In 2014, we packed up and moved on – You can join me here: Living Between the Lines please do! 🙂
Love Debbie X
In 2014, we packed up and moved on – You can join me here: Living Between the Lines please do! 🙂
Love Debbie X
Yes, that was a play on the song title but oh dear, since I redirected my blog to its new host at http://www.deborahjbarker.co.uk, I seem to have lost most of my dear and much valued, followers. If you are one of those who has fallen by the wayside during the move and if you would like to jump back aboard, then please find me in my new abode. I will be so happy to see you back! 🙂
Things are just not the same without you,
Here is my lead and here is your coat…is there a problem?
I know you have been busy of late and our woodland walks have been either rather rushed or have failed to materialise at all. Don’t worry, I have taken matters into my own hands. I know you have four small grandsons, two of whom, have needed you more than ever for the past few days. I know that your days have been topsy turvey as your youngest daughter goes back to full time work and there is one crisis after another in her life. Yes, I did hear about the powercut at nursery, the three year old being violently sick in the night and then his mum going down with something akin to the flu and being unable to get out of bed. (All this in the first week of a new job with a husband who has had to be absent for the entire time due to work.) I heard the three year old jumping up and down on the front doorstep and waving to a plane this morning, calling out,
That’s when I took matters into my own hands and took myself for a run up the road. It was easy to get past the three year old and the gate was wide open, what can I say? Ok, sorry you had to whistle and call so much and that I barked in someone else’s garden. So, that piece of land belongs to someone else does it? Fancy that—I was so sure it was mine.
Yes, I know you have been doing the nursery run and I know I made you later than planned. I also know you have been enjoying cuddles and stories with the little people and have been sitting on the floor a lot surrounded by jigsaws and Happyland people. I know how much you love those cute little bundles of rusk, milk and orange squash. (The spillages will come out of the carpet I am sure so don’t worry by the way. I have given it all a good lick.)
When all four little grandsons were here, the best thing for me to do was lie low. Doris and I agreed our strategy. Crawl under the highchair, (easy pickings) and wait for food to fall into our mouths.
The almost 6-month old doesn’t drop a lot; he likes his food too much. The almost one-year old is more obliging and the fare is more varied.
The two-year old hates to be messy but doesn’t like it when I try to lick him clean. I know he will be three very soon of course. I heard him telling you yesterday,
“Grandma,” he said, “I will be three on my next birthday. My birthday is in Apricot,”
(A very fruity way of looking at the months of the year I think.)
Well, with all this going on, it seems to me that I have been a tad neglected. Far be it from me to complain. I have been fed, I have been walked round the block with the babies and I have seen quite a bit of Doris. It has not all been bad. I do miss the woods though, it’s been over a week since I was last allowed to run freely through the trees. So, come on now Boss, the house is empty…here is my lead and there is your coat…
What’s stopping you?
“You never know what the year will bring. I mean, ever since that incident with Olive and the baubles, I really feel I want to move,”
Thus ran the conversation overheard during our New Year Celebrations at the local pub. Try as I might, I could not hear the rest of the conversation but I whipped out my phone and began typing away in ‘notes’ so I would not forget this gem that had dropped, unasked, into my lap.
“Who are you texting?” asked my husband.
“No one!” I hissed.
I tapped the words into my phone and closed it, slipping it into my bag.
That conversation or part conversation to be precise, formed the basis of the most interesting overheard conversation that evening.
I only have to repeat the words to see those two people again. She, larger than life, wearing a loose blouse top, he, a shorter version, shaven head and thick-set neck, in T-shirt and jeans, they seemed incongruous sitting at the small table for two at the side of the room. She leant forward the better to make herself heard. She appeared to be trying to cheer her partner up. In what capacity they were dining I do not know; friends? A couple? Blind date? No, not blind date, that was the other couple behind them surely. The couple with the problem with the baubles, appeared to be having a serious discussion, though I didn’t hear the man’s replies. Her voice, strident and no nonsense-like, drowned out his lesser mumbles. If only I had been able to pick up something else. I could not eavesdrop in all conscience though. I have my standards to maintain. Who knew what they had been through or were trying to forget? Still, I was hooked on those lines.
