Lisa’s Stuff

One of the things I was (and still am a bit) most proud of about my early adult life was the fact that when I left home aged 18, I never moved back. I packed up all the belongings I felt were important to me at the time (you know ghetto blaster, Alanis Morrissette CD, liquid eyeliner) and moved on. At the time I wasn’t interested in keeping much from my childhood. I was tasting freedom for the first time and I was all about the future.

That seems like such a long time ago now and the person writing this is not the same as the girl who left home in her boyfriend’s car to travel from Devon to London in 1997, or even the young woman who lived for all her 20’s in London, the very place she wanted to be and the place she came to dislike so much. Now I have a child, a family of my own, and it has bought my past into sharp relief. It’s made me reexamine memories long forgotten. It made me wish I’d kept more of my “stuff”, physical evidence that, I too, was once a child.

My mum called a few weeks ago to tell me that she’d found a box marked “Lisa’s Stuff” in amoung the boxes she’d been storing, some since they moved in 1998. She said that it definitely appeared to be mine, although neither she nor I could think what was in it. So it was with great excitement that I collected the box from my sister’s when we visited over Christmas. I couldn’t wait to get it home and take a look.

The box was rather damp and mildewed, and fell apart once I removed the parcel tape. On the top was a doll. I hadn’t seen her in over 20 years, but then I don’t remember ever not having her. I believe it was given to me as a baby. She was a little moldy and her felt eyes and one cheek had been lost along the way but here she was, something so firmly from my early childhood, it was a little bit like being punched in the stomach.

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And it carried on like that. I felt like Tony Robinson, uncovering the layers of history.

Next came the books.

These were the books I learnt to read with, the same kind of ladybird books I had wanted to collect for Oscar. Here were piles of them, every picture dragging me back. Then the Story Teller binders, a magazine and tape I got every week for 6 months when I was about 5. I listened to and later read those stories over and over again, for years. I doubt my parents realised just what an amazing investment these would be.

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There were beloved Enid Blyton books (nobody laugh at the title Mr Pink Whistle Interferes please – this was a much more innocent age!!! 😉 ) and annuals and various other titles. It was a joy to hold them again, read the words, look at the illustrations and remember.

Then there was the school work – mostly from the late Juniors and early Seniors. I found project work about Australia and the Second World War and a whole folder of stories I’d written. I sat up way into the night just reading them. It’s amazing just how much I was influenced by Australian soap operas as an 11 year old and it’s even more amazing that my wonderful teacher at the time, Mrs Tooth, encouraged my style. Bless her. Even back then she told me I “considered my audience”! Although I did also have a taste for the slightly macabre, with titles such as The Holiday Terror and The Birthday Horror (don’t ask!)

I had such a fantastic evening, rediscovering parts of me I’d left behind. I found a jigsaw, that we had always kept at my paternal grandmothers (no idea how I got it) and this has been given to Oscar, along with some of the books. The Kylie Annual 1990 was a real hoot and I also found a couple of photos. One was my class photo from my first year in infant school (I look just like a long haired, brunette, female version of the boy!). The other was from when I won a competition at a holiday park in Cornwall when I was 11. I look so lovely, so tanned and happy.

Then as I was looking through the books, I found a print out of a piece I’d written about myself when I was 13, called All About Me.

This is it.

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Parts of it made me smile. I still don’t live in a cottage in the Cotsworlds or a mansion in the Caribbean (although both of those things still sound awesome!). I still don’t like Pasties and although I can tolerate spaghetti now its still not my fave. I would still love to go Scuba Diving – I have tried but my epilepsy is an issue. I liked the bit about career choices. Actress, Social Worker or Counselling Person (!). I am not and wouldn’t want to be an Actress, I’d rather eat my own arm than be a Social Worker and if I assume a Counselling Person means a Counsellor then I don’t really think I’ve got the patience. But I do enjoy helping people so maybe that’s enough.

But part of it made me really sad. I was 13 and I was concerned with money (or lack of it) and my weight. At 13. I looked again of the picture of me at 11. I wouldn’t say the girl in that picture was overweight, but when I look back I know I felt it. I’ve been/believed myself to be overweight all my life. And what you believe will be the truth.

It broke my heart, but it also made me realise that it’s time to change those beliefs. Those deep rooted, long held beliefs, the ones you’ve had so long you don’t even know you have them. I couldn’t have found this at a better time in my journey. I intend to prove to that young girl, that you don’t have to be what you believe you are. You can change. I will make her wish come true.

