-voice/#comments I felt the torpor of my hiatus dissolving…
So greetings to the friends who have been by my side during this long absence… it’s been one of the wonders of blogging to discover from messages and comments left on my blog, and private letters, that blogging friends care, they don’t forget and they don’t go away. Thank you, lovely friends who’ve sustained me during my absence from our blogging world. And thank you to dear Celi and her Fellowship of the Farmy. Reading their conversation enticed me back, to use my voice again. These were my thoughts yesterday, as I pondered Celi’s words about finding our voices. This is also something of an experiment as I try to find my way round the new systems which have evolved since I last posted!

BEFORE THERE WAS FEMINISM
Sorting through old piles of letters I came on a clipping from the Daily Telegraph – the obituary of one of my dearest friends.
We’d been in the army together and known each other since we were nineteen. She died nearly twenty years ago at fifty six. In the beginning, Jackie was a bit of a joke… always a bit harum- scarum when we were required to be constantly immaculate and impeccably punctual… and always bubbling with fun, and deadly serious about saving to buy a car. She’d been saving since she was eight, and even now, every penny she earned went into her car fund, so she missed out on quite a lot of fun with the rest of us.
When she was posted to Germany, she found to her ecstatic surprise that by buying a Morris Minor and having it shipped overseas, she didn’t have to pay purchase tax, and she could at last afford her dream. Not long after, she married a man as kind and decent as she. And later I visited her in hospital during her miscarriages, and called in on her during trips back to England, sometimes having to sleep in her absent son’s bed, because her elderly and doting bachelor admirers couldn’t tear themselves away from her warm- hearted home and spare room. She was a generous godmother to my son and a loving friend.
Re-reading her obituary I was as awed as I had been on first reading it. Jackie was deliciously dyslexic, leaving big spaces in her letters while she went to look up the dictionary and then forgot and posted the letters anyway. In spite of what could be seen as a handicap, at forty she began writing in ‘Soldier’, the British army’s magazine for soldiers. For the next seventeen years until just before she died, she campaigned for unemployment benefits for army wives serving overseas, maternity benefits for serving women soldiers, fought for the rights of separated and divorced women, and found night shelters for London’s homeless ex-servicemen.
She crusaded for compensation for solders injured in training, for anti-Aids packs for British soldiers and their families serving in Africa, and for improvements to married quarters. She worked for better care for soldiers suffering from combat stress, set up the Army Playgroup Associations, and helped start the Federation of Army Wives. This is only a short list of all that she achieved before dying of cancer, not to mention the loving and beautiful home she had created.
As I thought about Jackie, I thought of my other friends. My oldest school friend who became a local body politician and the first Labour councillor for the city of Winchester, and who, besides learning to upholster furniture, became a gourmet cook, talented gardener, bee-keeper and honey-maker, and dedicated mother. She also completed a three year diploma in dying, spinning and weaving, before becoming a secretary at the House of Commons, running her MP’s constituency for him! She now writes cookery books.
My other army friends included Anne, my dearest friend, who’s still a riding instructor, exquisite interior decorator, and like my school friend, graduated from college as a mature student with a diploma in arcane skills like weaving and soft furnishings, upholstery and other arts. Now in her mid seventies, still caring for her dogs and horses, children and grandchildren, she’s about to walk the El Camino Pilgrim trail in Spain.
And then there is Cordelia who started Alcoholics Anonymous in Hongkong – so greatly needed that there are now 17 branches there – and a single mother who supported her children by modelling, doing radio programmes, exquisite sewing, and making sought- after soft furnishings, before becoming a county councillor in local government until recently, and is now a painter …
And Perfect Prue – enviably beautiful, clever and talented, tennis champion, fencing champion, darling of all the senior officers to our chagrin. She married the man of her dreams – she’d loved him since her teens – and found jobs for him, and when he walked out on each one she bought a country house and turned it into a Michelin rated restaurant and hotel, while the husband chatted to guests over gin and tonic, and finally disappeared.
All these wonderful achieving women came from that generation which notoriously wasn’t trained for anything, and who were expected to stay home and look after their husbands and children… and maybe garden and play bridge. They were never feminists – too busy getting things done in their own lives to even think they were being discriminated against. And they probably were, but they learned to work around the system, and didn’t waste their time repining.
The next generation took up the torch of feminism, but these women just accepted Bill Gates’ dictum: ‘life isn’t fair’ – and made the most of it… no grumbles, no sense of victim, just a joyous commitment to making the best of things. They nearly all made their own clothes, some baked their own bread, and Anne still scours hedgerows for hips for rose-hip jelly, elderberries for wine, blackberries for jams.
Life often wasn’t easy for them, the war had done dreadful things to their childhoods, but they never looked back in anger or self-pity. They cherished their families and tried to improve the lot of others. They weren’t into saving the world or marching for peace, they just did what needed to be done in the small worlds they lived in. They were gentle and kind and were what would have been called ladies back in their day.
All these lives – like all lives – seem like a miracle and a mystery, in which the years have enfolded secret sorrows, public joys, wearying challenges and unworldly wisdom. And now these friends from my youth are devoted grandmothers, back-stops and rocks in tough times, and often indispensable to their families and communities. I treasure them, and yet I sometimes wonder too, how other generations perceive them….tiresome oldies, or beloved matriarchs – or both? … Another of life’s mysteries!

