My latest post – University, At Last is about my continuing education, even through my 70’s.
When I was young and still at school my greatest desire and ambition was to be a teacher. At the time, in the UK, one had to go to a Teacher Training College where one studied loads of educational subjects (child psychology, art, maths, a bit of philosophy, history, physical education, etc) and one subject in depth. Having failed some of my school exams, I failed to qualify for a place at a Training College although I was employed for a year by the now-defunct London County Council as a ‘pre-trainee teacher’.
If you’ve read my earlier posts you’ll know that I had my brilliant daughter without being married to her father which, in those days (1964) was a societal no-no, so I was busy looking after her with the help of my mother and sisters. I was lucky to have had her in London where people were a little more broad-minded than people in some other parts of England, where a lot of girls, who would have been happy to keep their babies, were sent off by their families to ‘mother and baby homes’, which provided a place for girls to ‘hide’ until the baby was born and placed for adoption. As a new mum I couldn’t go back to school to re-study for the exams I had failed, straight away and I put my ambition to one side – happily, I might add, as I enjoyed the job of looking after and bringing up my gorgeous girl.
Seven years passed. I was working as a secretary for a sign-manufacturer. The boss decided I would make a good salesperson, going out on the road to sell our signs to architects. He obviously didn’t know me very well as, at the time, I was very shy and unconfident (I still am in large groups of people that I don’t know). After a few months of being a ‘rep’ as well as the secretary, I was made redundant. (He wanted an excuse to get rid of me!).
About a five minute walk away from my work-place was Acton Town Hall which, at the time, housed a Teacher Training College named after a man called Thomas Huxley. I went into the college office and found that I was just in time to apply for a place for the next term and, that very day, to take a short exam. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have all the proper qualifications as I was considered a ‘mature’ student, had basic ‘O’ levels as well as French ‘A’ level and, happily, I passed the entrance exam.
I became a teacher and was employed as such for the next twenty or so years, in various ways – as a class teacher, as a ‘supply teacher’, as a part-time French teacher and as a Saturday morning French teacher for small groups of eight to ten year olds. I’m sad to say that I didn’t love teaching as much as I thought I would though there were some wonderful days.
After I started as an antique dealer I carried on the supply teaching as it brought in more money than the antiques but after a while schools started using agencies to find supply staff and I didn’t want to go on an agency’s books as I would probably have been expected to do more than the occasional day.
Having studied French in depth, I thought I’d like to get a degree in it as I hadn’t actually been to university. While I was still teaching I had done the ‘Arts Foundation’ course with the Open University and had enjoyed the challenges it set. A year or so later I signed up for a degree course in French with the University of Kent. The degree would take, I seem to remember, five years and I would go to their branch in Tonbridge one night a week for classes. I was thrilled!
I had thought the the Open University course was challenging but it was nothing compared to this! We had to read one full French novel a week, in French, plus pages of grammar exercises and learning new vocabulary. I enjoyed the reading, I enjoyed the grammar but I absolutely HATED having to speak in front of a large group of people IN FRENCH. (Again the shyness and lack of confidence).
What I didn’t know was that Judy, my sister who lived in America, would come home to die that year. I gave up the degree course and gave as much of my time as I could to helping by taking her to hospital appointments etc. After Judy’s death I didn’t seriously turn my thoughts to degree courses again. Julian and I carried on with our shop, I had a new grand-daughter on whom to lavish all those maternal feelings I still had, visiting her and her mum and dad in London at least once a week and, of course, there were auctions to go to where I could spend money on items I thought would sell in the shop. (I loved buying stuff I liked, knowing I would have to sell it at some point but having it to hold and look at for a while!)
Retirement and the seaside happened in 2005. Being quite happy with my own company I didn’t rush out to make loads of new friends but, as the years sped by, I joined classes where I used my brain, spent hours a week in the local swimming pool, meeting new friends, started painting classes again and met more new friends and convinced Julian that we needed to look into the U3A which we eventually joined.
The U3A – The University of the Third Age. If you are interested to know exactly what the U3A is, please Google it! I’ll tell you what it is, to me. It is a way of using my brain – at this moment I am attending a Latin group which is run by a member of the U3A and all my fellow ‘students’ are members, too. It is a once-a-week-for-seven-weeks course which will give us a taste of the language in a fun way (no Caesar de Bello Gallico or Vergil). At the end of the seven weeks I assume we’ll either be offered a further course or will be able to carry on alone. Perhaps there are Latin classes in the adult education centre….if I’m interested, I’ll find out!
