Simple Pleasures

Today I had coffee with a friend. Well to be exact several coffees and some slightly crispy pizza which the kids didn’t finish! But I feel happier than I have for a few days. We talked, we talked, we laughed, we talked some more and laughed a bit more. We weren’t in some fancy coffee shop we were in her kitchen with the children running in and out of the garden and interrupting every few minutes as children do! Our conversation was most definitely not about all happy topics in fact we both had our turns to moan and set the world to rights. But it was just a perfect happy moment. And before we knew it four and a half hours had passed!

Coffee with friends- a simple but very happy pleasure

Fire!

I have loved camp fires for as long as I can remember. I love the challenge of laying a superb fire, of finding just the right wood to make it perfect, of making it symmetrical, of deciding whether to go for a square or a pyramid. Then there’s the challenge of getting it to light with as few matches as possible. And yes I have done one with no ‘artificial kindling’ just dried grass which was lit with only one match! I love the tending of the fire, adding just the right amount of wood to make the fire as hot as is needed, the raking it out to form embers. And then there’s cooking on the fire. I am proud to say that I have, on many occasions, cooked an entire meal on fire. Not just the obvious things like marshmallows but camp pizzas, jacket potatoes, chips, eggy bread, chocolate cake, stuffed bananas, sausages, bacon, full English, stews, soups and dampers(which are delicious eaten with jam!)

But nothing beats a toasted marshmallow. I like them once they have ignited and sizzled for a bit so the outside is crunchy and the inside is oozy and sticky and coats your entire face and fingers! I love that I have introduced literally hundreds of children to this delight (often sandwiched between two chocolate digestives for them) However, I am ashamed to admit that my own niece does not like marshmallows! Hey ho, all the more for Auntie Karen – and Ruby is a champion toaster now as although she does not eat them she always takes her turn toasting one for me!

Then comes the camp fire songs. They come in phases just like any craze but many a child I have babysat for has been regaled with my full repertoire. The words are never written down, just passed on as children learn them. Old favourites such as ‘camp fire’s burning’ never go out of fashion. And then there are regional variations! My guiding family come from all parts of the country, it has been known that there are four versions of the same song all being sung at the same time around the fire. Each one of us sticking to the words we’ve grown up with, all blending together. The great thing about camp fire singing is that is does not matter if you cannot hold a tune (just as well in my case!) enthusiasm and volume are all that are required!

And then after the songs have been sung and the marshmallows toasted you can sit around the embers watching the sun go down from underneath your blanket and just chat and laugh. Before you know it, it’s too dark to see and you’re wishing that you’d brought a torch with you ( thank goodness for smart phones!).

And the camp fire doesn’t just last that night, that beautiful woodsmoke smell lingers, sometimes for days. Personally I do not mind that at all!

Ive lost count of the number of camp fires I’ve done. There’ve been daytime ones, nighttime ones, evening ones, ones that started out as a barbecue but then we decided wood cooks better ones I could go on. But some stick out in my memory more than others.

There was the one at guide camp where we ended up cooking frozen chips over a very dodgy fire in the rain! The one where it was so hot the marshmallows melted in the car before we even got to the fire. Several where brownies, and leaders have made their promise to me and many more where they’ve said goodbye. But the one that stands out for me is my last night at guides. I was fifteen, I had been presented, along with three of my best friends, with my Baden-Powell award. And, as was my unit’s tradition, we left the fire while the others sang. The song ‘Go well and safely’. It still brings a lump to my throat now.

Camp fires are definitely one of life’s happy little moments – thnaks to everyone who has shared them with me.

Memories

Today’s hump day happiness is unashamedly a day late! It was just too tired to post it yesterday! Yesterday I spent the day with my parents and we spent most of the day looking over old photographs and talking about memories. This was prompted by the death of my Granny recently – a sad event yes but one that has also led to happy reminiscing. These are three of my favourite photos from my early childhood.The first is me sat on the swings in my local park. It was about a twenty minute walk from my childhood home and i spent hours and hours there growing up. Playing on the swings and the enormous slide – well enormous when I was that age! Racing across the wide expanse of grass whilst playing with our dogs. Paddling in the river, fishing for minnows and crayfish and playing poohsticks over the wobbly footbridge. Walking in the cool shade of the trees and carefully jumping across the stepping stones in the river. I can remember the park in all seasons from catkins and daffodils in the spring to bare trees and snow in the winter.