Food for threadbare gourmets
A girl’s dinner and I needed something between nibbles and hors d’oevres to soak up our first glass of champagne. I made a very garlicky aoli, and chopped some cucumber half an hour beforehand, cut out the seeds, and let it sit in some salt and sugar. I patted the chunks dry before arranging them on each plate, and gently fried some fat king prawns in butter and garlic, arranging them on the bed of chopped cucumber, with a big dollop of aoli in the middle. Served with a little napkin and small fork, this went down very nicely with the champagne. I thought it would be rather nice too for a light lunch with some warm crusty rolls.

Food for thought

100_0758
You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink. G.K. Chesterton

111 Comments

Filed under army, bloggers, british soldiers, cancer, cars, cookery/recipes, family

111 responses to “Back Again!

  1. Welcome back Valerie, I’d noticed you were back reading blogs, but glad to see you writing again – and what an amazing group of women friends you’ve told us about. These are the stories we don’t always get to hear, yet each one is wonderful in her own way.

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  2. I am so happy you are back!
    My Dad was thoroughly devoted to G.K. Chesterton, great quote.

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  3. Good to see you back. Timing is perfect. I was just thinking about you this week and wondered if you would return.

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  4. Valerie, how lovely to hear your voice again. I hoped you would come back to enrich us with your stories and wisdom and recipes. Welcome. I have missed you.

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  5. Welcome back!!! I thought of you, again, yesterday when I saw a post somewhere about a book written by 52 Stroppy women in NZ and there was Valerie Davies listed :-)) I must track down the book. But please Speak on!

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  6. Brenda Wilkinson

    Thank you – welcome back and Happy Easter. Brenda Wilkinson

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  7. Welcome back, lovely to have your mail pop up today. Please return often and, in the meantime, enjoy this blessed weekend.

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  8. MARGOT ex SLIM SCHOOL pupil k

    Pleased you are back. The friends you spoke about made me feel very untalented😄

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    • Dear Margot, how lovely to see your name pop up.. thank you for your comments – but I know that if you look back over your life, you will see how much you’ve achieved and how much you have given.. our generation too often under-estimate themselves!…

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  9. I have missed your wit and wisdom and food for thought, Valarie, and I see you haven’t missed a beat with this valuable glimpse into the lives and values these special friends hold so dear. Welcome back! 😀

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  10. Welcome back. Lovely to see your name pop up in my inbox.

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  11. craig

    Keep your thoughts coming Valerie.So enjoy your words since reading your book last year, for some reason it is reassuring and brings fond memories to mind.

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  12. There you are now – darling girl.. c

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  13. So happy you are back with us! 🙂

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  14. It was nice to see your name popping in my Inbox. You are right about bloggers being people who care. It is strange to people who don’t blog but I agree with you about the special relationship that we built through our posts.
    Welcome back to the blogosphere, Valerie.

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  15. Wonderful reminiscing Valerie. Your voice has been missing for too long.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

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  16. How wonderful to hear from you again, have missed you so much with much rejoicing Helen Eisenhofer.

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    • Dear Helen, I didn’t realise you followed my blog… what a compliment.
      . I was showing a friend Fritz and your wonderful house the other day in the H and Garden that I kept… so lovely to hear from you.. will be in touch.

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  17. Welcome back, Valerie! All my best wishes for you and your blog 🙂

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    • Thank you so much Petre.. great to hear from you….how you find the time in between all your magnificent posts, I don’t know !!!

