Of summers and friends long ago lost

If you watch your TV analytically you may notice that on boxing day the adverts suddenly change. Gone are temptations of chocolate and wiz bang toys, and hello to those long summer nights spent on a beach with golden white sand, and crystal clear waters reflecting the brilliant sun high above.

Yes the excitement of Christmas is over and the cold weather and long dark nights are becoming less romantic as you sit and go slightly mad with cabin fever. Your mind is transported away to that dream of summer holidays. Here in the UK August brings us distant memories of our childhood as we had no school for 6 long weeks. The sun always shone and walks through long grass lasted forever. Your hands were always sticky with juice from the abundance of fruit or ice-cream.

And now decades later as you look over your now trashed living room, the Christmas decorations have been knocked over so many times that the reindeer are missing an antler, Angels heads have been glued on backwards, and the advent calendar now devoid of chocolate looks pathetic. With maybe a sip of whatever wine you have left you close your eyes and try to remember that time when on holiday you remember falling back into the pool and the water was warm, laughter was heard from all around and even though your skin was a little raw from the sun it didn’t matter.

AS a child my parents always made sure we went away for the summer, it was only ever in a tent or later in a caravan as it as the most affordable way to get away.

One memorable year I was in my mid teens ( I think it was the last time away with my parents). We re-visited Cornwall We stayed on the Lizard point. Not far from an estuary, and hours walk through some cool shaded woods led us out onto a beach with no access by road, it was always empty and we were the only ones that could be bothered to make the walk. Games of tennis were played over hundreds of yards, with multiple players swapping sides to help balance out the score as one team went into the scores of triple figures, Sand castles always became taller and larger until we disappeared behind battlements feet thick. As the day wore on fire wood was gathered from the high tide mark or the dead wood within the woods behind us, the fire was lit. My father would retrieve his pipe from the bottom of an over stuffed bag and the smell of Black Cherry tobacco would mingle with the wood smoke and salt air, food would be cooked in the embers scrapped into a pit, as the Sun disappeared over the horizon, the fire would be piled up high and any walker within sight would be drawn to it. Gatherings of 20- 30 people would collect, from somewhere food would be produced, and bottles of drink procured and shared amongst us all. Late night paddles would become more and more boisterous and swimming challenges would ensue. Buoys marking lobster pots would be used as a measure of your prowess in the water.


Back on land games of football would be played by all ages, no goals were created just a constant game of passing and tackling degenerating into one game with, many parts as Frisbees and bats were also used. Then as the fire slowly died down all were seated around gazing into the glow of logs, the conversations became more philosophical and stories were shared. Then these once strangers would slowly go their separate ways making their way back to whence they came. Laughter could be heard from retreating families, and every now and then the snippet of a song, carried on the warm breeze.





Breaker Breaker Calling Father Christmas, over!

Daily Prompt

Out of your reach.

As I have mentioned in some of my other posts. I grew up on a small holding (hobby farm in Australia).

While my parents doted on us and we grew up knowing we were loved, there were some very hard times. My father worked full-time for the fire brigade and every spare penny went on feeding the animals or paying off the mortgage on the property.

We never lacked anything and Birthdays and Christmases were always filled with laughter and joy (Well through my now misty memory they were).

But I do remember one year, I yearned for a particular item. You know that feeling you have when your stomach aches, every minute your thoughts are consumed by this one feeling. You try to find out as much information about the item you can. This was before the internet, heck this was before Computers. Magazines pages were torn at the edges where you constantly thumbed to the page with the info on it.

For me that year I knew that my parents could not afford it but there was just a faint glimmer of hope in my young mind. Maybe those secretive talks were not about how to pay the electric bill but on how to get me this item. The quickly snatched away pieces of paper were not last demand notices, but in my mind order sheets. Needless to say that on Christmas morning a quick glance under the tree and my hopes were dashed, they plummeted from the sky with instant realisation.