I’ve also joined the Armchair Critics, a group of members who go to the local cinema (110 seats or thereabouts!), watch a film, then go off to a local pub to discuss the film and have a coffee or something a little stronger. Another of my favourite groups is the Lunch Group. A U3A member scouts out a good place to eat, sends out a newsletter with menus, a date and the cost and we send back our menu choice and a cheque for the right amount. This month we are going to a Greek restaurant in Ramsgate.
Julian is more gregarious than I am and is always out, painting or singing and last year he went to a four week drama course which is totally unlike him! This term he’s doing the History of Blues course which I attended last term and which is run by our next door neighbour who is, coincidentally, the husband of the woman who started the Armchair Critics.
I used to co-run a group of people interested in antiques and ‘collectables’ with my friend, Myrna. The first week there were four or five people who came but after that people dropped away and we gave that group up. There is a very successful Collectors Group run by my friend Margaret who also runs a few other groups. That’s the good thing about the U3A. You can do as much or as little as you want. You can run a group for small or larger groups about something that interests you, or about something you are expert at. You can eat with the Lunch group, do country dancing, join the gardening group, read poetry, write prose, learn about computers or – and this is more like me – do absolutely nothing for a while then find a course that interests you, spend a few weeks or months doing that until it finishes, then do nothing again for a while. I would like to run a group but I have no expertise (except, maybe, in old jigsaw puzzles) and, anyway, at the moment I am concentrating on Tai-chi (local adult education) Latin and my oil paintings.
So, I’m finally a member of a university – one from which I will not receive a degree, but from which I have made friends, learned smatterings of various subjects, seen films I might not otherwise have seen and eaten at some great restaurants! There are U3A groups all over the UK if you are retired and want something to do. (I’m not sure whether there are similar groups in the rest of the world.)
In 1994 we moved to a gorgeous little village about a mile or so away from East Malling called Wateringbury. Our new house was partly very old. The two-storey front of the house was built in the nineteenth century but the one storey back was much older (though no one ever told me just how much older!) There was a small front garden which was planted with shrubs and I didn’t really have anything to do in it but the back garden was huge and wonderful! It had been planned and planted by the previous owners who had been there for nearly 25 years. I think maybe they wanted to move into a different place so that they could start planning another garden.
In ours there were plants from all corners of the world. There was a wonderful old cedar tree, a eucalyptus, a lovely wisteria growing near the back terrace, an arbour which was covered, when we moved in, with some sort of vine, and myriad other shrubs, trees and perennials which I can’t now name as well as bulbs and evergreen ground cover plants. There were two ponds. The biggest was just beyond the terrace and it was fed by the smaller pond via a waterfall as the small pond was on a higher level. This bigger pond was stocked with some gorgeous fish. It had an electric filter. It’s wiring was all underground and it had a little door in the ground where you could find the on/off switch and the plug and socket.
Now, I like all animals but I can’t bring myself to get emotionally attached to fish (after a traumatising occurrence way back in Cincinnati with a bowl of guppies), but I did feel that we should look after the fish and the ponds properly as they had been bequeathed to us (sort of) by the previous owners. During our second summer there, the big pond sprung a leak in its liner and we were having to add water every day. I won’t go into details about the very smelly business of removing all the fish to the small pond and emptying out the water and sludge, nor about the fitting of a new liner and all the travails the whole thing entailed but I have never again wanted to have a pond in the garden! (Unfortunately, when we moved to the seaside in 2005, we again inherited a large pond stocked with carp and other fish!)
The rest of the garden wasn’t such a problem but there are definitely downsides to a garden which is perfect – it doesn’t stay perfect because leaves fall, plants grow, plants die, stuff has to be got rid of in a garden that has no place for a bonfire or a compost heap. And, of course, the real problem with the Wateringbury garden was that it was already so beautifully planted, it wasn’t really ours.☹️
Around this time both Julian and I changed professions – Julian went to Wales and came back a fully fledged upholsterer (it took some months with gaps between) and I gave up full-time teaching and did some supply teaching (substitute teaching to my American friends) as well as started doing a little buying and selling of antique linens and sewing tools.