Had they been extras in a TV soap, they could not have provided a more interesting backdrop for our New Year’s celebrations. I was itching to ask more about the bauble incident yet the scenes my imagination could conjure up surely did not outshine the truth.
I am sure they will make an appearance in a story some time in the future. Remember The Girl in the Red Towel? Her story is already coming to life on my computer and not quite in the way I had expected which is nice.
Meanwhile, I have continued to find some veritable treasure troves of material on my various trips to hotels and restaurants. This weekend was no exception.
Stopping off at a Surrey Hotel, having taken my mother home to Essex, I found plenty of people on whom characters could be based but the most amusing of all finds was this door hanger left on my pillow.
Really? Were they serious?
I tried, I really did but the window had a safety lock on it and it was cold outside. Besides, my arms would have given out long before 3am. I ignored it. Sometimes, one has to.
Happy New Year everyone!
I do not jest.
In years gone by, I gritted my teeth as I staggered round the shops with my merry load of gifts and festive fayre.
The novelty of browsing for special gifts for that special someone, began to wear a tad thin after hours of trekking through shopping precincts and department stores. It was tiring, trawling the small boutiques and quaint, out-of-the-way shops that stock that something-a-little-bit-different, whilst accompanied by a few thousand other people, bent on the same task.
Shopping was a mixture of fun, tinged with exhaustion as I remember it, when the children were small. A trip to Argos to pick up that longed for toy would require a major feat of engineering as I struggled to carry the outsized box (no handles) and a pile of other items that I deemed my children worthy of receiving, through the crowded streets. Several trips back to the car, normally parked at the top of the multi-storey, would be necessary and the queues at each shop, stretched one’s patience to the limit.
Knowing no other way of course, I accepted all this as part of the general Christmas preparation. I even made myself believe I loved it all.
Then we heard news that online shopping would one day be the norm. How wonderful we thought, though could not truly imagine such a thing ever actually happening. It was the stuff of science fiction back then, along with Sat Nav and a milk bottle that was easy to open.
When online shopping did begin to take off, it didn’t replace all that hustle and bustle, it just lessened it for me. Ordering the larger items to be delivered to my door was a breeze. Having to wait in all day in case a delivery arrived was fine at first.
As time went on, waiting in became a chore. Why couldn’t these people give me a time or at least a time slot? Why did I have to be home from work for an entire day?
In those days, I collected a pile of accusatory cards,
“We could not deliver, your parcel has been taken to…”
We began having parcels delivered to the office instead so we wouldn’t miss them. Misunderstandings would abound of course as the wrong person received the parcel and inadvertently opened it but in all, we coped.
Lately, there has been another innovation. Garry.
I mention Garry because Garry is my DPD delivery guy. Garry could be any delivery driver really but giving him a name makes the whole experience more friendly. DPD obviously believe this or they would never have introduced us.
DPD, deliver for a range of stores from whom I have ordered gifts this year. They send me pleasant emails telling me my delivery is on its way and offer an online tracking facility. The tracking facility does not merely give a time slot for each delivery, however. It allows me to track my delivery man (Garry’s) progress on a local map.
I know my order will be delivered within the hour and for that hour, I am able to see where Garry is on the map, how many deliveries there are before me and when the system estimates he will arrive at my door. Garry is never late.
It is such a simple system and so customer friendly, I thought I should hand out an accolade to Garry and all those other delivery drivers and delivery companies, who are doing their best to lighten the load this Christmas season and right through the year.
Do you have a “Garry”?
Happy Christmas Shopping!
“I’m completely lost,”
The disembodied voice reaching my ears sounds a little desperate.
I walk a little way into the wood and come across a large, border collie attached to an extendible lead. Surely the voice doesn’t belong to him? My eyes run the length of the lead until they alight on a somewhat rotund, figure emerging from some bushes.
“Oh, hello—Darcy has got me completely and utterly lost—one minute we were on the path, the next he took me on so many twists and turns, I have no idea where I am, truly.”
The lady looks quite happy to be lost, quite jovial even but I sense her confusion as she spins round, the lead twisting round her legs. Darcy is very interested in Flossie who begins darting around him playfully.