Needles to say I still smiled when I was given my presents and have and will always say thank you and make the right noises. But that year a small hole was in my Christmas cheer.

Now many years later I struggle to remember the colour of the item I wanted. But really what would an eleven year old really do with a ‘Home base CB Radio’? Living in a valley that could only receive radio Luxemburg and only then when the sky was clear of clouds (West Wales remember that phenomenon happens once a few years).



Old Man Willow you should not be awaking.



Daily prompt

The third gasp of breath almost ruined me.

22 years ago, me and four friends were kayaking a small river in West Wales. It was a local river that fishermen protected fiercely; we were technically not allowed to be on the river. But due to a very complicated law system we were not actually breaking any laws. (But that’s by the by). (As long as we did not touch the banks we were fine)

We were all experienced and had the right kit. The river was in flood and this made for some nice big white water, along a river that generally just tinkled down. There were a few spots where the river narrowed and dropped 20-30 feet in a very small space. We had successfully navigated these and had enjoyed playing in the rapids produced.

It was near the end of the trip we had been on the water for around four hours, and were tired. There was just a small drop in the level and a little bit of white water was there for us to play in. We started show boating doing dafter and dafter tricks. Needless to say we capsized many times, but as we could all roll up quite easily none of ever swam. I went in to play in this small rapid and was twirling my paddle around above my head while sitting there where the water turns over and over back on itself .
A slight movement of my hips and I went under as the edge of the boat caught the water rushing down. The paddle fell from my hand and I caught an under current. While still in my boat I was washed to the outside edge of the river, and unbeknown to anyone caught by a submerged branch. Knowing the others were there I banged on the bottom of my now upturned boat and slide my hands back and forth, signalling that I needed assistance. On friend came up and rammed my boat with his I grabbed the front and went to pull my self upright. I was caught by my buoyancy aid in the tree. A pulled harder and just got my mouth out and grabbed a gasp of air, second time up and managed to yell one word ‘Tree’.

My other two friends came up alongside me and pulled my up. I managed to grab at another breath before the spring in the tree pulled me back under. This time both my arms were free a levered my self onto the first friends boat, but the branch was pining me in my boat. I could not get out and the boat could not be righted. Grabbing the front of my boat one friend managed to lift it up and over the branch, I was then able to right it my paddle was retrieved and all was well.

I was under water for no longer than four minutes in total, The sound of the rapid is muted slightly as the water rushes past your ears, the banging of the plastic boats reverberated through my legs that are tight along the inside of you kayak. The one sound that I will always remember was the squeaking of the branches as the rubbed together holding me tighter. For a few fleeting moments even though I was surrounded by people concentrating completely on me I felt so alone. I was the only one under the water seeing blurred images above me of friends helping. For just a few short seconds complete detachment from others overwhelmed me.

Unlike other sporting injuries I carry no scars, or marks of any kind from this incident. I spent a good few years continuing kayaking, I went under many times, and have been trapped underwater, a few times since. But I have never felt the same fear as I did that time. It wasn’t my first time being trapped; it wasn’t even the longest time under water. I believe it was the squeaking of the tree branches that un–nerved me most. To this day I have full respect but no fear of the water. But that sound even now 22 years later even though I have never heard it since I can still hear it as clear as I could then.



Hanging chickens, washing machines and a screaming pink smell

Many (or not so many) years ago we had the idyllic childhood. There were, my parents an older brother, and me.  We grew up on a small holding in very rural Wales, the summers were long and winters with a picturesque white blanket covering everything with an innocent sheen.

Then at the beginning of one winter our lives were to change dramatically. My father a then officer in the fire brigade was seconded to another force for six months.  The same time my Mother gave birth to a ‘screaming pink smell’. ( I was only seven and it later grew into my younger brother). Due to many complications my mother was now bedridden for a few months. Our father was away for up to six days at a time, no neighbourly help and Grandparents who lived the far side of the country.