After a year or so of doing upholstery jobs in a crowded garage and the house getting (slightly) overwhelmed with the loads of linens I was buying to sell, we decided to find premises where we could do furniture restoration, upholstery and sell antiques. We were really lucky and found an old pub which had been turned into offices with living accommodation above. It was the old Rose and Crown which was just opposite my old home, Market Cross Cottage (see earlier posts) in West Malling High Street. The Rose and Crown became Rose and Crown Antiques and J&C Furniture Restoration.
We moved into the premises in 1997 and spent the next seven years or so having a great time, buying and selling antiques of all sorts – I had spread my buying wings to include ‘smalls’ and Julian bought and sold large pieces of antique furniture, though he carried on with the upholstery. One thing that The Rose and Crown didn’t have, though, was a garden. During those seven years I occasionally planted pots of flowers but, on the whole, my interest in gardens subsided. I gave away almost all my gardening books, stored most of my tools in Julian’s dad’s garage and put all my effort into buying and selling. (Don’t let anyone tell you all antique dealers are rich, by the way. One thing you need as a dealer is contacts, none of which we had. Another thing you need is ruthlessness when it comes to buying privately and, I found out rather quickly, neither Julian nor I had that ruthless streak.)
All good things come to an end and so it happened that after seven years we realised we were living hand-to-mouth and we were getting too old for the life we were living so we decided to retire and move ‘to the seaside’.
Here, we have a good-sized garden which we have made our own – with the help of a local garden design company who dug out almost everything, removed the blasted fish pond, made us a level seating area in the part of the garden that gets the best sun, and gave me a wild-flower area to lure birds, bees and butterflies. I have bought and planted a few shrubs and trees and put annuals and perennials into the raised beds. I haven’t got the energy or agility that I once had and don’t do as much gardening as I would like to do but am happy pottering and watching things grow. One of my favourite bits is the ‘insect hotel’ which I put up a year or so ago. It’s great to see the ‘entrances’ of the holes bunged up with bits of leaf, curls of wood or what looks like mud.
Today is the kind of day that reminds you why you love getting out into the garden. From inside it looks sunny and warm. Outside, it is cold though, being only January. It’s nice to realise that it won’t be too long before the days are longer than the nights and I can sit outside with my morning coffee, watching the birds, bees, neighbourhood cats and Julian mowing.😀
So, once more I will say, thank you, Iris for helping me learn to dig, sow, reap and, especially, love my outside space!
I would just like to thank all those new readers and followers from Bangladesh. I can’t imagine what drew you to my blog posts but am happy that you are here! Welcome!😀
When we lived in London, we lived mostly in flats. The first was on the sixth floor and the only area outside was a fire escape where the rubbish bins were kept; the second flat was above a shoe shop and had the flat roof of the shop as outdoor space. The woman next door, Marge, had made quite a nice area of pots of summer flowers and I tried to do the same but I had never done anything in the way of gardening and wasn’t too successful. Our house near Ravenscourt Park, where we lived for under a year, had a pie-wedge shaped garden which was facing the north and never got any sun. Everything that we planted was stunted and turned yellow. It was a good space for our first tortoise who, sadly though, did not make it into the early months of the year following the one winter we spent there, as the dog next door constantly leapt over the fence and grabbed her in his mouth, running into his own house and hiding her – leaving her with bite holes in her shell. Even with the bites she might have survived her hibernation had one of our cats (probably Moosh) not found her in the box room and used her hibernation box with its straw as a cat toilet!
We moved to West Malling in 1971. In West Malling we had a little walled garden (at the bottom of which was the outdoor toilet which I have told you, before). Looking out of the back door, the wall on the left was a three foot thick stone wall which was also the side wall of the building next door. When we moved in, there was a glorious passion flower plant growing over the entire wall. Each year it produced many flowers, each of which only lasted a day. There were even some passion fruits but never were they proper, edible fruits. I figured it was because the plant needed new soil. I was wrong! Changing the soil did one thing only – lured the cats to use it as a toilet! Another cat-manufactured disaster! (and pretty much my fault for not reading about how to treat passion flower plants which quite like old, tired soil!)
We lived in West Malling for twelve years. Those first years I was busy learning to be a teacher and, later, teaching. There came a time, though, that I hungered to do some serious gardening, perhaps grow food rather than just pretty little flowers but we had no room in the yard which was something like fifteen feet by twelve feet and cobbled.