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      • Thanks for your kind words, Valerie! When my blog had just moved to WordPress in December 2011, and the blog had maybe 15 followers then, I always tried to visit all the others’ blogs. Now that there are 3,253 subscribers at my blog, that is unfortunately no longer possible … though I make an exception for, eg, you 🙂

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  18. What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful set of friends and women of multiple generations, I am so pleased you’ve been inspired to share the memories and insights. I’m overwhelmed with lots currently, but what a joy this morning to see your post, just the thing to start my day with.

    Yes, its a wonderful ride the blog, no demands, no obligations and always there with an appreciative audience when you feel inspired to share. Thank you Valerie for your kind and celebratory thoughts.

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    • Dear Claire, what a wonderful message from you… so good to be back in touch, and thank you for the lovely things you say… I’m glad you enjoyed the post..
      I know that overwhelmed feeling, and hope you crawl out from under it, feeling energised when you finally make it, good friend !

      Liked by 1 person

  19. All your lovely friends must be thinking about their accomplished friend Valerie, too. So happy Celi inspired you to use your voice again. I’ve missed your very insightful and inspiring posts. Welcome, welcome back.

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    • Mimi, thank you so much, so good to hear from you when I know you have other things on your mind like new grand-daughters. It’s a perfect experience of unconditional love isn’t it… revel in it !!!

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  20. It is so good to have you back! What a wonderful group of feisty friends whose talents for life are so many. It is a joy to find your writing as I open my inbox. Lovely lunch idea too – though I’m sure it was excellent with champagne!
    Welcome back my friend 🙂

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  21. So wonderful to ‘see’ you back Valerie – and a big welcome! Lovely to read of your friends, and yes, doing what needs to be done with kindness and bravery. A stalwart generation!

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  22. Patty B

    Welcome back – missed you. Actually I was thinking of you the other day and sent up a prayer wishing you well. Easter Blessings!

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  23. First let me say how much I have missed your wonderful writing, wit and insight. I am so happy to see you returning. ❤

    Reading this I have to wonder, is 'feminism' good for us or simply the formal definition for all that has been done by all the fabulous women who came before us. Perhaps it is a question worth asking. I loved reading about your friends, their tenacity and spirit. I could see all of you.

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    • Val thank you for your lovely morale -raising words of welcome!
      I have been keeping you under observation all this time reading your heart-felt blogs… and thank you for your thought-provoking words on this blog….

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  24. Michele Seminara

    So lovely to have you back, Valerie!

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  25. What a coincidence! I logged back in too, after ages and what do I find but one of my favourite bloggers back in the blogosphere!

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  26. I am very glad to have you come back and share your writing and thoughts with us!

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  27. I was so excited to see your post!! How wonderful to read your profoundly moving thoughts on friendships. This past two months I have lost 4 friends, a reminder that life has endings as well as beginnings. It is the memories of our times together that sustain my journey onward. In the end, it is about the love we have given and received that will be the thread that binds us to the course of human history. Thank you for your life-affirming words. Many hugs coming your way….

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  28. A truly delightful and enthralling read. I dragged a protesting wife from having just switched off the light to come and read it. The acrimony which started did not continue after she had.
    Amazing people – and true ladies – all. I am really sorry that Prue didn’t have a partner worthy of her. The term ‘wastrel’ comes to mind.
    Anyway, you have given every cause for gladness that you are back!

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    • What a wonderful friend you are to write such appreciative words and welcome… thank you so much… so good to be in touch..
      .needless to say I was delighted with the delicious picture you painted of reading my blog late at night with your wife…such a gift, thank you

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  29. I’ve missed you and often wondered how you were doing. I’m thrilled that you’re back and loved the paean to your female friends. My mom is a woman who could do anything, yet took care of all of us as well, while always being kind and gracious, something not always achievable or even desired these days. To have such friends or family is a true blessing.

    Welcome back and happy Easter.

    janet

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  30. Happy Easter and welcome back Valerie. We’ve missed you!

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  31. Dear Valerie,

    It’s lovely to read your voice again and share your memories.

    I have many long time friendships, some dating back to kindergarten. As is the case when we reach a certain age, there are a few who are now just fond memories.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

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  32. Hi Valerie,
    You’ve returned with trumpets sounding a fine fanfare of pre-feminism. Good for you!
    My mother-in-law (whom I adored even after my own divorce – and the feeling stayed mutual) was the first woman ever to earn a degree from a South African university. She thought the feminist movement there was highly suspect. In her view far too many women used it to demand special considerations which they were too lazy to earn for themselves.

