Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Home ~ at Last

Dear Diary, Like turning wheels I have come full circle.

Niece waited at the bus stop, tossed my small luggage into the back seat and after ensuring I was settled, drove home. For home it is Dear Diary.

Little was said on the journey, which after all only takes a short time, but the absolute pleasure we both felt at being reunited was evident. I felt light hearted. I noticed Hester smiling a silly Cheshire cat smile. It was obvious all was well with her.

But what of Karen and Jake? I dared not enquire.

We hastened indoors where, glory be, Phil had a cuppa ready and had carefully laid the table with sandwiches [ham and mustard on thick bread, which made it obvious this snack was of his design], and three thick slabs of fruit-cake. The moment we stepped over the thresh-hold Phil gently took me by the elbow and sat me at the table, before he deposited my luggage in my room. A smirk on his face left me wondering what exactly was going on, but, being of a gentle disposition, I decided to wait until I was informed.

We ate. We sipped. Soon the plates were empty. Dear Diary, there is nothing more refreshing and invigorating that a 'meal devised by a man'. There is something basic and strong about it. Even the tea was a hearty brew.

Phil leaned back in his chair, almost swinging on it. I peeked at Hester, half expecting her to chastise him for that juvenile action, but no, she simply smiled.

Well Dear Diary, my curiosity was aroused. It was evident they had no intention of telling me any news, or indeed where Karen and Jake were. There were absolutely no signs of their habitation.

Finally the suspense was too great.

"Hester?" I ventured. "Where are Karen and Jake?"

Phil looked at Hester. Hester looked at Phil. I looked at them both. What was going on?

"Aunt Alice," began Niece, " Karen and Jake have moved out. Jake found a little cottage, needing a little TLC, and without any dithering, they bought it. At the moment their main aim is to bring it up to a suitable standard for the expected arrival, and both are spending every moment painting and sewing curtains, and planning a garden."

I must have looked flabbergasted. I know I felt it.

"But ... but ..." I began.

"Oh Aunt!" spluttered Hester. "It is just so wonderful! They are only a ten-minute drive away. We will see them often. While the thought a having them living here, and a new baby sounded splendid in the beginning, I could see that perhaps the situation may become awkward. This is the best of both worlds!"

Dear Diary, this was a new slant on Niece, and Phil. I know I have spent many years living here, and perhaps had not been the most docile of aunts some of the time, but never had I felt so at home.

Phil stood up. "Alice," he said, "Come with me!"

This sounded remarkably like an order to me. I jumped to attention, saluted and replied, "Alice on guard Sir!"

Laughter from both Hester and Phil was so 'family'. Oh Dear Diary, my heart was full almost to burst.

However Phil had not finished. He tied the silk scarf I had carelessly thrown over the back of the chair around my eyes, causing a little consternation I must say. I stumbled along the passage and it seemed as though we were heading to my room. A door was opened, the scarf taken off my eyes.

During my absence a makeover of my quarters had been undertaken. The patio had been increased in size; a covered sunroom opened off the bedroom; and the bedroom had been painted.

"Now Aunt Alice," said Niece, " all that is left for you to do is choose your colours for drapes and furnishings."

I have a confession Dear Diary. At that moment my eyes filled with tears. These wonderful people had done this for me.

I hugged them in turn, and announced happily, "I am so glad to be home".

Dear Diary, now that life is something to look forward to, each day a new day in which to discover interesting things, there is little left for me to write about. The one sad moment is this ... Farewell Dear Diary.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Homeward Bound

Dear Diary, the last few days have had a profound effect on my thinking. It was somewhat disconcerting to discover that I had not made a good choice in packing up and running to Anne's from the confusion reigning at Niece and Phil's place. Any woman, indeed any person worthy of being a human being, should have stayed until the situation sorted itself out.

With that in mind, earlier in the day I telephoned Hester. Her voice was guarded. Oh, Dear Diary, I sincerely think my sudden departure was hurtful. However, once I asked if my old room was still my home she responded enthusiastically.

At the moment I am sitting in a coach, one that stops at every small town between here and there which in effect makes the journey twice as long as it would by car, and will be home within the hour.

Hester is meeting me at the bus depot, and has some news.

Dear Diary, I am looking forward to going home. Yes, it was fun at Anne's and yes, we did have a few adventures, and laughs, but at the end of the day, home is home.

The wheels are turning, the scenery is racing by ... I am almost home, I am almost home. It is moments like this I wish I were riding on a train. Then one could hear the wheels clacking, I am almost home, I am almost home!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Not Exactly an Apology

Dear Diary, While Anne and I laughed about the obvious embarrassment written across Richard's face, deep down, I, a most sensitive creature, felt a disquiet. Was it entirely fair that we set the poor man up? Not for one moment do I think that Richard had any idea he was the victim of a silly plot by two equally silly women, but I do wonder if he is now wondering how the whole scenario acted out.

With the passing of a day I have had time to dissect the luncheon production, for it was a carefully stage-managed meal. The main proponents of the play had no idea of their starring role. As I sit, knitting laying on my lap, and Anne, her foot propped up on a pouffe and flicking pages of a magazine, it is obvious neither of us feel proud of our bit roles. What were we? It could be rightly concurred we were nothing but two old woman enjoying an incident at the expense of two innocent parties. I do feel guilty.

"Anne?" It was a tentative query. "Do you consider we were very naughty inviting Richard when we knew Hazel was coming?"

She blushed. There was no need for a reply; her look told all.

Suddenly Anne pulled herself up, picked up the telephone directory, and made a call. I listened to the one-sided conversation.

"Hello. Richard." Anne crossed her fingers behind her back as she issued another invitation. "Would you like to come over for a cuppa" There is only Alice and I here, and we have a small confession to make."

There was a silence, though I could hear a muffled reply echoing through the lines.

Anne smiled, and hanging up the receiver commented that Richard was on his way over. Dear Diary, what would happen next? I for one didn't feel that any thing much could be said to alter what had happened. Sometimes it is best to let a situation disappear with time, without further reference to it. It seems that Anne is made of different stuff than I.

There was a tap at the door; Anne made to get up, but Richard with his usual charm waltzed in, smiling a greeting and rubbing his hands together.

"I say," he said, "that was a jolly luncheon yesterday. I thoroughly enjoyed it!"

Dear Diary, here was this man, the one who we considered we owed an apology to admitting that what we considered a bad joke, had so enjoyed his day! I looked in surprise at Anne, who I will admit, had the grace to look dumbfounded. As Anne bustled around gathering food and drink for this little visit I was left to entertain Richard. Not quite sure what to say I began on the one safe topic we all rely on ... the weather. Richard, however, had other ideas.

"Alice, how long have you known Hazel?" he queried. "Fancy her being here yesterday! You know, I had thought her name was Hope! However could I have made such a mistake?"

At least I had a topic of conversation to speak about, and launched into a long story of how Hazel and I had known each other while schoolgirls, but hadn't kept in touch. And how it was such a surprise to meet her in a coffee shop. I almost gave the show away Dear Diary! I almost let it slip that Anne had only invited Richard and Hazel here for the same lunch as she wanted to see his reaction. I pulled myself up just in time!

Richard gushed on and on about Hazel. Surely the man realised she was spoken for?!

"Richard!" I spoke sternly. "Hazel is getting married early in the New Year. She is just waiting for a respectable time to pass since the death of her husband."

Richard stared at me. Oh no! That little snippet of information had not sunk into his consciousness at lunch. Obviously he was so wrapped up in his fantasy he had heard little of Hazel's comments. His colour heightened; he began to shake. For a moment I thought the man was going to burst into tears! As Anne handed around cups of tea and invited us to help ourselves to scones or cake, he pulled himself together.

"I have been a fool," he murmured. "I thought that a newly widowed woman would welcome the advances of an eligible man. It seems as though I read the situation entirely wrong."

Anne smiled, placed her hand on Richard's arm and replied, "We all make a fool of ourselves at some stage in life Richard. Please do not think your tiny mistake is serious. No harm was done, and no doubt you will get over what was little more than a schoolboy infatuation."

Dear Diary, I was proud of Anne. With a few short words she had made Richard feel better. What better time to begin a game of Scrabble than now? Engaging the brain in a constructive way righted what could have become an embarrassing moment.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Luncheon Date

Dear Diary, If I hadn't been there I would never have believed it!

Moments before noon a gentle knock on the door announced Hazel's arrival. Anne had dusted and polished until the dining area and lounge sparkled. Those gorgeous perfumed stocks in shades of purple, deep pink, and dark red arranged in a cut crystal vase created a glorious scene on the side table. Anne had contemplated placing them on the dining table; their perfume permeated the room and she felt that their perfume might detract from the luncheon. Cushions were plumped, ornaments readjusted to their best advantage, and I rubbed all wooden surfaces with furniture polish until the room was simply perfect.

Hazel is a charming woman; had I not known her from childhood days when she often arrived at school not wearing shoes as the family had suffered some form of economic crisis, I would have been completely overwhelmed with her graciousness. Conversation flowed. Anne offered sherry, but Hazel declined. I was pleased. We needed to keep our heads if this afternoon was to go the way we hoped.

Lunch was simple. A quiche Lorraine and a salad served with fresh bread rolls. Anne somehow found time earlier in the morning to bake a carrot cake that took pride of place in the centre of the table, walnuts decorating the cream cheese icing looking delectable.

Another knock at the door; Dear Diary, Anne played her role so well. She had threatened me with banishment back to Niece's if I dared laugh, or even let on this lunch had ulterior motives.

Anne hurried to the door not giving Richard time to waltz in as normal. Chatting to Hazel about the paths our lives had meandered since schooldays I could hear Anne welcoming Richard.