One day I was walking down Swan Street when I passed the Bow Window sweet shop (which is now, I think, the dental practice – there’s irony in there somewhere!) In the window was a little notice:
Allotment to rent, please ring 84—- .
so I went home and rang. The nice woman whose son owned the land said that she thought someone else had already been given it but to come and have a look. I walked down to the A20 through Banky Meadow and along the road to a group of four brick terraced houses. To get to the door I had to walk down a driveway. On the left were the houses and on the right was a stream and a beautiful – but very wild – big plot of land. I was shown around and immediately fell in love with the place, but knew that the other person had asked first and was going to take it……..She didn’t!
I bought a spade and some seeds. Daily I would go to the allotment and try to dig up a space where I could sow seeds. Not having had any real gardening experience, I didn’t get far. I was very lucky, though. Iris, the wife of the restaurant owner, offered to help. She had loads of experience as she had once lived in a house with a garden before Frank bought the restaurant. She offered to advise me and, though she was in her sixties, also offered to help with the digging! With her help we were able to dig and remove weeds from a nice sized plot of around six metres by six metres where I planted broad beans, peas, French beans, Swiss chard, and bush tomatoes. Of those vegetables, the French beans, chard and tomatoes survived and, eventually, paid for all the hard work. The broad beans and peas were covered with aphids which I just couldn’t control so I dug those plants out. I still didn’t know much! I was learning, though, about crop rotation etc.
The next year I had onions, tomatoes, chard, beans and tomatoes and decided I’d try potatoes. I got out my special hoe (the name of which I don’t remember but it was supposed to make digging a lot easier!). I started on a new patch which had not been tackled the previous year. Suddenly, clang! I hit something hard. I got down on my hands and knees and found a hard substance with a rounded top. With my trowel, I carefully dug further along and the object was there, too. Then I panicked! I thought of the fact that West Malling had been a target for German bombers in WWII and was convinced that this was a bomb!
A family friend, Georgia, lived in West Malling. She had been through the war and was not a ‘scaredy cat’ like me. She came down to the allotment, grabbed my trowel and started hitting the object with force! I stepped back. She stood and said, “It’s not a bomb, it’s stone.” I still wasn’t convinced so, later that day, covered it over with soil and dug somewhere else for my potatoes. (Some years later I tried to find the stone object again, but, to no avail!)
Sometime later, listening to stories about West Malling, I realised that the object I found could have been the top of a man-made tunnel. West Malling Abbey is on the hill above the allotment (but not in view) and there were many stories about there being tunnels to Leybourne Castle which is about half a mile from the allotment site in the opposite direction. Whether it was or wasn’t a tunnel really isn’t important any longer, though, as the “powers that be” decided, some years after I stopped using that land, to knock down the houses, and use all that land plus a lot more, for roads, roundabouts and traffic islands. I doubt if any archaeology was done and assume that the bulldozers went in and did whatever needed doing.
Then I met Julian and we bought a house in East Malling. There was a huge garden at the back – about 30 metres long by 25 metres wide – but it had not been cultivated so I used all my garden knowledge to bring it under control. We moved in, in November, 1982 so there wasn’t much I could do but clear out areas where rubbish had been dumped. There were old wooden stakes with lots of wire attached, there was a green house frame, and there were weeds galore. Brambles – for those who don’t know – are blackberry plants gone bonkers!
It took several years but we did eventually tame that bit of the garden. There were other bits that just needed mowing and digging. There was a half decent lawn, a wonderful ancient apple tree (Ribston Pippins), and a white lilac planted by the previous owners, and a lovely damson tree which helped me make many a jar of delicious jam until the ‘hurricane’ of 1987 when it was blown over.
End of Part one
Even today in Britain there are lots of houses built before the twentieth century or even later which have either cess pits or septic tanks because, for one reason or another, there are no nearby sewers to carry away the waste. Cess pits have to be emptied from time to time which is a costly and smelly business. When we lived in East Malling our electricity came from the local paper mills for some reason and the waste from toilet, washing machine, bath, shower and basin all went into the cess pit which was under our driveway. There was a lid, about (and I’m guessing here) 2’6′ x 2’6″ which needed to be lifted off for the cess pit lorry whom we would phone when we needed to have the cess pit emptied.