It fell to me and my older brother (aged 10) to take the reigns of the small holding and the house. We drew lots, and then he beat me into submission, so we shared out the chores, basically he took charge of all the animals, and outside needs, I shouldered the more domestic chores. So at the young age of seven years old I started cooking for a family, doing the laundry, and general house keeping ( we did at times help each other ). My first trouble was ensuring that the coal fired stove stayed alight at all times, this was the only form of cooking, a small oven and two cast iron  hotplates. (Imagine an AGA, but a quarter of the size and a thousandth of the price). With many trips upstairs to check things out with ‘mum’ and slowly deciphering cookbooks over time I became quite a proficient cook. The top loading washing machine and I came to an agreement. We did not like each other. I hated it because I had to almost climb into the drum to reach the lone sock from the bottom. It hated me because as far as I was concerned why do four loads when it can actually fit in one load? Then there was the log fire in the living room ( a once converted barn, Have a look at my other post ‘A childhood in rural west Wales part 1-3 ‘ for more details). My brother supplied the chopped wood I kept feeding it day and night, it was our only heating. This was done while attending school.


A normal day for me through that winter went as follows.


6:00 wake up dress in rough clothes.

6:30 feed chickens, ducks, geese, collect eggs

6:50 bring in coal, and fire wood.

7:10 rescue fire in stove add more coal, re stoke fire in living room, de ash, and re stock wood.


7:30 Chase and catch chicken ( or rabbit, or duck or whatever animal real peeved me of) Kill and remove feathers. Hang to bleed out and leave to chill on kitchen windowsill to chill.

8:00Wash change for school.

8:10 put more washing on and hand out to dry (indoors above stairs) wet washing.

8:30 double check fires

8:45 Go to school. (500 yards away down a very quite single track rd)


12:45 after lunch at school nip home with brother put dead meat in pot along with veg put in now much warmer oven. Check and re stoke fires. (he checked on animals)

3:30 after school change.

Bring in more coal, and wood. Help brother with mucking out.

5:30 dish up food, eat and with help from my older brother wash-up.

7:00 fight washing machine, feed dog and cats, and ensure fires are set for the night

8:00 Collapse into bed.


Before anyone goes phoning social services I am now touching forty and this only lasted for a few months.

I look back on these times now with almost fond memories, I see how I had to grow up at a young age, but in a way that has helped me. I was not abused or left to starve in a corner like so many others. Through my teenage years I hated my parents for that time, I raged that they took some of my childhood away from me. But then I saw my peers and friends struggle to turn on an iron while in University, one friend destroyed a £200 fleece by trying to dry it in the microwave. They lived on baked beans not due to financial hardship but because they couldn’t work out how turn on the oven. I realised my parents inadvertently gave me a fierce independence. I now have four children two are way past this age and the other two are bracketing it. They show interest in the cooking but only fun things, I try so hard not to tell them how lucky they are and what I had to do at that age, but it was not the norm for anyone at that time. I was a Seven year old boy who had been thrust into the boring bit of an adult world. Much of the time I was dog tired and was close to tears pretty much all the time. Sometimes I would lay in bed quietly whimpering to my self, but sleep would always come and with it the hope of another day.


The life of a kitchen table

 Hello and welcome to the world that I occupy.

In fact I never really move out of this small space that is mine.

I don’t mind, everybody comes to me constantly, I am the centre of my family’s life. I sit there in the kitchen quietly waiting for the family to wake.

Dad is always the first up, he comes in and sits down to eat his breakfast slowly waking up with every mouthful of what ever he is eating. Even as he approaches 40 he still likes the cereal of his youth, . Mind you toast is just as popular, along with the first cup of coffee.

Then the children are next along with mum always arms full of the detritus that the kids seem to shed between waking up and walking down to me for food. It seems like a well polished routine for the outsider that I imagine is looking in.