    She also believed that women showed their own superior strength by accepting (albeit reluctantly) and forgiving the inevitable weaknesses in their men. She felt that far fewer husbands would stray if their wives focused a bit less on themselves and did more to reinforce their man’s feelings of self-worth. She said even the most successful men are too often treated like dirt at home! Her own marriage lasted nearly 60 years.

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    • Hello Nick, thank you for a wonderful welcome and a fascinating comment…
      Your mother in law sounds a treasure ..
      Ye, I suspect a book could be written about the need for feminism, and the misuses of it it too !!!!
      And yes, I think that when the pendulum swings so far that all people are not respected, there is something very wrong…surely true feminism is about all people having the same rights, privileges and respect, whatever their age, race or creed…

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  33. d wilmot

    Dear Valerie, Welcome back. I missed your blog. Regards David Wilmot, Slim 1958 to 1960 http://www.slimschoolmalaya.com

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  34. Welcome back, dear Valerie! I have missed your voice in the blogger world!

    Those ladies seem to be inspiring personalities. Taking life as it comes and making the best of it; making a difference in the world one knows. Personally, I always found it impressive when people had the courage to “jump in” and follow where the heart leads.
    No wonder that they are your friends and you are theirs. Sounds like a perfect match to me!

    Much love and Happy Easter,
    Steffi

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  35. Dear Steffie,
    thank you so much for your lovely welcome back to blogging… so good to be back in touch… and thank you for the interesting things you say..
    Love and best wishes to you , Valerie

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  36. Juliet

    Valerie, how wonderful to see you back on the blog. Your writing is always so rich and full of life experience. I’ve enjoyed reading these portraits of your colourful women friends who are very much part of an era. (PS I tried sending this from the bach, as soon as I read your post but it wouldn’t send due to dinosaur dialup!)

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    • Juliet, how lovely to see you… metaphorically speaking –
      thank you for your lovely encouraging words… how about that inveiglement we talked about so long ago?

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      • Juliet

        Yes we must! I went into an intensely busy period; still in it as I approach the beginning of my new online course The Sacred Art of Ritual. It begins on April 14 & runs for 6 weeks, but once it’s been going a couple of weeks I’ll probably have a bit more space. ‘Inveiglement’, oh you do have a way with words!

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  37. Barbara Popplewell

    Love your beautiful writings. Please keep them coming. Your army friendd are true heroines like yourself. Many thanks.

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  38. A collection of really interesting stories! Love the perspective of how they worked through struggles in their lives — very inspiring!

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  39. Thank you so much,.. so interesting that you saw what you did… good to connect…

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  40. Your return to blogging brightened Easter. Welcome back and thank you for introducing me to Cecilia’s Kitchensgarden.

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  41. Thank you good friend.. I can never forget that you were my first follower when I first began… you’ve always been such a loyal friend and supporter, thank you, Hope all is well with you… and enjoy Celi’s blog… another New Zealander !!!!

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  42. MisBehaved Woman

    So wonderful to have you back again! 🙂

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  43. Welcome back, Valerie! Thank you too for sharing about your female friends

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  44. Pat

    Hi Valerie — it’s nice to see you back and enjoyed reading about your lovely long-time friends. You are truly blessed. It is true of that era before Feminism with how women excelled by beautifully enhancing their world right where they were at. I’m learning some of that being in a bit of hiatus time myself these days. Thank you for sharing with us.

    P.S. With regard to your friend who is walking The Camino, That is something I’ve always been drawn to and thought, if I may, I’d share a link I just came across today. 🙂

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    • Dear Pat
      ,how lovely to hear from you… and what a gorgeous little video.. it made me feel like rushing out right now and booking a ticket to the other side of the world with my walking shoes safely packed !!!
      I hope your time of hiatus is fruitful for you.. mine turned my life upside -down, but that’s what life’s for isn’t it !!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Pat

        So glad you enjoyed the video, Valerie. I know what you mean by getting the feeling to want to book a trip and take that adventure. I hope your friend’s pilgrimage will be inspiring.

        Thank you for asking. My mini hiatus is being fruitful and peaceful like I’m sure it was for you. There’s a lot of changes about to happen in my life and guess the universe wants to give me some time to ground myself and prepare. It’s all good.

        God bless you on your new beginnings and may your life be full and happy. 🙂

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  45. I’ve missed you and your inspiring stories!

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  46. Thank you Lorna, how sweet of you to say so… good to be back !

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  47. Elly

    Valerie how delightful that you have emerged from your period of hibernation at last… I have so missed your stories and musings about life and food… and your delicious recipes, many of which I collect! I hope that all is well in your life after your time out…

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