Now, to change the subject for a short time before coming back to cess pits, Julian had bought an old military vehicle called a Dingo, which arrived in many pieces and which he spent many, many evenings and week-ends putting together and making nuts and bolts for, before it was finally finished and road worthy. About eight or nine miles away was a yearly Fair where owners of old military stuff would turn up to show off their vehicles, look at other peoples’ vehicles, sell bits and pieces and, finally, parade themselves and their various tanks, Ambulances, jeeps, etc around a ring (at least this is what I think they did. Julian will soon tell me what they actually did when he reads this!). Julian and a young friend from a nearby farm were determined to take his Dingo to this military show. Julian filled it with fuel and he and the youngster set off down the road. Not much later the Dingo stopped and refused to restart or go further so it was towed back to the house and parked on the driveway.
Shortly, it started to rain and, as the Dingo didn’t at that time have a lid or roof, Julian wanted to cover it with tarpaulin. The young friend stood on an old log to throw the tarpaulin over the top. Unfortunately, the log was on the cess pit lid and its weight plus the youngster’s weight collapsed the lid! Luckily, the boy, with great presence of mind, opened out his elbows and stopped himself from falling into the cess pit! He shouted out and we found him dangling over the open cess pit which, luckily had been partially emptied not many days earlier. We grabbed him and pulled him out and, aside from a ruined pair of shoes, he was none the worse for his experience. The cess pit lid was replaced with a much stronger one the next day.
Other things we found in England which were surprising to a teenage girl who had hardly been out of Ohio:
The cars – compare on Google the difference between late 1950’s cars in the US and UK. We had left behind colourful cars with huge fins and found dingy, quite small cars. Also, the legal age for acquiring a driving license was 17 and they didn’t have driving lessons at school! (I was very disappointed about that but, in fact, owning a car in London would have been a waste as the public transport system was pretty good!)
The roads – in America roads were broad, often with cars parked on either side plus room for two cars easily to pass. In most places in the UK the roads were built for users on foot or horse and couldn’t be adapted to take large vehicles because of the buildings which, in some cases, had been there for hundreds of years. Roads that were made from the beginning of car ownership were built with the compact British cars in mind and, also, in 1958 and for another ten years or so, car ownership was the exception rather than the rule.
The ‘fast food’ – We came from a country which had delicious hamburgers and thick chocolate milkshakes made with as much ice cream as you wanted on practically every corner to a country with one ‘Wimpy Bar’ a mile away which offered ‘hamburgers’ which were flat and with no salad, french fries that were called ‘chips’, and strange items like ‘scotch eggs’ and ‘sausage rolls’. The pizzas, which we were able to find once in a blue moon, were completely different from the lovely little single pizzas I bought after school at Edrico’s in Ludlow Avenue and I couldn’t find an ice cream parlour anywhere, where I could get a ‘hot fudge sundae’! (Even today I haven’t found a real hot fudge sundae that compares favourably and, as for pizza, I’m not sure that I will ever find one that is as great!)
The money – I didn’t expect there to be dollars and cents but the huge pennies, the strangely shaped ‘thrupenny bit’, the little sixpence, the shilling (or bob), the ‘florin’ (two shillings) and the ‘half crown’ (two and six) plus the ten shilling and pound notes were so different. There were also ‘crowns’, which were not often found in one’s change, half-pennies, and farthings which were worth a quarter of a penny and were on their way out of use quite soon after we arrived. [then, in the early 70’s, everything changed again in the way of coins and notes and we went decimal!]
Nowadays all of those ‘strange’ things have changed and the ones I experienced have become part of my history and so, a part of me. We live in a house which is attatched to a sewage system (albeit with hundred year old pipes connecting us to it), we have two cars, neither of which has fins(!), we could, if we wanted to, easily find fast food in the shape of McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut etc, and we are very used to handling the once strange coins and notes.
(If you have any questions about something I’ve said, please get in touch)
I hope the year brings much needed peace to the world and that you and your families all are happy, keep healthy and are safe.
Take care of yourselves and help someone if you see they need it. Let us all try to make the world a better place!😀
I will be publishing my next post on the 27th of December to give you something non-Christmassy to read. 😄
I hope you all have a really enjoyable and safe time during the holiday. Best wishes to all!
My Doctor wouldn’t give me HRT, saying, “ I can’t prescribe that for you! What if you had a stroke? You’re American and you’d sue me.”