"Richard," she gushed, how lovely to see you."

No mention Dear Diary, about his presence being prearranged. I am positive Hazel had no clue his arrival was by invitation.

Anne, chatting to Richard in an animated manner entered the dining room. Very cunningly, I thought, she hastily introduced Richard and Hazel, stressing 'Hazel', and hurried out to the kitchen, to check on the food, she said, when I was well aware all the food had been prepared and ready for the past half hour!

Such a shame she escaped! Richard's face was a picture. His complexion changed from a shocked white, to an embarrassed red, as he stuttered and stammered his greeting. Hazel had never met Richard, as we suspected, and had no idea that he admired her. However conversation didn't flag as Hazel was indeed a woman of the world and knew how to make anyone at ease.

As the meal got underway Anne, so innocently, enquired from Hazel what time of year she had planned to hold her wedding. At that query poor Richard, and by now I was beginning to feel rather sad about his obvious distress, swung around to face Hazel.

"You are planning marriage?" Richard enquired.

"Oh yes Richard, I have a lovely man friend and plan settling down with him. Of course there has to be a hiatus for decencies sake you know."

Richard didn't know where to look. I was watching Anne who clearly was enjoying his embarrassment. But Dear Diary, I am not one to allow a joke to go too far, and offered a salve to him.

"Richard," I began, Hazel's marriage was in name only. She has had a male companion for many years. Now that Mr Hardcastle, Garfield, has passed away, they are free to marry."

Much to my relief Anne obviously decided the joke had gone far enough, and steered the conversation in other directions. As Hazel had no idea that Richard fancied her, and Richard had no idea I knew of those fancies. All in all, Dear Diary, the afternoon concluded with no ill feelings on anyone's part, though I must confess Anne and I had a giggle in the kitchen once Hazel and Richard had departed, both going their separate ways, and both declaring the lunch very tasty and pleasurable.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Spring Clothes

Dear Diary, Anne and I have had many conversations re Hazel. Her announcement about having a man friend and considering marriage threw our minds out of kilter. We failed to ask enough questions! How many years had she lived in this town? When did she marry ... in fact Dear Diary we forgot to ask her married name! And what is even stranger, she never volunteered it. That of course means we have no method of contacting her, though Anne knows which street she lives in. Just imagine if we staked out the street! Neighbours would wonder what was going on. Still we are curious.

Later Anne came up with an idea! Dear Diary, Anne is a very resourceful woman when it comes to detective work. Her plan was that we go to the shops, and hope to 'run into' Hazel. After an early lunch we called a taxi as while Anne has made a good recovery after her fall, it was too much to expect her to drive as her confidence took a dent. The sun was shining, but the wind chill factor brought the temperatures down.

In all truth we had little essential shopping, but with spring arriving, and the shop racks filling with new seasons clothing a little window shopping seemed an excellent idea. Wandering along Main Street a window dressed in stunning colours of lime green and a contrasting blue, which should have clashed terribly, but instead caught the eye; a glance inside was enough to entice us in. As I hadn't brought all that many clothes with me, and as the weather was improving, I could see no harm in a small indulgence. A blue skirt and contrasting lime green with blue flowers, the same shade as the skirt fitted perfectly. Anne browsed. It was no surprise she didn't buy as she had a wardrobe of clothes at home, unlike me who was living out of a suitcase.

Taking my clothes to the counter I spied Hazel looking at cardigans. This was the opportunity we had wanted! Anne noticed almost the same moment as I, and taking the bull by the horns she left me to pay for my purchases and made her way purposefully towards Hazel who expressed pleased surprise when she saw Anne bearing down on her. I paid for the skirt and blouse before heading over to Anne and Hazel who were engaged in enthusiastic conversation. By the time I reached them arrangements had been made. Dear Diary, I have already said Anne is a very resourceful woman! Hazel cheerfully greeted me, and expressed her thanks to Anne for inviting her to lunch the following day. Aha, Dear Diary, tomorrow we may find out more!

Anne and I accepted Hazel's kind offer of a lift home, which allowed Hazel to find out where she would be travelling for lunch the following day. She did decline an offer to come inside for a coffee, insisting she had chores to attend to. We bade her farewell, agreeing we were looking forward immensely to lunch.

The moment Hazel drove out of sight Anne did a small jig, which surprised me, as I thought her ankle was still a little poorly.

"Alice," Anne said, " Hazel is Mrs Hardcastle. Her late husband was a well-known entrepreneur in the music world."

I nodded. I had heard of a Garfield Hardcastle, never connecting him with Hazel Bottomly of my childhood and schooldays.

Anne continued innocently, "I think I might pop over to Richard and invite him to lunch tomorrow." She winked in a conspiratoral way.

Suddenly I remembered that Richard had spoken of a widow named Hope.

"Anne, who is Hope?" I enquired.

Anne looked puzzled. She laughed. She thought that Richard was in fact unaware of Hazel's correct name. In fact the more we thought about it, we wondered just how much Richard did know about Hazel! Tomorrow can't come fast enough, Dear Diary!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Revelation

Dear Diary, Anne is feeling much better and able to walk easier. As a small treat for ourselves, after our almost housebound few days, we decided to go on a shopping trip to town. Not that we need to purchase any particular item, other than a few essentials for our survival ... slippers were high on that list.

I forgot to bring slippers with me; one of the drawbacks of hasty packing! Tomorrow is the first of spring and wouldn't you know it! The shops are full of spring clothes; no slippers worth their name. Oh there was a pair of towelling slip-ons, eminently suitable for the short trip from bathroom to bedroom; but barely comfortable for wearing around the house during the day. A trip out the back door to the garden for a few flowers would see them reduced to a messy blob. While I was not rude or nasty to the shop assistant I did query why shops filled their shelves and racks with summery garments when it was raining outdoors. Evidently this practice is common place. I did express my disapproval, and walked out empty handed.

As we wandered along the street a craft shop caught my attention. An idea slipped into mind. Purposely we walked into the interior of this Aladdin's Cave of crafty wonders; I found a pattern for knitted slippers, purchased needles and wool. Dear Diary, there are more than one way to skin a cat! I will make a pair of slippers, and while they too will not stand the outdoors, at least they will be all my own effort.

Anne's ankle began to throb. Lunchtime was nigh. The heady aroma of coffee poured out of a busy cafe, and as the lunch crowd had not yet left offices and work places, an early lunch made a lot of sense. A seat in the corner beckoned; after seating Anne and ascertaining what she fancied I headed up to the counter to order toasted sandwiches and flat whites. While Anne hadn't mentioned sweets my roving eye noticed a cabinet of cakes. Not for many years have I bitten into Neenish tarts; we deserved a small treat; Neenish tarts fitted into the treat category. A lovely waitress offered to carry the tray to the table once the sandwiches were ready. Dear Diary while I was thankful as balancing a tray laden with food and full coffee cups can be a scary exercise, I did wonder if she thought I may be a little dottery and unable to carry the load. In such circumstances it is best to offer effusive thanks and allow the service be carried out.

By the time I rejoined Anne the cafe was filling up. Working folk from nearby businesses and factories pushed through the open door and lined up for coffees and teas. Hot food in the bain-marie appeared extremely popular. Anne whispered that a busy cafe is a good cafe; a statement I wholeheartedly agreed with.

A well-dressed woman stood gazing around the room looking for a suitable place to sit. I stared. Surely this elegant tall slender woman dressed in a trim dress and matching coat, clothes that were seldom seen in this day and age, was Hazel Bottomly? As I leaned to ask Anne, she nudged me. When I looked questioningly Anne nudged me and in a quiet voice said the lady was none other than the widow Richard was interested in. Dear Diary, my thoughts raced!

"Anne," I said, "is that Hazel Bottomly?"

Anne looked dubious. She wasn't sure, in fact didn't know Hazel Bottomly lived in the area.

No sooner had this little exchange taken place, than the lady in question looked our way, a frown crossing her forehead. A sudden recognition registered. As she reached our table she enquired if she could sit with us. Anne and I nodded. By then Dear Diary I was agog with curiosity.

Offering my hand I introduced myself, and Anne. A small laugh escaped the newcomer's lips.

"Alice! It is you!"

"Hazel Bottomly!" I exclaimed, and introduced Anne.

We chatted and caught up with the past decades until our sandwiches arrived. Hazel had ordered, her meal arriving shortly afterwards.

Dear Diary, I was most discreet. Not once did I mention Richard, though I was eager to know how her life was.

Anne broached the subject.

"Hazel," she said, "I am sorry to hear of the death of your husband. Please accept my condolences."

Adding my sympathies I was surprised to see a smile cross Hazel's features. This was the first newly widowed lady I had seen who didn't appear sad.

"Thank you both," Hazel replied. "While my husband and I lived under the same roof, we led separate lives for the last ten years. I actually have a man friend, and once a suitable time has elapsed Derek and I will marry."

Dear Diary, Anne and I stared at each other. Thank goodness neither of us had mentioned Richard. Now we have a lot of questions for that gentleman!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Sighting

Dear Diary, What promised to be a day of indoors and finding ways of enticing excitement to enter into the theme of the day had a strange twist.

I find it hard to believe that Richard, who is purported to be chasing a widow, is truly enamoured with this lady, whom I have not yet had the pleasure of even setting eyes upon. Anne assures me she is a quiet lady known for keeping to herself. It seems rather unusual that Richard, who is fancy free, and as they say, carries little baggage, doesn't just telephone the woman and invite her out. Rather he comes along to Anne and prattles on and on and on. Quite frankly I find the man a trifle boring, though today Dear Diary he broke that boring mould.