Yet here I am every day hearing all the secrets and anxieties that affect them all. I know that between getting out of bed and walking down to me, tempers have been frayed one child has already upset another, some important piece of clothing or school work is lost. It is always at this time that something last-minute is remembered. Normally the eldest, she is the perfect ditzy blonde, so clever in academic life, a straight A student, it’s just the simple things in life she struggles with.

Then there is the boy, there is only one so no need to get confused, he is laid back with most things in his life that effect him. Sweet to the bone easy-going and slightly freaky. He lives in a world in his own head and every now and then let’s us in. Counselling is probably imminent either that or world domination.

Mum easily holds the family together. Or should I say it is easy to see that mum holds the family together, I know it’s not easy to do. The way she sits down after the school run that doesn’t involve 4 different sets of PE kit three lots of homework one major project, and a bill that has suddenly been thrust through the door that wasn’t expected till this time next week. She has her cup of coffee and you can actually feel the stress exude from her. That’s before the endless rounds of housekeeping that she does with varying levels of enthusiasm.

Next are what everyone refers to as ‘the girls’ one being five the other six. They are easily indistinguishable from each other,…it’s just I can’t. They are inseparable from each other always laughing at some private joke or talking at high-speed and a pitch that would drive dogs crazy. As long as it is pink they are happy, be it clothes, toys and even food.

Dad is probably the quietest of the family, well at breakfast he is. Always deep in thought about something or other, normally something to do with one of the things, that constantly worry him, Family, or work. He is always coming up with some new hair brained idea for making life easier.

Breakfast is over quickly. Dishes are put in the sink ready for long-suffering mum to get to. Plates are replaced by shoes, bags the girls have shoes put on quickly. Dad then always has to empty everything as he looks for his ever lost keys or wallet or his poor mobile phone.

Then silence as the front door closes, and the family is of to their places of work or school. Soon mum comes back in normally loaded down with some shopping to replace the bit of food that is already running out that the children devour with ravenous appetites. Or another new item of clothing that has been destroyed or grown out of. She puts them on me with a sigh as she takes in the carnage that has replaced the kitchen she spent ages cleaning just twelve hours before hand.

It all waits for the cup of coffee. In another new cup to replace the one that got broken in one of the boys experiments. Mum soon returns to the never-ending task of housework. 3 floors 4 bedrooms 2 reception rooms, a study, and the small utility room that is forever full of half repaired bikes, boots that are coated with layers of mud, coats steaming constantly from the never-ending rain showers, and the poor washing machine that is constantly churning away, along side is the tumble dryer with its door held shut with the broom propped up,against a pile of boxes that still sit unpacked from the move seven years ago.

After a quick respite cup of coffee, mum dashes out the door to collect the kids from school. Then I am alone again until the family returns at varying times.

The noise signals who comes first. The girls and boy return home with mum behind, with arms full of empty lunch boxes, coats and another letter asking for some money or a tin for some event at the school.

The oldest girl is next, both tired from big school and full of life from time spent with friends. She slowly empties the fridge of fruit as she shares the latest gossip of her school friends with Mum, who listens for no other reason than to hear a human voice that can string a sentence together.

It’s a little while until dad comes through the door shattered and a little frail after work, he puts some coffee on and slowly sinks into the chair. The girls climb onto his lap both talking at high-speed and holding three different conversations, then a few minutes quiet, and chat with mum about the latest bill or broken item, as the children return to their previous employ.

Then, the mayhem begins, home work of 4 different types are being discussed and another papier-mâché lighthouse is slowly taking over everything, dinner is being cooked by Dad while he also slowly repairs the dishwasher, Mum folds the laundry on me in a small space amongst a socket set, reams of paper and half full glasses of juice and cups of coffee. As homework is finished the family comes and goes and each individual brings their own piece of life to the melee. Then the call goes out that food is almost ready. Everything is cleared from me, and down go place mats, cutlery, glasses. Drinks and food are set down, and ten seconds of absolute stillness is experienced by all, no words are spoken for the first five minutes as food is savoured, and consumed sometimes a little escapes of the plates and makes its dash for freedom as it gets pushed around until it’s scooped back up or drops to the floor.