The title is an absolutely true statement made by the man who was my GP at the time!
I was about 48, having the occasional hot flush and night sweat and I realised my child-bearing days were, essentially, at an end and I was getting old – but that’s NOT why I wanted – no, needed – HRT. I had noticed that at certain times during what had turned into an increasingly irregular cycle, I would feel really well followed – several days to a week later – by an intense migraine that would consist of a terrible headache plus nausea and severe vomiting which lasted for about 24 hours. All I could do on those days was go to bed with a bucket next to me and try to sleep. Sleeping, I didn’t feel the pain but, every time I woke up during an attack, I knew several things would happen. First I would be assailed by an excruciating pain on one or other side of my head which would be followed after an almost intolerable length of time by – at the beginning of the 24 hours – violent vomiting and – towards the end – dry heaves that were even more violent.
Each migraine was followed a few days later by a scant ‘period’ which lasted some days and, when that was over I would settle into a month or two or even three of being ‘okay’, followed by a few days of feeling really well again and knowing that, without doubt, the next bout of migraine was soon to follow.
After my GP refused the HRT, I went away feeling resentful and I felt as though there wasn’t much I could do about it. I took various herbal remedies but nothing made any difference to the hot flushes which soon started in earnest, the night sweats which were so uncomfortable and the various bouts of feeling like crying for no reason at all and, as night follows day, severe migraine.
This carried on for, possibly six months, but the cycle of hot flushes etc followed at decreasing intervals by diabolical migraines sent me back to Dr. R-S. (I won’t use his name as, though he isn’t American, he might sue me!😂) This time, he finally took pity on me and compromised by giving me HRT patches which I had to stick to my bottom or hip area. I can’t remember whether I changed them once a week or every day or what but, immediately, the migraines settled down as did the hot flushes etc.
After several years of patches my skin became intolerant of the adhesive and I changed to little tablets, almost exactly like “The Pill” but not so strong. (Strangely, it was “The Pill” which started the migraines, when I was in my twenties so I was unable to take them as birth control.) I carried on with those for a number of years then, slowly, cut down and stopped. Immediately all the symptoms returned including severe migraines. I started HRT again and went on until I was in my sixties then decided I must stop. (There were often reports of what nasty things HRT might do). Almost immediately I stopped the HRT, I started getting hot flushes again and still have them from time to time but, luckily, as there probably isn’t a big rush of oestrogen, or a big loss, I seldom have really bad migraines, maybe one every two years or so.
For those of you who haven’t ever had a hot flush, let me assure you of two things. First, there are loads of women who never have even one hot flush, let alone ten or twenty a day; and secondly, a hot flush can’t kill you though the feeling certainly isn’t pleasant! I remember when we lived in East Malling and had a back boiler run by a wood-burning stove which fed all the radiators. There would be times, in the depth of winter, where I would just close the curtains and take off everything but my underclothes then, nearly as quickly put all my clothes back on. They don’t last long but they are very uncomfortable. You know when you hear about someone who has combusted spontaneously? You think, “OMG, I’m going to do that! That’s what happened to that poor person.” But of course, it doesn’t happen.
Migraines run in my family. My father suffered from them, at least one of my half-brothers does, my daughter and grand-daughter are also afflicted. They’re obviously not all connected to female hormones but mine were and I’m so pleased I was able, in the end, to convince Dr R-S that I wouldn’t sue him!
Epilogue: Judy had migraine, too, but it was completely different and very scary! She only had a few episodes and the first worried her intensely. She was, at that time, a probation officer and was appearing in court to give background on one of her ‘clients’. She suddenly found that her sight went from normal to tunnel-like to complete blindness in just a few moments. She was worried about what was wrong with her but, more, she was worried about her ‘client’ and whether she could do her job properly. Luckily for the ‘client’, her sight came back in very quickly but she was exceedingly worried about why it had happened. The doctor was able to reassure her after a complete check that it was a type of migraine.
Another epilogue: Some people who have migraine have what is called an ‘aura’ before they are hammered in the head by the migraine attack. As far as I know, an aura is a bright light in the eyes, although I could be wrong. I don’t get them with migraine though I have had what I call ‘castellation’ – a flashing light that suddenly appears in my eye/s in the shape of a castellation except it is semi-circular. They often just appear, work their way around in a complete circle, then disappear! Really weird and, in me, not connected to more than a light headache, if that. (Below is a poor drawing of the shape of a castellation which, really, should be in flashing glowing white!)