Although World Peace might be a stretch!

xx

Something Old, Something New….

As the festive season is well underway and the end of the year creeps closer I thought it might be a nice opportunity to update you on a couple of things I’ve covered in the last six months (six months? I’ve been blogging for six months already – where the hell did that time go???)

Anyway, lets crack on.

Back in August I wrote a post about Ben’s grandmother’s clock that had come to live with us. If you missed that one, you can read about how deeply it touched me here.

Since then we have had the piece restored by the wonderful chaps at the Surrey Clock Centre and had it properly installed in our house. We found out something of its history. It was made in Cornwall (Cornish grandfather clocks are something of a rarity apparently) and we even have the makers name. We also found out for certain that it was made in the 18th Century, probably around 1780! That made me gulp a bit. It really is a proper, proper antique. I mean I knew it was but having it confirmed in writing was just such a shock. As I said before, we are just so privileged to have been given guardianship of such a beautiful piece.

The clock in its new home

It now sits on the landing, outside our bedroom. The ticking and chiming have become a part of the sound of our home. We don’t even notice the little squeak, the guys tried and tried to correct, anymore.

tick tock...

tick tock…

Every time we take Oscar past it we stop and say “Hi Clock”. It started as a way to try and introduce them, so he wouldn’t be scared (it’s quite big!) or curious and want to play with it. So far it’s worked and he’s trying desperately hard to say “Clock”.

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A thing of beauty

Bettie is still with us, being cared for down in Cornwall. I still wish I could thank her.

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Then there was my post about my grandmothers inheritance. You can read about that here. I was left a small amount of money and wanted to buy Oscar something from it as a present from the Great Grandmother he never got to meet.

I had such a job deciding what to get him. Had he been a girl then a piece of jewellery would have been perfect, but a boy? Its just that bit harder to know what to get.

In the end I chose a beautiful copy of the collected works of Winnie the Pooh. Oscar loves the original characters and Ben and I love AA Milne’s writing, so it seemed like a good choice.

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It’s a proper ‘read to’ copy. When he has enough concerntration to sit and listen to a story I can’t wait to get the book out of it’s box and share the adventures of the inhabitatants of the Hundred Acre Wood.

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And then when he’s old enough to understand I will explain who bought him the book and tell him all about her.

My favourite illustration

My favourite illustration

My hope is the book will become special to Oscar. Hopefully special enough to pass down the line 😉 .

I hope you enjoyed this little catch up as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I will hopefully be writing my update tomorrow as I am going to a SW group tonight rather than tomorrow. But for those of you who don’t read my SW updates I thought I’d let you know I wont be writing over the festive season. We have agreed to unplug for a few days and I can’t wait!

So if I wont see you before, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If I will you’ll get yours tomorrow 😉

xxxx

In memory….

When I was a little girl, my biggest dream was to go to Disney World. Now remember, I was a little girl loooooong before Disneyland Paris had been thought of. No I dearly wanted to go to Florida to experience the magical kingdom. A friend of mine went when I was about 9. I remember thinking, “how does she ever think about anything else, ever?” when she got back. Disney was the zenith of life experiences as far as I was concerned.

My Nanna, that is my maternal grandmother, used to play the pools every week when I was a child. And every week she told us that if she won, she would take us grandchildren to Disney World (of course there were only two of us when she started promising this – she must have been a bit nervous once it was a promise she was making to six of us!!) I truly believe she would have kept her word and I willed her on every week, sometimes choosing her numbers for her. She never won, but far from disappointment, it left me with a great memory of her.

My Nanna died in 2004. She had been incredibly ill and it had been hard to see her so frail, struggling for air as she tried to speak. She had always been this strong matriarch, quick to scold, but even quicker to cuddle. When she died, I read the bidding prayer at her funeral. I cried along with everyone else. I was sad. But then I got on with my life. It wasn’t until one drunken night in 2006, that it properly hit me that she’d gone. I cried so much and so hard Ben practically had to carry me home. She was gone and that was that.

When she died, we found out that she had left a small amount of money to each grandchild (there are six of us). I was shocked as I had no idea she had any money at all, but very touched. I then learnt that the money was in a trust that would only mature once the youngest grandchild turned 21. At the time I was 25, nearly 26. I was furious! I felt that she had snubbed me, treating us as a homogeneous lump of grandchildren, rather than individuals. And as the youngest grandchild at the time was only 12, and we had very little contact with the family now that Nanna was gone (a very loooong boring story I assure you), I fully expected never to see that money again.