The second picture is part of a series taken by my dad when I was about a year old. The Easter Egg. The pictures show my delight and puzzlement with this strange brightly coloured box. I shook it, I bit it, I stared at it. And finally I managed to get into it (with some help I suspect!) Then there is this picture of my gleefully grasping my prize. The last picture shows me basically wearing the chocolate!

The final picture is taken on Hove seafront and I am about 2. I am gripping tight to Dad’s camera case and I’m not really sure what it is that makes me love this picture but it’s always been one of my favourites.

So today’s happy is happy memories. Far too many to write about but I am glad that I have that dilemma!

The kindness of children

Children can be so honestly kind in a way that I think adults struggle with because to us it all seems a bit over the top – we’ve learnt to tone it down and not show too much emotion (something I have not learnt to do very well yet!). As a teacher I have moments every day where a child says or does something with such open honesty that it knocks you back for a second while you realise that they’re not being sarcastic or manipulative or cheeky, they’re just telling you how it is from the kindness of their hearts. Examples include:

“You know how when you love someone a lot you try to show them how much you love them by making them things or writing them a card, but it’s never enough to show them just how much you love them? Well that’s how I feel about you.”

“I wish we had school at the weekends so that I could see you every day.”

“You’re like a rare, bright star – you shine brighter than the others.”

“It doesn’t matter where you are, I still love you.”

These children have so much love and kindness inside that they just want to let it out – they’re not bound by social conventions and the British stiff upper lip, they just want to tell the people that are important to them how much they love them. It makes me so happy that children are free to do that – and to hear them speaking to each other with such kindness is heart warming. I often see posts on Facebook from taken aback parents whose children have written them a kind message, done something kind or said something kind and it’s just lovely to see that it happens everywhere! There really is nothing like the kindness of a child to make you stop for a second and feel warmed by their love and compassion. I’ll leave you with one more example that put a huge smile on my face (after I had stopped crying!)

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I wore this as my ‘something blue’ for my wedding!

My greatest honour

One of my greatest honours is being given the title Auntie Karen to this gorgeous one. I’m an only child so I was never going to be an Auntie by rights. I can’t remember exactly when Ruby’s mum asked me but I know I welled up when I accepted the title. I can still remember the first time Ruby actually called me Auntie herself. It was in August 2012 when she would have been three and three quarters. Ruby and her mum had come to visit the Brownies on our annual pack holiday, we’d been out for the day and we were all just having a rest before dinner. Ruby was toddling around the house still full of energy and loving spending time with the ‘big girls’. There was the usual hubbub of noise in the house – inevitable with 20 odd children there! Then, across all the noise came another voice “Auntie Taren” (the ‘K’ sound came later!). Yes I admit I welled up (again).

Nothing makes me a prouder Auntie than having Ruby at Rainbows and now Brownies with me. And I still get a lump in my throat when those words come above the rest “Auntie Karen”. Ruby is eight now and is definitely growing up fast – she is beautiful, affectionate, clever and also determined, stubborn and certainly has a mind of her own! She drives me mad at times! But I love her immeasurably and she is a source of many many happy memories.

 

Laughter

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Laughter is generally thought to be synonymous with happiness. Certainly a good laugh can make you feel happy. And I don’t mean a half hearted chuckle. I mean a full blown belly laugh where you have tears rolling down your face, you’re not sure if you are breathing at all, your body starts to ache and you are rendered incapable of anything else at all. But how often do we actually laugh like this as an adult?  I often see children laughing with sheer joyous abandon but somehow as we grow up we lose that ability to see the sheer joy in our lives. So for my next goal I want to recapture that joy and that laughter and see the world through tears of joy rather than tears of sadness. To recapture the joy of living…