Anne and I were sitting relaxing with a second coffee, accompanied by a chocolate mint biscuit, which I will confess as being one of my favourite biscuits, if biscuits are not home made. There is a rather delicious slice, chocolate with cornflakes to add a crunch, iced firstly with a peppermint icing, and topped with a thick chocolate icing; very decadent! The packet biscuits run a close second in flavour, and far excel the slice in the battle to maintain the waistline.

Richard knocked and walked in. I am still surprised that he has the temerity to waltz in and out as he sees fit. In my day it was considered manners, and manners maketh a man Dear Diary, to knock and wait, patiently, until the door was opened and one was invited in. I am not sure if I altogether like the casualness of today, but I digress. His excitement showed! Anne graciously offered him a coffee and thrust the biscuit plate towards him. He seemed oblivious to her courtesy; ordered the pair of us to put on shoes and come with him.

With a quizzical glance at Anne I wondered if he had perhaps lost the plot. After all full moon had just passed. However as we had nothing planned we could hardly make excuses. I helped Anne out to Richard's up-market, pale blue, convertible Volvo quietly wondering the total accumulation of Richard's assets. Did his arrogance stem from wealth? However as we sped along the street heading to the outskirts of town it was a matter of holding onto one's hair. The wind whistling past was exhilarating. Soon we were travelling along a quiet country lane. Richard stopped, opened the doors for us to disembark, and whispering to us to walk quietly and not talk, ushered us to the edge of a small coppice. He pointed upwards. There in a straggly gum tree sat an owl, wide-awake observing our every movement.

Anne and I were awestruck. Such a beautiful bird! We were not certain as to which species of owl it belonged, but did consider this owl to be a youngster. Maybe it had not long been sent out to explore new territory and make its own way in the world? Thankfully, and I must retract some of my comments about him, Richard had brought a camera with him. Not exactly brought it with him he confessed. He always carried a camera in the car, as he never knew when an opportunity would arise for a masterpiece.

We stayed for some moments, staring upwards, enthralled with this sighting. Not only had Anne and I never seen an owl at night, apart from a glimpse of a ghostly apparition and a whirr of wings many years ago when camping out, we had certainly never been close enough to notice its bright eyes inquisitively following our every move.

Impulsively I hugged Richard for showing us the owl; this sighting is a memory neither Anne nor I will ever forget.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Scrapbook

Dear Diary, It seems that once we are part of a family those ties are seldom loosened. Not that I mind that fact, but sometimes it would be rather nice to have a holiday from the rat race that is Home.

Anne assured me she felt much better, that statement belied her limp and the nasty bruise showing blue and yellow on her shin. I insisted she rest for the day. Anne revealed that after my previous visit she had taken photos and had ideas of making a scrapbook to record the wonderful time we shared. I smiled in agreement. This little project could fill in much of the day and wouldn't entail too much movement on Anne's part.

Anne directed me to a large cardboard box, covered with signs signifying its contents had once been the slow cooker that turns out a wonderful curry. Hauling the box out from behind the couch I carefully placed it on the table where we intended to begin our project. [Dear Diary, I found Anne's secret hiding place! The small space between couch and wall is home to other cardboard boxes, several of which are decorated with fabrics and other with brightly coloured paper. Anne does not believe in plastic storage boxes!] A large envelope filled with photos of my previous visit fell to the floor scattering its contents across the carpet. A moment of bending exercise on my part restored them to their rightful packet. I peered into the depths of the box, which revealed a veritable treasure cove. Lovely scrapbooking papers, paints and embellishments; more than enough to create a masterpiece.

As I was a relative new hand to scrapbooking Anne cheerfully acted as tutor. Soon we were engrossed in our work, ideas flowed as we cut and held photos to the card with double-sided tape that had a disconcerting habit of turning on itself at the critical moment. Dear Diary, the difficult part was actually choosing which photos to use. Deciding to have a two-page spread on the one theme it took a short time to sort enough photos to fill the small album Anne had in the bottom of the container. Time flew by. We laughed as we reminisced over the photos, wondered why some were posed and terribly artificial looking.

Before we knew it lunch time had ticked around. Neither felt like cooking, neither felt like taking too much time over food. Instead I raided the refrigerator finding yoghurt and fruit; strawberries that were first for the season. Coffee or tea would have ruined a lunch like that. Anne confessed she had a bottle of homemade crab apple wine in the cupboard in the hallway; and with a guilty look wondered if it were too early in the day to sample it.

Dear Diary, Anne couldn't have been more wrong! Not that I needed a wine at lunch, but Anne had a sore leg and sorely needed perking up. Before she had time to change her mind I found the bottle, opened it with much aplomb, and poured the clear golden liquid into Anne's best crystal glasses. After all if one is going to partake of crab apple wine, homemade, at lunch, it should be served in the best glassware, not in a washed out Vegemite glass.

The afternoon flew. The album grew, and by late afternoon the photos and the accompanying journaling expressed a true account of the adventure of two elderly ladies at the seaside.

Goodnight Dear Diary ... This day has been rather wonderful!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sand and Rocks

Dear Diary, The sun shone from a clear blue sky, the birds whistling a morning chorus louder and sweeter in spring, and as Anne and I had no particular plans in mind our breakfast table discussion centred on how to fill in the day. Not that there isn't enough to occupy two elderly ladies. Spring is in the air, our spirits soared, an outing seemed a wonderful way to enjoy the day.

Where to go? Well Dear Diary, Anne lives but a hop and a step from the beach. The waves slid onto the sandy shore, leaving a smattering of foam resembling the washing machine before the first load is placed in. There was no need to go further. Gathering together a couple of small towels, a flask of tea, two ham and mustard sandwiches on thinly sliced bread, because Dear Diary today we intended acting like the ladies we are, and secreted into a small container placed carefully in the basket were two pieces of Anne's delightful shortbread. We had enough sustenance to allow us several hours wandering along the tide mark.

The seagulls strode along the sand, convinced they had the sole rights to the beach. How I wished for a dog at that moment! We picked up shells, some delicate after their arduous journey from the deep, others split and cracked with age. That these shells add to the sand on the shoreline was obvious; some were closer to sand than shells. I carried a piece of stick, partly as a walking aid, and partly to poke amongst the seaweed lying in untidy heaps at the high tide mark. I like to think that one day I will find some ambergris or some other treasure; perhaps a letter in a bottle even! Ambergris looks such a ho-hum substance, but its worth as a fixative in perfumes is exceptional. I wonder if the rich and famous who dab their pressure points with expensive perfume realise part of that dabbing comes from the intestine of a sperm whale. As Anne and I discussed the connection between sperm whales and perfume we burst into fits of laughter. What a scenario!

We wandered across to a rocky outcrop where small pools glistened in the morning sun. Cockabullies darted between the jutting edges, and a star fish appeared to be lying on a ledge enjoying the warmth from the sun. So much life in those rock pools if we sit and watch. A large wave crashed closer sending us scuttling towards the relative safety of the sand.

As we hopped down from the last rock Anne slipped landing in a bundle on the damp sand. As I attempted to help her to her feet she groaned in pain clutching her ankle, which was caught under her body in an awkward way. It did not look good Dear Diary, and in a kind of panic I peered up and down the beach for a good Samaritan.

A gentleman rushed over and offered to help. As I began to thank him Anne exclaimed, "Richard! What are you doing here?"

Dear Diary, the knight in non-shining armour was indeed Richard. I didn't care what he was doing there! Instead between us we managed to haul Anne to her feet and using my stick with Richard and I on either side, we managed to get her to Richard's car, which was parked nearby. Anne rested for a while. We tried desperately to persuade her to go to Outpatients at the hospital, but she was insistent she was alright, in spite of the yellow/blue bruise makings itself obvious on her ankle.

As she kept on refusing to go for medical help, there was no option for us but to take her home.

After a short while she professed to be much better, and could indeed manage to walk with the aid of the stick. We agreed to review the situation the tomorrow.

I rustled up some more sandwiches, raided the tin for shortbread, and made a pot of tea. Richard stayed for a short while, but after drinking two cups of tea left ... he had chores to attend to. Anne gave me a wicked wink as he murmured his apologies and goodbye's ... she knows where his interests lie!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baking up a Storm?

Dear Diary, How lovely it is to share one's day with a friend.

Anne and I have been extremely busy after I expressed the desire to make an apron. Sadly I forgot to pop my rather elderly pinny into my bag in my rush to pack, and as we have been baking [shortbread and orange cake ... simply scrumptious], plus gathering vegetables from Anne's garden, my clothes were beginning to need washing almost every day.

Anne has a rather large trunk in her back room that we hauled into the kitchen where we tipped the contents onto the floor. While the appearance of chaos was almost evident we did find some surprises. I was not aware Anne was a closet stitcher! She had small pieces of many fabrics, large pieces of a small number of fabrics and cottons in almost every colours of the rainbow. Where to begin?

Aprons can be useful, or they can be decorative, or better still, they can be decorative and useful. That is the type of apron I like best! Anne also has a rather large collection of craft magazines. How she ever thinks she will make one article from each magazine is beyond my belief, but, as a good friend who wishes to preserve that status, I never uttered a word. [In fact Dear Diary, I managed to secret a bundle to my room to peruse at my leisure.]

One particular pattern captured our attention almost simultaneously. So easy to make a choice when we both preferred the one pattern! We measured, we cut, and we sewed a couple of aprons. One was very pretty featuring a cup cake fabric, but this was hardly practical for daily wearing in a busy kitchen, such as Anne's kitchen promises to become.

