Tag Archives: grandparents

Pooh Bear has the answers

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I’ve only been on one teddy bear’s picnic. There were lots of teddy bears, crammed into a little dolls pram, my three year old grand- daughter and me.  We solemnly walked the pram to a tree in the park in Melbourne next to the house where they lived.

There, on a cold, slightly misty winter’s afternoon, we carefully propped a huddle of teddies of different sizes and varying shades from honey to dark brown, around the base of a tree. After careful discussion as to what teddy bears might eat, we had plumped for very small brown bread and honey sandwiches – we thought that arbiter of bear behaviour, Pooh Bear, would have approved, and that was all we needed to know really. We thought bears would probably only have wanted to drink water, so that was easily solved….

I was thrilled that she still remembers this occasion now she’s old enough to be at university. And she remembers too, jumping on our shadows the year before, and learning to sing ‘Kumbaya, my Lord’ when she was even smaller (in an English accent!). These memories may be more precious to me than to my grand-daughter, and most grand-parents will understand just how precious they are.

When I look back to my memories with my grandmother, I marvel at what I learned from her, much more, I suspect than today’s grand children learn from theirs. She taught me to knit and sew and do French knitting, and embroider dozens of stitches I’d forgotten till leafing through an old Mrs Beaton cook book recently – daisy stitch, herringbone stitch, blanket stitch, chain stitch, back stitch, buttonhole stitch, cross stitch. She told me the names of flowers and saints and cousins I’d never seen, the stories of dead great uncles in the war. She taught me prayers and proverbs and songs.

But somehow, once the days of reading aloud Pooh Bear and Dr Seuss and Dear Dinosaur had passed, all my grand-children were so engrossed in their play stations and favourite, regular afternoon TV programmes, that there was rarely a space for the sort of boredom or blank days we used to have in my childhood; those times when for lack of something better to do, we mastered a new skill and learned to knit, or read a book considered too hard or too boring before, and which was now discovered to be a treasure.

It was on those long empty days that I discovered the joys of rambling alone with the dog, or daring to cross the weir by the mill with friends, or digging around the Roman mines, hoping after two thousand years to find a Roman coin; it was when we picked primroses in the woods, and carried catkins and pussy willow home as spring announced itself … As we grew older we made egg sandwiches and took a bottle of ginger pop to picnic on empty beaches with names like Man o’ War Bay and Arish Mell Gap, coming home tired and sunburned.

But my grand-children have done it differently. Today they’re not free to roam alone as we were – instead, they went on exciting holidays, in the tropics or to fishing lodges, or learned to sail or ski. But then they’d come to stay with me, and do ordinary and yet totally absorbing things. Leaving their play stations, they’d feed the eels in the river at the bottom of the garden, spend days making boats out of flax leaves, and floating them down the waterfall, building dams, playing Pooh Sticks.

They could spend an afternoon totally absorbed in throwing stones down into another river, far below, and listening for the plop. Another morning in the city when I took all four of them to a secret spot above the harbour, where old oak trees spread, they spent a whole morning searching for acorns and throwing them down into the water. Not aimlessly, but aiming.

And not a question of little things please little minds, but being ‘in the zone’, alive and  present. Blowing bubbles from my veranda and seeing who could make the biggest one that drifted furthest and lasted longest; or the ritual playing of hunt the thimble with the same silver thimble every time, seemed to give them more fun and shrieks of laughter than watching their Japanese TV serials and videos or war games on the computer. And grandparents have time for long conversations about the size of universe and whether ice-cream is good for you, and what dogs are dreaming about – and about important things – like ethics – which even small children understand in terms of right and wrong, or better still, kind or unkind  …

Sometimes I think that this is one of the few gifts we can give our grand-children in this busy technological age when our grandchildren know more than their grandparents, and learn to teach us, instead of us teaching them. We can give them the time and the space to savour the little things. We can listen to them uncritically.  We can give them unconditional love, because we don’t have to make sure they eat up all their vegetables. And the utter bliss of it is that they give us the same unconditional love too. “I’ve got to, but I’ll still be your darling”, said one when I asked him not to grow up!

It’s that ubiquitous bear, Pooh, that ‘bear of very little brain’, who puts into words what I would say to my precious ones in the future. He says so memorably and so truly: “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

 

Food for threadbare gourmets

It’s that wonderful time of year for both birds and people – when the figs are ripe. A friend made the most delicious salad the other day using real lettuce – not mixtures of baby leaves – and tossed them with chopped- not sliced – cucumber, fresh peas, and thinly sliced figs, with a vinaigrette sauce. The sweetness of the figs with the crunchiness of the cucumber and the crispness of the lettuce was delicious with cold lamb and couscous.

Food for thought

…’It often takes great courage to follow intuition. It takes a Viking, who is unafraid to sail in unknown seas…. to live intuitively is to live fourth-dimensionally’…                                           Florence Scovel Shinn, 1871 – 1940   New Thought writer who influenced Louise Hay.

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Passion in Provence

Just back from seeing The Well-Digger’s Daughter for the second time, but not for the last time!