What I didn’t bank on was the diligence of my second cousin John, who as an IFA, was managing the trust. This week he managed to contact us through his sister, who is friends with my sister on FB (thank goodness for social media huh!) to tell us that the trust has now matured and we are owed our inheritance. Having not thought of it for years I was completely shocked. Its not a huge amount, but as someone without an income it’s means I can do things like get a haircut and buy some boots. It’s made me very happy! It’s also made me very reflective.

I have been thinking about my childhood and my relationship with my wider family. Some memories are painful, some are awesome, but all of that adds up to be my history. Its unique and its mine. It’s made me feel sad (for the umpteenth time) that Oscar doesn’t see his grandparents as much as as I did. But mostly its forced me to apologise to my Nanna. With time (and age – come on lets not beat about the bush!) I understand things differently. I now understand, that she just wanted us all to be treated fairly and equally. Of course she saw us an individuals! She wanted each and every one of us to receive the same treatment at the same time. She was doing what was best for us.

I’m so sorry Nanna.

I wish I could tell her what she means to me and what I think of when I think of her. I think of the empty boxes she would save for me so I could play “shops”. I think of the day she let us draw all over her formica topped kitchen table with pens. I think about “my” room in her house. I think about her garden, whose path I used to run up and down and up and down, swinging myself round the washing line pole. I think about her love of massive and I mean MASSIVE hanging baskets, which she had made specially every year. I think about her stews and her mash. I think of her pinnies (half aprons) which she would always wear, made of well washed soft cotton, perfect for wiping a mucky face, or tears away. I think of her kitchen – the domain of the women, whilst the men stayed in the lounge. I think of going to Pete the greengrocer over the road with her, and being so proud that they knew her name.

I think how sad it is that she never met any of her great grandchildren and how much I know she would have loved Oscar. I don’t have enough to take him to Disney World (not yet!) but I do plan to buy him a gift from her money. Something that one day, we can take down together, and I can explain who it came from and who she was.

I think she would have liked that.

When the past becomes the future…

We had two visitors this weekend. Ben’s mum and sister made a 400 mile round trip to spend the afternoon with us. I say us, I mean Oscar 😉 They’ve done it a couple of times before. They share the driving. Rachel enjoys some time off from mummy duties and I think Catherine rather enjoys having Rachel to herself for a couple of hours. I like to think it’s as much for them as it is for us.

This time they also had another reason for coming. They bought with them Ben and Rachel’s paternal grandmother’s antique grandfather clock.

We found out back in 2007, that Ben was to be left the clock in Betty’s will. She told us on the night of our engagement party. The family story tells us that the clock was originally made in the 18th Century and has been in the Tapp family every since. Betty made it clear that guardianship of this piece, one day, would be passed to Ben. At the time he was flattered and rather touched that she trusted him with, what has always been, such an important piece to her.

In the intervening years Betty, this tall, strong, opinionated, strong willed, wonderful woman, has developed Alzheimer’s and latterly has moved into nursing accommodation. As her condition worsened in became obviously that her house would need to be sold to finance this intensive care. This is how Ben has come to receive his inheritance while his grandmother is still with us. It made him rather uncomfortable at first, but we discussed it and agreed that the clock would be better off with us, than placed into storage.

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The Tapp Family Clock

This is how it ended up in pieces, in the back of Rachel’s card, whizzing across the south of England last Saturday and is now sat in our bedroom, out of the reaches of Oscars curious hands, awaiting professional restoration and installation.

It really is a beautiful piece and Ben and I spent ages, sat on the floor, discovering it, last Saturday night. It clearly needs a bit of TLC, but wouldn’t you if you were that old? It’s age is apparent manly in the many little repairs and different aged pieces on it. It’s like seeing the many hands that have touched is over the years and it brings home just how honoured we are to have been entrusted with this beautiful piece of family history.

It also shows me where Oscar fits into this line. He is the next generation, the next steward of family history and I feel we have a responsibility to find out and pass on as much information both about the piece and the family as we can.

I know Betty would be thrilled to know the clock is with Ben. I don’t know if she’s been told, I don’t know if she’d know who Ben is. But I wish I could tell her how much we love her and how much we will love this clock, much as she did and that one day in the future this amazing piece of family history will be passed on to the next generation.

 

UPDATE: You can find a post about the clock’s restoration here.

Diary of an Imperfect Mum