The second one we decided to use a pretty fabric in a plain salmon pink, combined with a print featuring pink buds, and pale gold chrysanthemums on a background of black and white stripes. In a frivolous moment I added some wide black ric rac braid, and commented how it would suit Niece. Anne burst into a fit of giggles. I looked at her wondering if perhaps she had lost part of her mind. Still laughing she said she thought the apron would more suit a tart. Dear Diary I was shocked! After taking a second, longer look, I could see where Anne was coming from. No ... Hester would not appreciate that apron. Pity though!

Changing tack and thinking along serious lines we decided upon using the same black and white fabric with the pink and gold flowers, but backing it with serviceable green gingham, and using the same gingham for ties, pockets, and a bottom trim. Anne thought a little white ric rac would be a pleasing addition, and not too tarty.

Dear Diary, the baking was successful. As the warm aroma drifted outdoors a tap, tap at the kitchen door alerted us to an impending visitor. Anne whispered to me it was probably Richard. I stared at Anne. Did she have a man friend? Who was this Richard? Was I to call him Richard or Dick? Before I had time to form a query an older gent walked into the kitchen.

Anne greeted him warmly and introduced me as her best friend, which I must admit made me feel rather proud.

We sat down to a slice of still warm orange cake accompanied by a cup of Earl Grey. Dear Diary, I resisted the temptation to hold out my little finger as we sipped from the bone china cups, part of a tea set that I assumed Anne kept only for show. Conversation flowed quickly. Richard is a great talker. His main topic of conversation included the name Hope. Hope this and Hope that. In the beginning I wondered if he had a crush on Hope, though had no idea who Hope was. Anne smiled a lot. The whole scenario was puzzling.

Later Richard thanked Anne for the conversation, cake and cuppa, and took his leave.

Dear Diary, it took me less than two minutes to quiz Anne. It turns out Richard has his sights set on a newly widowed lady a few streets away. He hasn't asked her out, indeed hasn't spoken to her, but feeds his fantasy by talking to Anne. Anne is such a kind person she plays along. I am not sure I could be bothered!

I must say that already in the few days I have been here at the seaside with Anne have been relaxing; I find laughter bubbles close to the surface regularly.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Up and Away

Dear Diary, If things need doing, 'tis best to do them fast! Maybe that is not the exact quote my Father used, but very close to it. Not that he ever decided a course of action quickly. It was his way to think, consider, think again, and then and only then, if the idea appeared to be suitable for the occasion, he acted. The fact that some of these actions took place months, or even years later was beside the point. A lesson told is a lesson learned.

Well things needed doing. Arrangements needed making. Actions were taken.

Dear Diary, here I am at the seaside home of my friend Anne, who was delighted to have me share her life for a time. At the moment no time limit has been placed on my visit; Anne is indeed a dear friend who understands the necessity I felt for getting away from the shambles at Niece's place.

I am too old to listen to ramblings of a pregnant girl, the rantings of the man who made her pregnant, and the fussing of the mother and her husband. Too much of a good thing!

In my naive innocence I blithely assumed the news of a pregnancy for a young couple, albeit unmarried, but promised, should be exciting and that planning for the arrival would fill the days with pleasure. Dear Diary, I am a fool, an old fool of a woman! Though deep inside I still feel my naive idea is how it should be. This poor child who will be born into a reasonably wealthy family, and therefore not poor in the normal expression of the word, will need to earn a place in the hearts of the parents. Unless of course, common sense rules.

Deciding upon a little subterfuge I announced I was cycling to the shop for the morning paper and disregarded Hester's astonished stare. No doubt she wondered why I needed a newspaper when one was delivered daily to the house. Each morning a cheerful lad tossed a plastic wrapped newspaper onto the lawn, often missing the garden, and sometimes even missing the property; instead loping it into the neighbour's tall tree that overhung our boundary fence. I had no desire to purchase a newspaper. I simply needed to use the public telephone box and blurt my troubles into Anne's sympathetic ear. Halfway through my tale Anne broke in with a suggestion; the suggestion I fervently wished for. And Dear Diary, here I am, at Anne's where life is calm.

Travelling down in the coach I peered out the smudgy window, though the scenery outside that window remained a mystery for much of the journey. My mind was not on the journey; my mind was not on the journey. Tumultuous thoughts tumbled through my mind; and for a moment Dear Diary, I feared for my sanity.

Once I arrived at the seaside Anne's cheerful presence immediately calmed my anxiety. A welcome cup of coffee combined with ham and mustard sandwiches helped ease my apprehension. Gradually a feeling of peace flowed over me, as I relaxed in quiet company. Dear Diary, I am here for I know not how long, but Dear Diary, already I am appreciating the absence of turmoil.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In the Morning

Dear Diary, I have a confession. The 'episode' in the dead of night upset my sleep. I tossed. I turned. Sleep evaded me until dawn when I fell into a fitful sleep punctuated by nightmares.

My life in this household has always been pleasant; small skirmishes quickly resolved, and relative peace reigned for years. The arguing, the midnight niggling, and a feeling that war is about to break out at any moment are upsetting. How Niece is coping is beyond thinking about. Phil will ensure life remains calm; he has a calming influence, but over recent days even Phil has shown signs of impatience. As I lay in bed, my thoughts racing, a headache developed. I did stagger to the bathroom for an Aspirin, which helped the head, and no doubt relaxed me enough to enable the fitful sleep.

As I awoke an idea sprung to mind. Escape! Take a break.

No sooner had the thought surfaced than Karen hurried to the bathroom. This morning sickness is dragging her down.

Dear Diary, I took it upon myself to offer assistance. From the depths of my subconscious a remedy emerged. A cup of sweet tea and a dry biscuit is an unusual combination if you give it any thought, and not one that I knew to be a positive cure. Still, better to try than to ignore the poor girl. By the time she entered the kitchen the 'remedy' was ready. Sitting her down at the table I insisted she try it. Admittedly Milk Arrowroot biscuits, without the addition of butter and honey as I prefer them, is rather boring. However, give Karen her due, she sipped and nibbled. Slowly she recovered, though whether it was the tea and biscuit or just that the sickness had passed I am not sure.

Niece came into the room ... she had set the washing machine going for a load of washing. As we all sat around the table the discussion centred on the row we had inadvertently heard during the night. Karen was apologetic. Jake was not sure he was ready to be a father; Karen desired this baby. The fact they had no home, and now Karen's hopes of finding a job in the short term were lessening by the day, we agreed things were not looking good.

Hester, egged on by an earlier conversation with Phil, enquired how long Karen and Jake would stay in this house.

Karen look shocked. Clearly the idea of moving out in the meantime had not crossed her mind. It appeared to me that a young couple expecting their first child, whether it was 100% welcome this early in the pregnancy, would prefer their own home; a place to raise a child. The look on Karen's face showed otherwise. Oh dear, I fear my nightmare is coming to fruition.

There are arrangements to be made!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Midnight Matters

Dear Diary, My last entry began, 'it almost beggars belief'. Once again that is the only suitable phrase to begin today's entry.

Men! I was flabbergasted to wake in the middle of the night to hear the sound of raised voices and sobbing. Honestly I didn't intend listening, but when no other noises break the darkness, and because the night was not that warm I had no desire to pull the blankets over my head to diminish the sound, I slowly wakened and listened. Dear Diary, I am not proud of that fact, and I implore you not to reveal this distasteful side of my nature, a side that seldom shows, because in all honesty I am nearly always a reasonably respectable quiet natured woman.

As the sounds became clearer it became obvious Karen and Jake were involved in a full-scale quarrel. Poor Karen! A girl in such a delicate situation should take care of her mental health. Sobbing inconsolably is not good. Jake was sounding forth about Karen's pregnancy!

"How!" he demanded, "did Karen manage to get pregnant?"

Dear Diary, I have to confess to smothering an escaping giggle. Did her have no idea at all? Or perhaps he had assumed that Karen was in the same category as the Virgin Mary? Immaculate conception or the like! From snippets of conversations between young school age children I thought everyone today knew about sex. [Sorry Dear Diary, I can find no other word, but I did whisper it.]

Jake was ranting on and on about how it would be impossible for him to support a wife and a child. Yet Dear Diary, I was of the impression the wedding was postponed. Let us hope it isn't cancelled! It struck me as humorous as there were Karen and Jake living with Karen's long lost and only recently found birth mother, and Jake was concerned about supporting others! He had made no effort to find a house for the pair of them, and by the way this conversation was heading it appeared as though a move would not be in the offing!

Just as I had decided to roll over and go back to sleep, closing my mind to the row that was now being carried on in quieter tones, the hallway light switched on.

Phil's voice boomed towards Karen and Jake, demanding they keep the din down, as he had to work in the morning. His last words were, "Things are always better in the light of day!" Wise words Phil! Thankfully Karen and Jake took the hint; their discussion died down; Karen's sobbing diminished. Peace descended upon the household, though heaven only knows what the morning will bring!

Monday, August 9, 2010

On the Baby's knuckle?

Dear Diary, It almost beggars belief that a modern miss of today's generation failed to consider pregnancy as a possible reason for her morning sickness. And that this girl's mother also failed to put two and two together. Dear Diary, it appears that some of the older generation do serve a useful purpose in a family! Not that I am suggesting I was on the lookout for a pregnancy, but honestly ... vomiting every morning does, surely, lead one to suspect pregnancy.

All is well now. Karen had a doctor's appointment this morning and arrived home full of smiles. We have left her to make the official announcement to the prospective Dad. It does seem that a wedding will be postponed until after the event. While this is not the solution I would have come up with, it ill behooves me to suggest an immediate wedding. Times have changed! No longer are unwed mothers frowned upon by the rest of society, and thankfully children born before nuptials do not need to be introduced to society as a little brother or sister. There is a lot to be said for today's open acceptance of children arriving into a family.