Fearing for the woman’s safety as both dogs begin a circle of her legs, I stand between them and her, arms outstretched.
“Oh they are fine,” she grins. I’m not so sure. I grab Flossie’s collar and order her to be still. For once she listens.
The lady untangles the lead and I relax my stance.
“Where do you want to be?” I ask. If someone is lost, it helps to know where they mean to be. The lady looks at me. She has a slight squint and a possible twitch, maybe she is winking, I don’t know. I am not sure which eye is fixed on me. Perhaps she is nervous?
“I left my car in Woodend—then Darcy dragged me here, there and everywhere,” she explains, gesticulating wildly.
I indicate the path down which I have just come.
“Woodend car park is just up there, less than a hundred yards past the stile,”
“Oh, yes, I recognise it now, oh dear, so I am here then after all! Darcy has taken me all over the place haven’t you Darcy? I don’t know, I thought I’d never find the car park—silly Darcy, dragging me this way and that.”
I have a sudden image of Darcy dragging his hapless mistress across ditches and through brambles, courtesy of the extendible lead.
“It is easy to get lost,” I soothe, “All paths look the same at times,”
I speak from experience. I well remember bringing my youngest son here as a toddler and finding ourselves utterly lost in the middle of the afternoon. This was back in the days before everyone had a mobile phone. I only began to panic a little when I realised it was time to go and pick up the other children from school. At that point, I made a decision to cut straight through the woods and see where I ended up. Not the best decision I have ever made, nor the worst. I eventually found my way out and got to the school to find four accusing faces lined up at the window. I was late.
I smile and murmur a few inane but polite, end-of-conversation type words, you know the sort of thing,
“Well, glad you know where you are,”
“I had better get on,”
As I speak, I am moving slowly away from her. I have taken no more than three steps when I realise she is still with me. Darcy is following Flossie at the end of his fully extended lead. Both are now being followed by the jolly lady. I dread to think what might happen should Flossie reach the bridge and decide to leap in the water for a swim, as is her normal want. Darcy will surely follow and the lady at the end of his lead—it doesn’t bear thinking about. I stop. The jolly lady stops and we continue our conversation for a bit. Darcy, frustrated at having literally, come to the end of his tether, tries to tug her forward but she stands firm, as long as I don’t move. If I move—she moves.
“Well, I’d better get on…” I try again.
The jolly lady is telling me about her encounter with a boxer (the dog variety, I think) and how Darcy has a dislike of boxers. I cannot resist telling her about Keano’s dislike of black Labradors since having a lump torn out of his chest by Paddy. I know I shouldn’t but it’d be rude not to make conversation since she is shadowing me.
I am just wondering how long I can stand here, with Flossie now fully submerged in the stream and Darcy straining at the leash, when jolly lady decides at last, she should make a move.
“Don’t want to get lost again!” she quips, tugging the panting Darcy in the direction of the car park.
I smile in relief and we carry on, Flossie now a very wet and happy dog.
We have gone but a short distance along the path when Flossie spies a little terrier, wagging his stubby tail in manic fashion. Flossie charges forward, despite my words of caution. I have seen the lady who is with the terrier. She has stepped off the path and is watching Flossie race by, her dog in hot pursuit.
“I must be the most neurotic woman in the forest,” this lady tells me as I reach her. It isn’t a common greeting. She has completely dispensed with, “Good Morning.” I see how she has mounted the bank and is clutching at a tree for support. (Not a good sign)
“I was knocked down by a big dog once and ever since, I am really nervous of them,” she confides, one eye on Floss who is now returning for her home run. I raise my hand,
“Flossie, here!” I trill. To my relief, Floss makes a beeline for me and pulls up short by my feet. I clip her lead to her collar. I resist the tempation to tell the lady about the time a large German Shepherd, chasing Jess, my super-fast lurcher, came up behind my knees, knocked me clean off my feet and gave me concussion. That story still smarts a bit. I fully understand her fear.
“Don’t worry, you walk on. I will keep her on the lead for a while in case she doubles back,” I say.
