Fireworks

2D2BF4F1-41FD-49A3-90DF-F21F77551BB2There has always been something magical about fireworks to me. The colours, the smell, the patterns, the contrast against the dark sky and the surprise of what explodes next. There’s also something nostalgic about dressing in your warmest clothes, dusting off the hat and scarf and heading off into what is usually one of the first really dark nights of the winter. Last night I did that. I stood, in cold so intense I could see my breath and hardly feel my fingers, in eager anticipation of the display. The shooting flames of the bonfire dying away, the chatter of excited crowds and the smell of burgers and hot chocolate filled the air. Every so often there’s a blob of colour as torchlight and glow sticks appear.  There’s the waiting, for that sudden moment when the the sky fills with colour. The oohs and ahs as the showers of stars fill the sky. The bangs and whistles and the hiss as the display starts. Then the explosion of colours and patterns that sparkle and flash and spin their way through the pitch dark sky. I don’t think I will ever tire of watching fireworks!

Blast from the past!

Happy Humpday everyone! This week I have been made super happy by a discovery I made in the loft at my parent’s house. Many moons ago I went to lace making classes and I loved it but after they ended I just put my kit in the loft and forgot all about it. I have recently been enjoying watching Katie’s podcast Inside number 23 and it has done nothing but fuel my love of craft making and remind me of the lace making that I enjoyed so long ago! So on Sunday I ventured in to the spider-filled loft and found my lace kit tucked away. I couldn’t believe it when I got the pillow out and found an unfinished pattern still on the pins – I hadn’t even bothered to finish it or unpin it! After 15 years on the pins I decided it was probably ready to come off, so I have removed it ready to start a new project. So far I have given the bag and my bobbin roll a good wash, redone all of the spangles on my bobbins so that they look shiny and new and I have ordered myself some new yarns and a book of bobbin lace for beginners. My plan is to back to the beginning and re-teach myself the stitches so that I can build up my knowledge again. I am really excited to find some Christmas patterns and some sparkly yarns so that I can make some Christmas decorations. I used to really enjoy making stars and snowflakes and I thought that they would be a lovely item to donate to the craft shop in Rural Care – thank goodness I have such a good excuse for crafting!!

My Ink

Until I was 30 I was adamant I was never having any tattoos. Then I got my first one and I can safely say I love them and they are very addictive! Yes they hurt at the time, yes they can be expensive, no they are not to everyone’s taste but to me it’s like personalising my body. To be they are my art. All my tattoos mean something to me and were chosen for a reason so here is my explanation.

My first tattoo was three small stars on my foot. They are to represent the stars in heaven of my Grandad, my Auntie Doris and my Uncle Norman who were like grandparents to me. My next one was my butterfly on my wrist. This is for Olivia, a fabulous girl who was a brownie who sadly lost her battle with cancer. It’s a butterfly as we released butterflies at her memorial and they always remind me of her when I see one. They are also a reminder of the fragility of life. The placing is not insignificant as when I make my brownie promise salute the butterfly looks out my current girls.

My next ink was my ladybird which is for my gorgeous niece Ruby. When she was little everyone bought her ladybird things and they came to be associated with her.

My fifth inking was my owl on my side. Partly because I love owls and partly because of the Guiding and Brownie connection. And obviously I am Brown Owl! Somewhere around there are some photos taken by my co-blogger of me grimacing having that’s one done!!

Number six is a Japanese kanji which means friendship. This represents my best friend. Enough said.

And then we come to the most recent three. The hands is an original drawing by another of my best friends which she gave me on a card when Granny died earlier this year. The detail on it is amazing and she is one talented artist. The hands are significant to me because when I was little she always held my hand and guided me and as she got older and frailer, I held her hand to guide her. And now she will be with me forever. On a side note, she always loved my tattoos and coloured hair- I think she had a secret inner rebel! Well Granny now you have your own ink!

The rainbow heart represents the year I came out properly and you lovely blog followers made me happier than I’ve been ever with your total acceptance of everything that is me. Love is love, whatever and whoever.

And finally my smallest (and ironically the most painful!) is a semi-colon on my little finger. This represents the fact that 2017 was a turning point in my life. A fresh start, one where I can be me and will be me and am happy. And one to raise awareness of mental health. A subject which will always be close to my heart.

Whether you love them or hate them they are part of me and more importantly I love them!

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.

A happy goodbye?

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On Wednesday we said our final goodbyes to Granny. Not very happy I can hear you saying but surprisingly there was happiness to be found, even at such an occasion. In the car on the way to the crematorium we sat and chatted about our memories of Granny. My cousin and I remembered ‘pink rabbit’ which was our favourite, and always requested, pudding. It’s  actually pink blancmange done in Granny’s infamous rabbit mould. We loved it! We talked about baking with Granny, standing precariously on a stool by the work top wearing and oversize apron. She taught me how to make pastry for micne pies and jam tarts and I still use her recipe. I remember lying on the rug in front of the fire doing jigsaws. And all the clothes she used to knit for my dolls. We talked about her garden and how she loved it. And then, just as we turned into the crematorium we were silenced. Not in grief as you might imagine but by the beauty. The driveway is surrounded by woodland and graves and the whole place was like a carpet of snowdrops and early crocuses. Granny would have loved it. She loved all plant she but especially spring flowers.

During the service of course there were tears, but there was laughter too. We laughed as Gareth talked about Granny going for a walk with Joshua (her great grandson) on Boxing Day to ‘test their new wheels’. He on his new scooter, she with her first walking frame – aged 99 and three quarters.

We returned to her care home to toast her wonderful life. All 100 years and 10 days of it. And right at the end, one of her carers was looking through the family photos with us and said she had something to show us. She produced a short video clip taken only a few short weeks ago on one of the home’s regular outings. Granny was at the garden centre and there she was bright as a button, walking stick in hand, dancing along and laughing out loud to a giant musical, swaying Christmas tree! Not bad for almost a hundred!

And so, despite the occasion, we left with smiles on our faces.

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!