I did show Karen the lemon knitting wool and she is thrilled to think I am knitting already for the newborn. Frankly, Dear Diary, I would love if after her scan she would drop a hint as to the sex of the babe, but am loathe to suggest that as well. There are sometimes when an older relative should, as the young ones say, 'butt out'.

There is one problem that does cause me some concern. Where will the new arrival sleep? Will Karen and Jake still go house hunting, or will they simply dig in with Niece and Phil? No doubt a solution will be found, and once again I do not consider I should be asking such a question; well not at the moment anyway! Let this exciting piece of information have time to sink in with the others.

I am contemplating suggesting Phil built another bathroom! But hopefully Karen will soon pass this early stage and bloom.

In the meantime, I am sitting on the patio, in a sheltered corner where the sun is shining and the breeze is diverted, knitting the lemon wool.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Time for Needles?

Dear Diary ... Finally the cat is out of the bag, which is of course a simile for a major news announcement.

This morning there was a queue at the bathroom door. Niece explained that Karen wasn't feeling well. I headed for the toilet near the back door, the one those pottering in the garden should use as the floor is easily mopped; but for some reason it seldom sees a soul; the paper only needs changing once in a blue moon, but when nature calls it hardly matters which toilet we use. The moment I turned the corner to the back passage Niece called out not to bother.

"Why ever not?" I queried.

"Phil is in there!"

Oh, not much sense in walking the distance I surmised, and rather than stand in a queue for heaven only knows how long, I wandered outside to check on the garden. Nothing much altered there!

Outside the shed several stacks of timber were beginning to take shape. I remembered the frenzy of the 'boys' at the weekend, and while it still wasn't obvious the exact shape of the finished project it did show signs of being some sort of Gazebo. Mmmm ... A gazebo in the garden! I rather like the idea of that Dear Diary. Perhaps I could sit there in the cool of a summer evening and read a book?

What with Karen 'not feeling well' and spending too much time in the bathroom each morning, I could find myself knitting that lemon baby wool.

A thought entered my previously dim mind. Did Niece have any inkling of why Karen was not feeling well? From her actions and lack of excitement that the knowledge of such an event would normally invoke I feel that she is unaware of the fact she may be a grandmother within a few months. For a moment I contemplated my actions. Should I wait until Karen and Jake made an announcement, or should I drop loaded hints as to the state of affairs as I see it?

In a quandary I wandered back indoors. Thankfully the bathroom was empty. An older lady has a limited bladder capacity!

From the kitchen I heard murmuring voices. It was time for breakfast. Assuming a nonchalant air I strolled into the kitchen and, as is normal for me, reached for the packet of sachet oats that cook in seconds in the microwave oven.

"Anyone for oats?" I asked.

Karen looked pale. Obviously oats and Karen were not on the best of terms at this time of the morning. Niece nodded to me, and suggested I make a pot of porridge, as 'the boys' would be in for breakfast in a moment. One bowl or a pot of porridge makes little difference to me. After adding a little salt I stirred the pot until a nourishing meal was cooked. Dear Diary, I am fully aware one should not have sugar on porridge, but a little brown sugar sprinkled on the top, before pouring cooling milk, is a real treat. There is no better way to start a day than with a treat!

Taking the bull by the horns, literally Dear Diary ... we do not countenance bulls in the kitchen at Hester and Phil's place, I asked Karen how she was feeling. Just one look at her told me.

"Aunt Alice," she mumbled, "I feel awful!"

"Karen, my dear", I replied. "You will feel better in the mornings in a few weeks."

She looked at me astounded.

Dear Diary, the young of today seem to think anyone older than thirty knows nothing about the ways of the world!

"It's alright Karen," I said. "I think I know the reason for your malaise. I suggest you visit your doctor for confirmation."

A little smile crossed Karen's white peaky face.

"Aunt, nothing escapes your eyes does it!"

At this point, Dear Diary, the penny dropped with Niece. Her face was a picture, a movie picture, as expression after expression crossed her features.

"Karen! Karen! You are pregnant?"

Karen smiled; shyly replying she thought she might be.

"Karen," I interjected. "I am certain you are!"

It was a rather emotional moment Dear Diary. I have sorted out some knitting patterns for that lemon wool.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Workday Monday

Dear Diary, Mondays are busy days ... it has always been a policy of mine to tackle housework on a Monday, with the thought in mind that Tuesday can be a 'me day'; a day when I can indulge myself and not worry about tidying or cleaning. As I share this house with Niece I consider it my duty to help with the cleaning. Niece is rather pig-headed and tries to insist I keep out of her way.

Not that I would dream of going into the master bedroom! When passing the open door I am often dumbfounded at the state of the floor. Phil is untidy! Perhaps I should qualify that ... Phil is a man who has no idea of tidiness. He has shoes lying all over the floor and how either of them navigate their way to the door is beyond me. Poor Niece; she does try.

My quarters are my domain, and are in keeping with my work ethos. Keep it tidy all the time and no major clean-up is required. Shoes go into their rack at the bottom of the wardrobe; clothes that will do another turn are hung up. It is a simple ethic. Every so often, particularly on a beautiful, almost spring day like today, I undertake a mini spring clean. The bed is changed; the mattress protector washed; the duvet cover washed and hung out in the morning fresh air. Mats are shaken and the carpet swept. The furniture is polished with a wonderful lavender scented polish, and the lace curtains washed and hung out to dry. By mid afternoon everything was dry, bedding back on the bed and the curtains hung on shiny windows. There is a great deal of pleasure to be obtained from such a spring clean!

Tomorrow Dear Diary I will have a day to myself, a day when I can, if I choose, sit in my room, or out on the patio if the day is as lovely as today, and read.

What the rest of the household gets up to is their business. My sense of achievement today overcomes the feeling of tiredness.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Down by the Riverside

Dear Diary, The day dawned cool but sunny, and after days of relative inactivity it seemed a perfect day for a bike ride, and a picnic lunch.

Karen is still moping, Niece is busy cooking, and 'the boys' have begun a project in the shed. 'Us girls' have been volubly banned from even peeking through the door. There is hammering, and banging, and lots of talk and laughter echoing around the garden, as Jake and Phil work on whatever it is they are creating. Not a day for me to hang around Dear Diary; I feel like those goldfish must have felt when their bowl was out of water.

Winter is a perfect time for an outing on a cycle. The weather is conducive to a little exercise, and the fresh clear air and sunshine did make the trip pleasurable. I had thought of relenting and taking that lump of a dog with me, but his ability to react in the correct manner to a command quickly made me change my mind. I had visions of cycling along, watching the sights of nature, and that dog rambling into other properties. Much easier to go by oneself, even if I do feel almost sorry for a dog confined to a yard.

Not bothering to make a lunch [Niece was baking and had taken over the kitchen] I stopped off at the little bakery; the same bakery that makes the most wonderful mini apple tarts. I do indulge occasionally, and have been known to take a packet home for a sweet after the main course. Served with custard and cream they are scrumptious.

This morning a warm aroma wafted out onto the street; fresh bread sitting on the counter was too much to resist. Not wanting to make sandwiches I simply popped into the little supermarket and purchased a couple of slices of ham and a tomato. While there was an array of different varieties of bread, some with icing and decorated with coconut, other plaited and filled with a mix of cinnamon and sugar, I decided on a bacon and cheese roll. This particular bakery is obliging and didn't refuse my request for a dab of butter in the middle of the roll.

Thinking that cycling can make one hungry I felt no guilt at the muesli slice I chose as a small treat. A bottle of water completed my meal.

The tricycle is an excellent mode of transport being well balanced with easy pedalling. I am so pleased with the basket on the handlebars ... just the place to store my lunch!

The countryside was green, verdant, with a slight dew when I first set out. As the sun rose in the sky the dew dissipated, and although a slight breeze ruffled the trees, it was a pleasant morning. My destination was beyond a little concrete bridge with sides so low that it felt as though I was riding in the slow moving river. There is a restful glen where an old fallen tree offers a place to sit and contemplate.

I sat. I contemplated.

The magpies warbled. I wondered if I came every day could I teach them a few words, or even a small tune to whistle? Once, many years ago, I heard of a man owing a talking magpie and supposed a lot of patience would be required for such a feat. Dear Diary, I do not need a bird, especially I do not need a magpie as they have a serious reputation of taking shiny articles for their nests. I have never witnessed such actions, and suspect fables arise because some folk do not appreciate the cheek of the black and white birds.

Nearby, sheep called for their lambs; a farmer was busily erecting a fence; and a large lone bull lumbered around a small paddock where he was imprisoned. The sun filtered through the canopy of trees and somehow Dear Diary, I think I must have dozed. When I checked the time on my watch it showed well into the afternoon; time for me to pack up, and pedal back home.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Dear Diary, the past few days have flown, no excuses offered for my apparent lack of attention.

While life is moving slowly onwards, or should one say 'going forward', and with no visible signs of disruptions in the household, perhaps my tumultuous thoughts were misplaced? It is difficult to say.

Niece is rummaging through old bridal magazines determined that etiquette will be followed to a 'T' while Karen shows a marked lack of interest. Thankfully Jake has found employment, which means the house is devoid of male dominance during the day. In the evening Jake and Phil prefer to take off down to the public house down the road. They appear to enjoy each other's company. Or, as I secretly wonder, are they just thankful to escape from all the females at home!

In the meantime I have disbanded ideas of moving; a small niggling doubt lies in the dark recess of my mind. I try to avoid allowing it to tumble into the forefront. At least I have given the idea some growing space, and should the need ever arise, at least I won't be thrown into turmoil.