Back in 1956 or ’57, after we had returned to Cincinnati from Reno and parts west, we settled back into our old homestead in McAlpin Ave. We lived in what the British call a ‘bungalow’ and the Americans call a ‘ranch-style house’. There was a big L- shaped lounge-diner with huge plate-glass windows at one end with a modern kitchen off that, three good-sized bedrooms, a family bathroom and a second bathroom off the master bedroom. The master bedroom also had a walk-in wardrobe with a door at the end from which one could go into the cellar or outside. There were also doors to the outside world in the dining part of the L-shaped room and in the kitchen.
Several times it appeared to us (Mommy, Judy, Jennie and I) that someone had been into the house although we couldn’t find an unlocked door or window and nothing was gone but, then, one day when we were getting ready to cook supper we found that all the cutlery and utensils had disappeared from their allotted drawer! It was found, eventually, in the cupboard just underneath which housed various pots and pans or maybe potatoes and onions.
Now we knew that someone had sneaked in and was playing games with us so we decided to catch them at it. The following Sunday we all went out, got into the car and drove about a hundred feet down the road to the home of the Connellys and we parked in their garage. (They knew we were going to.) Once there we sneaked (!) up their outside stairs then made our way through the surrounding woods to our house, doing our best not to make too much noise and hoping we weren’t seen by the ‘burglar’. We entered the house by one of the doors at the back then made our way to the walk-in cupboard where we made ourselves as comfy as we could in the circumstances.
This cupboard was quite large – perhaps eight feet by fifteen feet and had a pole that went the length of the cupboard on the left-hand wall, leaving the right-hand side free but there was no furniture so we sat on the floor, chatting, perhaps reading…I can’t remember, so it wasn’t anything unusual.
After some hours we realised that it was getting near to meal-time (we had a biggish dinner on Sundays at around three) so, mom and I sneaked out to the kitchen and started preparing dinner. [Strangely I can’t remember anything that we ate at home when I was a child/teen except for ‘chipped’ beef in a milky sauce (ugh), succotash, beets, sweet corn, mashed potato, rice, okra (yuck!), spaghetti (bolognaise – though it wasn’t called that in those days), ‘johnny marzetti’ which was spaghetti bolognaise with noodles rather than spaghetti, and corned beef hash]. (There were obviously other foods but I have no memory of them.) I have a feeling that we cooked something that needed carving but I haven’t got a clue what it was and also probably some sort of potato and vegetable.
When it was ready to eat, we reached a dilemma – should we eat in the cupboard or at the table? We ate in the cupboard. I vaguely remember carrying the food into the cupboard and putting the plates and bowls on the floor, then carving whatever it was while sitting on the floor with it. It was very uncomfortable! I don’t remember the ‘eating’ part at all or the tidying afterwards but that all must have happened.
The day progressed, it turned dusky and then dark. No one had tried to enter the house!☹️
We had spent a full day cooped up for nothing – except for the memory of a day in the walk-in wardrobe.
Many years have passed since that incident. I have come to the conclusion that it was probably Judy who was the culprit; she really liked to make mysterious things happen.
nother time she and I went with our best friend, Rosemary, down town in Zanesville to Rosemary's music lesson. We waited outside while Rosemary had her lesson and, at one point, I went inside, possibly to find out how near Rosemary was to finishing or maybe to go to the loo. When I went back out on to the porch Judy was very excited. She had been watching, she said, as two men came out of the house across the road carrying a fridge which they put into their car before driving away with it. She had memorised their license number, she said; it was V3509 and obviously the two men were burglars who had stolen this fridge!
When Rosemary came out we told her about this terrible theft and together we vowed to catch the thieves! We spent the next couple of months looking at every license number that we could find – but we never did find V3509.
At around the same time little green men had been seen in Kentucky (probably a couple of hundred miles or so from Zanesville) and we decided that we would be the perfect threesome for the little green men (from outer space) to make contact with so we roamed Zanesville, going into neighbours' gardens and keeping a good eye on the skies. We never did meet any aliens but not for lack of trying!
Translations! Cutlery – silverware; Chipped beef – dried and thinly sliced beef
Succotash – mixture of cut green beans and corn