I see it’s called an art house film… so a film that has no violence or sex pictured in it, seems to be an art house film apparently. Good for art. So I didn’t feel like a voyeur having to watch heaving bottoms, and listen to other people’s orgasms, and I didn’t have to feel like an accomplice watching fighting, stabbings, shooting, and mayhem.

Instead I watched a story of life and death, love and birth, human pain and human greatness. It was set in the magic countryside of Provence, harsh, rocky, grey mountain ridges giving way to long stretches of olive groves, long avenues of ancient poplars, clear pebbly streams with dappled water beneath the branching pale green trees, and empty, dusty white roads. The well-digger’s farm house was the dream of most westerners, a weathered stone house with faded green shutters at each window, stone sinks and arched door-ways inside, pottery jugs and big old- fashioned soup plates for the cassoulet for dinner. Old barns, a stone parapeted well, and views over empty country-side completed the dream. Long shadows lay across green meadows, and grasses swayed in the evening breezes.

 It was that time before telephones, so children ran errands, and felt useful, people wrote letters which were kept and treasured, instead of e-mails quickly deleted, everyone walked miles for lack of public transport and was fit and healthy, while children got enough sleep every night without TV or computer games to keep them awake. It was that time before sprays and pesticides, wind farms and traffic fumes, tourists and agribusiness had changed the old ways, the old beauties, the centuries-old peace.

The music – some of it from old twenties and thirties recordings – pulled at the heart strings the way those wistful plangent sounds of old records always do. And the clothes! – old fashioned thirties summer dresses, elegant coats and hats and shoes. A green crocodile pochette that matched a shapely green coat… a clotted cream coloured cardigan edged with wine dark ribbon, matching the thin maroon stripe in the girl’s cream dress… the scalloped collar on a simple black dress, embroidered round the edge of the scallops in dull red and green.

But these were the delicious details. The people were the story -the well digger- implacable and generous, warm hearted and narrow minded, honest and angry all at the same time; the other father, weary, hen-pecked, dignified and distant; the possessive, petulant mother; the spoiled only son; the well-digger’s troubled, tragic daughter. The emotions of love and lust, anger and unrequited devotion, shame and guilt, grief and joy, swirled round these people as the Second World War broke out. And the birth of an unwanted baby brought together all these warring people and humbled their pride, softened their grief, opened their hearts, melted their anger, dissolved their arrogance and dispelled their petulance. 

There were some lovely lines. The rejected lover, prepared to marry the girl he loved, who was carrying another man’s child, is told by her angry, bitter father: “Felipe, you have no honour”, to which Felipe replies, “I have no honour, but I have plenty of love”. (How much pain and grief men’s honour has brought to women, and still does, as we read of so-called honour killings, and women strangled, stoned and even shot by machine gun, so as not to diminish this strange concept of murderous egotism, false pride, and cruelty wrongly named honour.)

When the possessive grandfather tries to claim authority over the baby, his new son-in law says, “He doesn’t belong to you. You belong to him.” And the other grandfather replies, “That’s right, the old can only serve the young”, like all grandparents, putty in the hands of his grandchild.

No doubt everyone who sees this film will understand it differently, depending on their age. But as a grandparent, it reminded me of the days when my grandchildren were small, and I discovered for the first time the bliss of giving unconditional love. The sort of love which accepts the loved one as a perfect and beautiful soul, knowing that all the foibles and  problems that parents see, don’t really exist; the sort of love that  knows with perfect certainty that their grand-children will grow up to be strong and good even if they don’t eat all their vegetables!

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Padding is what families need in cold weather, and these two puddings fill the bill. They are hot plain puddings, but also delicious, and old-fashioned puddings are becoming fashionable again. They both need sultanas, washed and then soaked in boiling water to plump them up and make them juicy.

The first, batter pudding, needs the same ingredients as Yorkshire pudding, eight ounces of self raising flour, two eggs, and enough milk and a little water to mix to a pouring batter, plus a pinch of salt. Beat the eggs into the flour and salt, and add the liquid gradually. Leave in the fridge for half an hour. Heat a baking pan with a knob of fat until smoking, and pour in the batter, which you’ve just beaten again. Add the drained sultanas, and bake in a hot oven for an hour, or until risen and cooked. Serve immediately with knobs of butter and brown sugar sprinkled over. A hot and homely pudding.

Bread and butter pudding is the same. You need six slices of good bread – not white supermarket pap. Slice them, butter them and cut them into squares or triangles. Arrange them in a two pint pie dish. Sprinkle over the drained sultanas, and then beat three eggs with three to four ounces of sugar. Add the milk, and pour it over the bread. The pie dish should only be half full. Leave to soak for at least half an hour, before baking in a moderate oven (about 350degrees) for about an hour, or until the custard is set. Eat hot.

Food for Thought

Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity we shall harness the energies of love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

Pierre Tielhard de Chardin, 1881 – 1955.  Jesuit, philosopher, eminent palaeontologist and mystic, who was banned from teaching, preaching and writing by the Catholic church, his books denied publication, and his most important book, ‘The Phenomenon of Man’ only published after his death. He is still persona non grata with the church fifty three years after his death.

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