It does seem rather strange that Karen has made no effort to find employment, and her frequent visits to the bathroom have left me wondering. Niece has not queried their frequency, so why should I? But I am most suspicious!

As for that huge dog! Dear Diary, I put my foot down. Even though this house is in a strict legal sense not mine, I do live here. The risk of being completely bowled over has did not escape my attention. I protested loud and long! That brings me to another strange co-incidence ... Karen sided with me. She stated, firmly, and being Niece's child firm is indeed firm, that no walloping lump of a dog should be indoors anyway. This, in spite of the fact, this creature had lived indoors in their previous abode! As Alice would say, Curiouser and curiouser?

On my last trip to town as I meandered around the shops, not having anything particular purchase in mind, for some inexplicable reason I was drawn to the little craft shop across the street from the butchery, which incidentally often has a pig's head, with an apple thrust into its mouth, as the central window display. For all those children who believe pork is a type of meat you buy and serve with apple sauce, perhaps this little display might jog their memories as to its source! Dear Diary, a small bubble of laughter sprung to my lips as my fingers almost typed sauce. Still as my old mother always said, Laughter is better than medicine.

This small craft shop is jam-packed with treasures, each housed in their own special corner. While one thinks of a room with four corners, this shop has cunningly devised rooms within rooms, all separated by displays, thus giving a corner to each display. Quite ingenious for such a small space! I always greet the owner with a cheery "How are you today?" She sits in a small corner [yet another one!] a little back from the counter, where she has clear visibility of shoppers entering, and should she spy them looking puzzled she is there to help or advise.

Dear Diary, I have no idea why, but I ended up at the section that houses knitting wool, where I was drawn to a pretty lemon baby wool.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Aunt Alice is taking a short break because visitors are expected ... see ya in about a week!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sad Thoughts

Dear Diary, As soon as I left the room a hubbub of talk echoed around those walls. Niece's tones, strident today, protested that she had not intended to stop me from having a puppy, which Dear Diary I knew to be a bit of political expediency. She had no desire to be cast in the role of a bossy witch! Karen loves animals and would happily have a menagerie living within these hallowed walls! I sincerely trust that Hester does not encourage that particular fancy!

As I sat quietly in my room, with I have to admit, my ear close to the living room wall, several thoughts raced through my mind.

It appears to me that if Karen and Jake continue to stay here, and from their noticeable lack of house hunting that does seem a logical conclusion, then someone has to go. I feel that someone must be me.

As I looked around what had been my haven for more years than I cared to remember, it struck me that I had little to show for my many decades. I suppose that living in another's home, even though it has been made your home, does counter any tendencies to hoard. Hester is a hoarder ... she must take that from the other side of the family! Several cupboards throughout this amply endowed cupboard house are full of what an unkind person could classify as junk. Of course the old adage 'another's junk is someone else's treasure' sprung to mind, but just the same, junk is junk!

I was a child of the depression and as such possessions were few and far between. Presents were invariably useful; books were treasured, and often borrowed from the library. Today possessions are valued in a way that I fail to understand.

I do have several bookshelves full to over brimming with treasured tomes, some which have moved with me throughout my life, some accepted with pleasure on a birthday or at Christmas. Looking around I realised that my treasures were few, but treasured never-the-less. Should I shift it would not be difficult to pack all my belongings into a few tea chests.

A lone tear rolled down my cheeks. I love living here, and have no desire to move. Where would I go? Why should I move?

Slowly my sense of survival kicked in as I thrust all sad thoughts about shifting out of my mind.

Dear Diary, surely this situation will resolve itself ... won't it?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Kerfluffle

Dear Diary, A tornado has swept through this household! I have spent the last few days hiding in my room, where hopefully, I can escape the worst of the storm.

It all began with a loud knock on the door, and a voice calling out. Not taking all that much notice I carried on doing what captured my attention for that moment; exactly what escapes me. I suppose some would say I was aging, and with that aging undoubtedly comes a little memory loss. Not with me! Not this time anyway. My poor old brain doth protest at the upheaval, the noise, and shuts down from taking further information on board.

It soon became apparent what caused the kerfluffle. Jake and Karen had returned. Their property sold quickly and not wishing to waste a moment they gave vacant possession at the end of 10 days, packed up some of their belongings, leaving the rest in a storage shed, and headed to Niece's. It's alright for them Dear Diary, but honestly, surprises of that magnitude do little to balance my equilibrium.

Niece bustled around, making up a bed, finding space for the numerous suitcases and bags full of essentials. Why couldn't they have stored more in that shed? Why couldn't have they found a place of their own first?

But, Dear Diary, there was worse to come. A huge slobbering dog bounded around like an elephant in a china shop. And yes, Dear Diary, I know it should be a bull in a china shop ... this creature is larger, and more destructive than a bull! I did enquire as to its breeding. To date I have had no positive reply. It not only licks anybody and everybody, it sniffs crutches, especially female ones, and once I caught it lifting its leg near the end of the arm chair. For that little action it received a good swift kick that sent it yapping outdoors.

To say I am unhappy is an understatement!

After several hours of skulking in the background it was time for me to make a statement. I waited until I had an audience; the dinner table seemed suitable. Not finding a quiet moment in which to make my announcement I banged the rim of my water glass with a spoon. That movement had the desired effect! Silence reigned for a moment; a moment I grasped.

"Family," I began, " I have something important to say!"

Four faces stared at me. It was at that stage I wished I had a song to sing, just to create a slight distraction, but all the songs I know are from a vintage of which they have no knowledge.

"Niece," I said, "I have made a decision about owning a puppy."

This had the desired effect Dear Diary. Niece looked chastened, and it fleetingly crossed my mind she may be having an attack of the guilts. Karen and Jake just stared at me, for they had no idea I had contemplated owing a dog.

"All the noise, all the bumbling antics from that [and here I hesitated as the word that sprang to mind was useless] huge slobbering creature has put me off dogs! How I ever thought a dog could enhance my life is a mystery."

Hester joined the conversation at that point and suggested that perhaps once Karen and Jake had their own place a little puppy would be welcome.

Dear Diary, I know those words were a platitude made because she knew my comments about that slobbering huge mutt were correct.

I made my point, finished my meal and washed up before heading, once again, back to the sanctuary of my quarters.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Rainbow

Dear Diary, what a wonderful sight displayed for anyone wishing to look! This morning as I opened the drapes it was obvious rain is in the offing. Of course one expects rain in winter, and as long as it doesn't pour for days on end keeping one indoors indefinitely, then I am happy. Walking around the paddocks in a light drizzle leaves a feeling of well-being. While the hair might droop, the skin is left feeling refreshed; it poses no difficulty to change any clothing holding raindrops.

The picture on view was wondrous. A double rainbow spread its glorious colours across the sky. Not often does a double rainbow appear, and when they do fill the skies we never have a camera to capture the moment.

Dear Diary, I have never found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I did see where this one ended. A distant hillside was bright. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet light lit a circle of the hillside up. Had one not seen the rainbow it would have been easy to imagine a spacecraft perching on the slope. Except of course the circle of light gave a view like looking through 3D glasses [or how I think looking through 3D glasses would appear, as to date I haven't taken the opportunity of attending a three dimensional movie]. The grass colour ranged through a kaleidoscope of colours of the rainbow creating a picture seldom seen.

As I stood watching clouds raced across the sky; patches of blue were covered in a soft eiderdown of white fluffy clouds, some with ominous dark grey bottoms, and the breeze grew stronger. Without warning splats of rain splashed on the window; the air grew colder, and the drapes moved alarmingly in the building wind. I closed the window, sad that all vestiges of that wondrous rainbow had disappeared into a world of grey.

Dear Diary, I feel that today is a day to spend indoors. I have two books as yet unopened; perhaps I will write a letter first, or perhaps I might just sit and watch the day go by.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Bike Ride

Dear Diary, As yet I haven't explained my reasons to Niece why I would like a dog, nor do I intend to, now that they have shown such disapproval of what I consider a simple act that any human being might make. As life is still difficult, today seemed to be the day most suited for a long bike ride.

After packing a small lunch I set off heading west ... go west young man ... hoping not to meet any buffalo, wagon trains, nor painted Indians. I guess I attended too many cowboy movies in my youth! Those days are long gone ... television caused the demise of many movie theatres, and I doubt whether today's young would consider a Saturday matinee exciting enough. Or perhaps they would actually enjoy such an outing. Popcorn and icecreams, sitting in the dark and watching a newsreel, cartoons, followed by the main movie figured largely in the lives of last century.

The day dawned sunny, after a cool night, and a light head wind made pedalling an act of exercise. As I wended my way I kept my thoughts focused on the return journey, when, fingers crossed it didn't change, would be of assistance. The roads were busy enough for a lady with intentions of a leisurely bike ride. Not having any particular destination in mind I meandered up side roads, some gravelled, some sealed; stopped to admire the paddocks green with crops peeking through the soil, and leaning over gateposts to listen to the noises of the countryside. A flock of galahs wheeled overhead, while their raucous less attractive cousins the white corellas, flew from a newly ploughed paddock rising like a dusting of dandruff onto a black jacket. Automatically I raised my hand to scratch my head, presuming the metaphor of corellas and dandruff caused that instantaneous reaction.