As the eating slows down the volume rises again as the days exploits are played out for everyone to share, several conversations happen at once, laughter is shared by all, some times tears. Then everything is cleared away the last of the spills cleaned. The Girls go up to bed, the boy and the eldest disappear to their own rooms, cups of coffee are made a newspaper is spread out on me ready to be read but mostly forgotten or doodled on, as lunch-boxes are made and set out ready for tomorrow. Another load of laundry folded another lost toy found. And finally just before the lights are switched of dad puts his keys and wallet on me so not to lose them the next morning. Then darkness and the beeping of the distant washing machine telling nobody that it has finished its final load for the day.

Eggs, Bananas and Pentecostals.

‘I’m going to have a hot banana, with a Pentecostal see you in half an hour’.


In our house this makes perfect sense, and it is nothing you are thinking of.

Have you ever sat down with a family and they all laugh at innocent words. Those small phrases that mean something to them and nobody else.


I am sure we all have them. When I was growing up we regularly had a stretch or starve. This was normally Sunday evening meal. It consisted of what would I suppose be called a buffet in proper circles. The phrase was once said by my father, at it stuck. We still use it in our own house with our kids now. Family friends call it ‘bits on a plate’. It is the same meal the same concept but the naming of the meal is different.


Some of our sayings we can trace back to their origin others we struggle to remember but stick with the phrase for no apparent reason.


My wife and I will at random times just say ‘Sausage’ which will raise a smile on both of our lips. The innocent beginnings of this hark back to one of our many very late journeys coming back from holiday. We had the use of a holiday flat in north Wales. And with at that time two young children (both under 6) with us we decided to not leave until after 9pm for the 4-6 hour drive home. This meant that the children would sleep almost instantly and constantly, which allowed my wife and I to spend many hours talking to each other, without having to worry about any house work etc. On one occasion we left later than normal, there were many hold ups with late night road works, so we were travelling in the early hours of the morning well we were very tired and to keep ourselves alert, awake, we would sing stupid songs or tell awful jokes, after a few miles of silence my wife just said ‘sausage’ at the time it was hilarious to us both, I had trouble keeping the car in my lane ( a very quite mountain road at the time). Tears rolling down my cheeks and was short of breath for laughing. The word was not funny in any way, it was just we were so tired, and had spent an hour or so laughing at ever, poorer jokes. We now use it as a measure of tiredness if we laugh then we know we need to sleep.


With four children who are not afraid to talk we have a store of cute sayings, from each of them. Our son who is now no-longer the small shy boy with angelic hair and a sweet smile he gave us one that we repeat many times when having a cooked breakfast. In that slightly high-pitched  innocent voice with blazing eyes and a smile sat down to breakfast with these words. ‘I like an egg I do’ to anyone else it is just a sentence, to us it brings a smile to our face.


Our youngest not long ago mentioned that her thumb hurt. So as per normal we just rubbed her thumbs and gave them a gentle kiss. Much to her disappointment at our laughing when she said ‘No my thumbs on my feet’ meaning her big toe’s.


Stretching words out such as ‘quickerlelier’ of a school morning when trying to giddy them up makes our youngest laugh at the stupidity of the word (especially when said in the same pigeon Spanish accent used by Jim Broadbent in black adder), has no real origin and just give it a second reason to use it, I know it really annoys my eldest daughter, because it is not a real word.


As for the starting sentence it is all innocent. When we were first married my wife had a terrible headache and could not remember the word ‘Paracetemol’ she said Pentecostal instead and it has sort of stuck, sometimes to our embarrassment when we use it to ask others if they have any pain killers.


And it was not that long ago I announced that I was going to have a hot bath but for no reason what so ever  the word Banana came out instead of bath.


So as is often said in our family at the end of a shopping trip.


Are we done?

We have been.