A small side road leading down to a river bed with water flowing over the spillway proved to be a wonderful spot to stop for a bite of lunch. Leaning my tricycle against an ancient tree I found a low branch to serve as a chair. The noon sun was warming. It would have been simple to have rested my eyes; maybe I did. For some reason a white movement on the spillway captured my attention. I stared in wonderment. An egret was fishing for his lunch, only a few metres from where I sat. He strutted along the river bank, stopping to peer into the murky water, strode along some more, and after finding the fish were elusive, took up a fishing attitude on the spillway itself, looking, like a child waiting to cross a busy highway, left, and then right, and left again. The fish were either not there, or were wise enough to keep hidden in the shadow of overhanging branches.

A noisy truck rumbled over the bridge. The egret took off, his long neck pointing forward as a global positioning system. I watched, entranced, until he was a white blob in the distant sky.

Dear Diary, that little episode completely made my day. I turned for home feeling refreshed ... a little escape from the mundane restored my faith in the world.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Decision Time

Dear Diary, I must apologise for my absence. Other pastimes captured my attention. As well the atmosphere has been, shall we say, cool.

My announcement about a puppy did not go down well. Niece screwed up her nose; in disgust I thought, whilst that man of hers declared that no dog was coming into his domain. Dear Diary, I kept out of their way for days, but decided that as I was quite within my rights in desiring a puppy, and as they were the ones showing a complete lack of regard of others' wishes, there was no reason for me to hide. Not that I scrambled under the bed whenever I heard them nearing my room ... that would have been childish, plus as I have a bed base it would be impossible to scramble there.

Last night as we sat at the dining table that Niece had spent some time prettying up; a crystal bowl filled with colourful blooms, the second best dinner set that is decorated with huge leaves that overpower most meals, damask tablecloth and matching napkins, which proved to me she had an attack of the guilts as to her ungenerous behaviour. I was a lady Dear Diary. Politely I asked for the salt and pepper, offered the gravy boat to Phil, and cleared the table between courses. Now that I look back it was almost amusing; excepting I was not amused; not that I consider I have anything in common with Queen Victoria.

The meal was a gourmet delight; Hester had taken endless trouble not only in the cooking but in presentation. To show my appreciation for her efforts I complimented the cook. But Dear Diary, I did let them suffer a while longer. At the moment I am contemplating the wisdom of bringing Briar home. How dreadful it would be if she was made unwelcome.

There were no recriminations over Greensmith and Redshaw, but then again they were confined to a small watery space. While they were colourful their lives did not truly add much to mine. Swimming around and around the glass bowl day in and day out must have been boring. The water plants swaying in the bowl were soothing to the soul, the flash of gold behind a larger plant did please the eye, but overall their existence added little to make my day exciting.

A puppy ... now that would add another dimension. I picture a windy morning, the sun not too high in the sky, with a puppy and I running [sedately] across the hilltop, my hair flying in the breeze, and a puppy chasing leaves in a surge of excitement. I could even knit a little jacket for the cold days of mid-winter; perhaps a rose pink cable version? That would definitely be different.

Would I be allowed to bring a puppy indoors? Would Niece allow a dog flap to be fitted to the door? If not I would need to get up in the night should she need toileting. No Dear Diary, I am not wholly convinced owning a puppy is such a good idea. However, I will not let on to Niece and that man of hers for a day or three ... let them stew!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Choice

Dear Diary, I am in a state of high excitement! The owner of the little dogs was home and delighted to show me the puppies, which are for sale. It must have been providence that sent me that way today.

Unfortunately, according to the dogs' mistress, a little fornicating had taken place, and the puppies were no thoroughbreds, would not be suitable to show, and sadly wouldn't be sold with papers. Such a small insignificant fact! I don't want a show dog; I just want a dog! While not particularly fussy as to breed, a smaller dog would be suitable. Dear Diary I can't imagine Niece allowing a huge Great Dane or a Rottweiler roaming the property. I can imagine the consternation the neighbouring cats might have though!

After showing me the brood I decided on one of the little girl dogs, a delightful black ball of fluff. [Already it is becoming obvious I could turn into one of those dog lovers that imagine their pet is their child ... I must avoid that situation!] The puppies need inoculations and a veterinary tests just to make sure all was well, though I am positive this little puppy will pass all tests with flying colours.

As I cycled home names for this little beauty flickered through my mind. Chloe? No, that was a cat's name. Liquorice? Too sweet for a dog, in fact rather daft the more I considered it. Bella? That is extremely popular today, but no. It is not easy, in fact I imagine parents have a similar problem in sorting a name for their offspring. I did decided not to ask Niece, as two many choices would only make the matter more difficult.

Would this new arrival fit into the basket of my cycle? Oh Dear Diary, I can take her on day trips where she can experience the delightful smell of the countryside. I must buy a leash, preferably one in a distinctive colour, and some toys. A mental list grew until I hardly remembered what was at the top of it.

Just as I turned into Niece's gateway a name sprung to mind. I would call the new arrival Briar.

"Hester", I called. "Guess what?!"

And not giving her a chance to reply I bounded indoors announcing breathlessly, "I have ordered a puppy called Briar!"

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Out and About

Dear Diary, I am becoming slowly bored with the build-up of expectations and excitement. Niece has persuaded that man of hers to dig a new patch of garden and extolling him to plant it with vegetables as, she fondly imagines, Karen and Jake would prefer fresh home-grown vegetables to those purchased at the supermarket.

The house has had a spring clean, and it isn't spring. I was of the understanding that Karen and Jake were going into a home of their own in the vicinity. I sincerely hope so!

As a protest I wheeled my tricycle onto the footpath in search of adventure. Cleaning and gardening in excess is detrimental to my good health.

Freewheeling along with nary a thought in my head, the breeze flicking at the small piece of hair peeking from underneath my helmet, slowly my irritation cooled as I contemplated a destination. The beach was too far away; anyway the breeze would be almost gale-force there. My legs baulked at the thought of a hill climb. One day, I imagined, I would pack a small bag and cycle for days, stopping where an interesting view presented itself. Maybe I could buy one of those small tents that folded as small as a decent sized handbag? Smiling to myself I pictured Niece's face when she found out I fancied camping out. Her camping experiences fitted around large caravans and caravan parks that had all the mod-cons. Seldom did Hester and Phil cook on a BBQ; never were they tempted to cook with a camp oven, or over a tripod on an open fire.

The mental picture of them sleeping around a campfire and showering with a bucket of water elicited a loud laugh from me. The situation was enough to make most, who knew Niece, titter. As the ideas swirled in my imagination no real reason as to why I shouldn't, one day, attempt a camping trip rose to mind.

Hardly aware I had cycled beyond the town boundary, a barking dog alerted me to a situation that cyclists detest. Dogs chase cyclists! A near disaster of my youth crossed my mind ... as I had cycled to meet a friend one particular house that I had to pass had barking dogs. Usually a short 'shutup' deterred them. This particular day nothing I said worked. Quickly panic set in. Those in the know insist a dog knows when a person is afraid of them; I think they are correct.

As the dog continued to bark and rush towards the fence I was cycling by, and my earnest entreaties were ignored, it became obvious I could be under attack. That particular time, as the dog jumped the fence and came running towards me I lashed my feet out, swinging my legs in a wide arc in the hope the dog would not attack. I was lucky. The dog didn't attack; the owner noticing the pending altercation, called it to heel.

Today as I peered around for the source of the barking I became aware of a beautiful dog that had half a dozen gorgeous puppies tumbling in the yard behind a strong fence. Mother dog was simply guarding her offspring.

I slowed down, finally hopping off my tricycle to take a closer look at the puppies. Dear Diary, I remembered I had promised myself a dog after the demise of Greensmith and Redshaw. Perhaps one of these little beauties would settle with me? Should I knock on the door, though in doing so I would need to negotiate the gate and path that was obviously the domain of Mother Dog and the puppies.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Letter

Dear Diary, Today was a red letter day. Perhaps not a red-letter day, but certainly a letter day.

Niece came bouncing into the lounge where I sat trying to concentrate on a particularly obscure Cryptic Crossword, and wondering at the same time why I just couldn't put it away and forget all about it. But ... these things are sent to try us! The dictionary lay on the floor, pieces of paper and a pen and a pencil near the chair, all in readiness for an inspired thought. They were few and far between.

Hester hurried in, waving in obvious delight a letter. I looked! Letters in this day and age are an oddity. Some days I wonder if the art of letter writing has disappeared with the turn of the century. This letter appeared to particularly magnificent. Just imagine, Dear Diary, a magnificent letter. The mind boggles! Not only could it be called magnificent, but also elegant. Two pages closely penned ~ in ink ~ on parchment-like paper.

For a moment this epistle reminded me of the aerogramme of last century. These small letters, while important for keeping in touch particularly with family overseas, invariably had one serious downfall. The writer began the aerogramme with carefully spaced words, telling of their latest adventure. As they reached the final space it seemed they always remembered another scintillating piece of news. It was at that stage the writing became smaller, and cramped, and often the last sentence was glued down upon sealing. When the recipient opened the mail words were missing.

But this letter today was no aerogramme. This letter came in a matching envelope and it was obvious Niece was excited.

Not wishing to hold her up on imparting its contents, I placed my pen on the floor near the dictionary ~ I had no inspiration for the remaining clues and wondered why I bothered.

Looking expectantly towards Hester I waited for her news. She was clearly thrilled with its contents.

"Aunt Alice", she trilled, this is the most wonderful news!"

I waited.

"This letter is from Karen and Jake! After their visit they decided to put their little flat on the market. It sold almost immediately!"

"Where are they going to live?"

"That's the most wonderful part Aunt," Hester replied. "Just before take over date they are both handing in notice at their work and are coming to live in our town! Oh isn't it just marvellous?"

I agreed, thinking that Karen and Hester had a lot of catching up to do, but deep down had a small reservation. Karen and her mother were very much alike in their ways. While this move is lovely for them both, I do wonder.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

An Opportunity

Dear Diary, small adventures occur when one least expects them, and once in a blue moon we make a discovery that defies the law of generalities.

As I peered at my watch [I really must either buy, or pass a hint to anyone who will listen for a watch that has an easily read face], it became obvious I had time to spare. No shopping beckoned, the afternoon sunshine had gone into a snoot and hid behind fluffy white clouds; the wind whipped around the shopping precinct, and I did not feel inclined to stand at a bus station for ages, yet wasn't keen to move too far away. A small building beckoned, its older facade reminiscent of a bygone era. The windows were shining, and the door open inviting passers by to enter, while a sandwich board sign on the pavement announced the first week of a new Op Shop, the profits to be distributed among several local charities.

Dear Diary, an Opportunity Shop is an Aladdin's Cave! Many fascinating finds hide within. Treasures that belonged to another, often discarded when an elderly relative left this world and not wanted by family, find their way to Opportunity Shops. Thank goodness Niece isn't with me! She is particularly fussy; hints that goods for sale in this type of establishment are second hand, inferring in a haughty manner that second hand means second best. Only once did I persuade her to enter a Thrift Shop. She, hesitatingly, stood on the threshold, sniffing that particular aroma that sometimes inhabits these places that house pre-loved articles, and rather rudely I thought, announced in a carrying voice that the air stunk! This was a few years ago, and being less circumspect than now, I told her to grow up. Today, Dear Diary, I would phrase that a little more gracefully.

Never again did I bother to ask if she wanted to purchase goods from the Op Shop. When I did arrive home with a treasure in a plastic shopping bag, I made sure I washed and ironed it before wearing it. Invariably she ooohed and aaahed at the wonderful cut of a skirt, or the designer label I allowed to be prominently displayed. At the same time I maintained a diffident expression as I suggested the garment in question was an old one that I found in the back of the wardrobe. While she may have looked suspicious, there were never any direct accusations of fibbing.

This shop had a brightly painted interior, a warm beige with a hint of pink; the colour of the paint suggested that a few cans of left-over paints had been mixed in one large can. The overall effect was inviting. A highly polished wooden table acted as a counter. As I approached that table a lingering smell of lavender drifted towards my nostrils. It reminded me of my school-days when we had to polish our school desks with polish. Some children brought floor polish from home, while others used a lavender furniture polish. I begged my parents for a tin of lavender polish and weekly spread a small amount over the top of the desk, polishing it to a high sheen with an old pair of bloomers; the polish and bloomers I kept in a biscuit tin that held shortbread given as a Christmas gift years earlier.

While I was not particularly interested in clothing this time, I did need to fill in time, so wandered around, fingering jackets and woollen jerseys some that would no doubt be purchased for the wool, pulled down and crocheted into squares for a warm blanket.

In the corner stood a bookcase with a variety of books for sale. There is one thing, Dear Diary, that I dislike about bookshelves. To read the titles it is necessary to bend one's head sideways. A crick in the neck is the unpleasant result! As I was straightening up to move along a little further I happened to notice a copy of Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. This book was one of my favourites as a child, and while I had watched the wonderful television series, I had lost my original copy of the book. I suspect it was loaned to a friend and not returned. I don't know Dear Diary, whether it is my age, or whether I tend to spend some time remembering the past, but I occasionally have the urge to re-read these childhood classics. Who could not be entranced by Anne's adventures?

I picked the book up and opened the flyleaf to refresh my mind of the story. Imagine my utmost surprise when I read the inscription on the facing page. It was my old book! Memories came flooding back as I recalled how it came into my possession ... it was a school prize, and while the ink was faded, my name was inscribed on the label. Dear Diary, of course I bought the book. As I still had a few minutes I related the saga to the lady on the desk ... she smiled and told me that many similar tales abound.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Travelling Children

Dear Diary, the days are indeed cooler, though if one finds a sheltered sunny spot it is most pleasant; the nights exceptionally brisk.

The household is quiet. No word from Karen, which leaves Niece feeling sad and neglected. After a huge sigh I enquired as to what was wrong. There was nothing wrong! Why the sigh? I didn't ask. Silence is often the better part of valour.

This morning after a sudden urge to catch a bus and go to town, I hastened through ablutions, dressed warmly, and hurried to the bus stop. Bus trips can be rather fun affairs if the traveller is aware of her, or his, surroundings. The riders this morning were true to form.

Settling into a seat not too far behind the driver, characters began to show themselves. Across the aisle sat a young mother with a pre-school lad. He sat quiet ... for the first five minutes. Boredom set in, and Mother, after one or two half-hearted attempts at seducing him into good behaviour, gave up, allowing him to turn around on his seat and poke his tongue out at the elderly couple directly behind. At first they ignored him. He persisted, his face screwing up grotesquely as he slid his tongue in and out of his rather large mouth like a lizard catching a fly. The gentleman, dressed in a sober grey suit, with a tartan waistcoat [I heard later it was Tartan day today, so guessed had some Scottish heritage], a pale blue shirt buttoned tightly at the neck and held even closer with a striped tie in pale sky blue and a deep navy. On his lap sat a darker grey fedora, which was in remarkably excellent order considering they were the fashion for gentlemen when I was young, leaned forward as if to say something to the child. How I wished Hester were with me. Then again, I didn't. She would not have tolerated the tongue sticking out episodes from this pre-schooler! A few sharp words from her tongue may have embarrassed him so that he would have sat down and faced the front! The gentleman changed his mind, which was rather a shame. Instead he began an animated conversation with his wife, who was dressed in a style reminiscent of a much earlier period.

Dear Diary, as I sat and appraised these elderly folks I thought how neat they were in appearance. Shiny shoes, his outfit was sparkling as though it had not long come from the dry-cleaners, and her dress and matching coat in a warm woollen fabric of mid blue with a beautiful butterfly brooch on the coat lapel, and black shoes were dated, in the eyes of some, but to me, marked this couple as fastidious, but with taste.

The mother of the lad, her nose in one of those gaudy magazines full of the comings and goings of movie stars, continued to not notice her son's behaviour. Other passengers were beginning to whisper among themselves about his behaviour, when a voice from a few seats behind bade him sit around and face the front. I have to admit, Dear Diary, I thought the admonisher extremely courageous! It is not the done thing to admonish children, especially if they do not belong to your family. Was World War 111 about to break out?

Just as suddenly as he had stood up and began showing us his tongue, which Dear Diary, was unremarkable as tongues go, the boy sat down and began to whimper. The mother turned to him and told him to be quiet! He did as bid!

The rest of the journey took us through the countryside where cattle grazed on limited pastures, and where hay was strewn conveniently as a supplement.

Shopping was uneventful. I poked around a few shops, purchased a magazine to peruse in a quiet corner in the shopping mall where I ate a salad roll.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Aftermath

Dear Diary, I suppose we can be appeased with cakes, but surely for only so long? Niece had a tasty array on the bench, cooling on their wire racks, icing decorating the mud cake. Decadence! Phil had a head start on me; he didn't wash his hands; hygiene is important to me!

Expecting to see a plate of goodies on the table, or the bench, I was surprised the wire trays were the only signs of the baking marathon. Wasn't it only a few minutes previous Hester had called us in? Knowing, as we did, she had spent much of the morning baking, was it abnormal for us to expect a small sample?

Instead Phil stood near his wife, a look of helplessness across his features. Glancing towards him I opened my mouth to enquire what was wrong when suddenly I noticed tears rolling down Niece's cheeks, running into a rivulet on her chin, and dripping onto the bodice of her dress. No sound erupted from her; just the tears which showed no sign of abating. Phil shrugged his shoulders inferring he had no idea what the problem was, and indicating he didn't know what to do. Men! So often they abdicate the real emotions of life. It was plain to me. Niece had a particularly emotional week or two, culminating with the showdown at Mrs Over-the-Street's afternoon tea soiree. I could have informed him that women can hold themselves together in times of family crisis; often it is a matter of having to! Once the dust settles the 'little woman' allows herself to relax, and it is at that stage the happenings of the recent past flood the mind and tears are needed to wash the hurt away. But I didn't tell him. He wouldn't have understood.

Instead I flicked the electric kettle on, suggested Phil find cups and coffee, or tea, and perhaps put a couple of those delicious gingernuts on a plate and take the lot into the dining room. We would sit at a table; we would work through this situation. Phil realising he was roped in to an emotional moment, abdicated faster than a greyhound at the final post. He grabbed his cup, placed two biscuits on the saucer, and headed out to his shed; his escape.

Oh well, Dear Diary, it seemed that this morning was one for the girls. I steered Niece into the dining room, placed the biscuits in the centre of the table, moving the crystal bowl full of apples and oranges and bananas to the far edge, returned to the kitchen for a tray with milk and sugar, the tea pot and two good cup from the tea set. This morning was not going to degenerate into a slap-up cuppa.

Niece pulled herself together, as I knew she would. She played mother, pouring the tea with aplomb, and smilingly passed a cup and saucer to me that I accepted with thanks. There are occasions, Dear Diary, when a display of culture over-rides the most painful of life's experiences. Why tea and biscuits falls high in that category I have no idea.

Niece sipped on the tea, nibbled on the biscuit. "Go on Hester," I said, "dunk it!"

She looked shocked! Dunking gingernuts had not become commonplace in this household! It was funny Dear Diary, but Niece dunked those biscuits like an old hand! To my mind it appeared she was an old hand at dunking! Each day brings a new discovery!

Later, completely recovered, Niece haltingly tried to explain her tears. I halted her explanation, assuring her that recent days would make anyone weepy. She reached over the table and clasped my hand ... there was no need for further words.