“Oh, thank you, she is so lovely, I’ve never met a Golden Retriever that didn’t have a lovely temperament—except Dexter—” her voice drops an octave and a shadow crosses her face. I sense bad memories, “Dexter is a great big old retriever, not at all nice and very grumpy—”
(Is he the dog who knocked her flying?)
I make a mental note to avoid Dexter at all costs. I smile and walk on with Flossie having assured her I understand and no, I do not think she is neurotic at all (I do of course, but it’d be rude to say so).
Flossie has given up on the terrier now anyway and is trotting along happily beside me. I release her when we have gone a few more steps and she speeds off in the direction of the next water hole.
The rest of the walk is uneventful for me. Flossie has a run-in with a pigeon and a tree but I enjoy the autumn sunshine and the carpet of golden leaves that now deck the forest floor. I am loving the solitude of the wood and the inspiration it gives me. I hardly notice that we have come to the end of the walk when I spot the woman in a green Barbour. She is standing by the stile with her back to me, shading her eyes and looking back towards the car park. She is calling something. I am closer now.
“Dexter!” she shouts.
I am taken aback. Visions of The Gruffalo spring to mind as I look around me for the infamous, grumpy retriever. Maybe I will just quicken my step and get back to the car. I pass the woman. She sees me and smiles. I smile back, one eye keeping a look out for Dexter.
As we turn the corner into the car park, a Basset Hound waddles towards us and throws Flossie a disinterested look.
“Ah, there you are, Dexter!” says Barbour woman behind me.
Well, just goes to show, they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It seems you shouldn’t judge a dog by its name either.
Now who’s neurotic?
A letter to my 2013 self
I am writing this from the future. It is 2020 and I am sitting in my study, looking at a shelf that is practically bending beneath the weight of published novels—my name on each. Wow! The first one I spy, I remember starting way back in 2012 through NaNoWriMo. I made a pretty good job of that but by June 2013, so much had happened to thwart its progress, it languished, forgotten, on my computer for a while.
I recall that I was a wee bit tired and felt powerless. Remember how I had to weigh socks and could not lift more than a bag of sugar? Remember the kettle and the orange? You do, only too well? Well, that time passed thankfully and by September 2013, I was almost back to my normal self and had actually caught up with that November novel and given it a new beginning. Looking back, there was still a lot of work to do on it but I was already in the middle of writing the second novel that I now see, sitting on the shelf. That one was fun to write you will recall though you had a few days of anguish with the characters and struggled to choose which tense you wanted it written in. You never were quite sure whether it was a children’s book or written for adults but it found its niche, never fear. I gave it a deadline of January 1st, never dreaming I’d manage to finish it by then. Well, be assured, I did!
The other novels I managed to complete, stare back at me proudly, their spines straight, their titles winking at me in the sunshine that filters through the window. Each book represents months of toil and a certain amount of frustration as plots fell apart or the beginning I loved, failed to rouse me a second time. Still, I got over those hurdles and, as you see, some of those books have become best sellers. I spent yesterday signing the covers of my latest novel at Waterstones. It was a novel I began years ago, the one that I have re-written and re-written and almost gave up on in 2013. That and its three cousins, have all made it into print one way or another.
I am now writing a trilogy, the third part of which, my readers eagerly await. Film rights are in the post.
Hold on, I will just put the kettle on and let my dear old Golden Retriever waddle out into the garden before continuing.
So, dear me, 2020 is looking good. However, as I am writing from the future, I would like to ask you, the self still back in 2013, would you please stop procrastinating and daydreaming (as a child, you had an uncle who always said you were a daydreamer) and pick up that pen or that keyboard and write? Just look at how good it is going to be here in the future!
P.S. Weren’t the first four grandchildren cute in 2013?
I am living life in the slow lane.
I have only just realised it. We’ll get to exactly how I noticed it in a minute. There is no rush. No, honestly, it will wait.
The thing is, when the consultant advised me to do nothing for 6 weeks and possibly repeat this ‘doing nothing’ for a further 6 weeks, I was quite looking forward to it. I saw myself reading, writing, knitting, (yes, knitting) and letting everyone else do the work. It sounded great. It sounded easy.
Let me tell you, IT WAS NOT EASY. (Sorry to shout)
Now, there will be others who have had to do nothing for far longer, for far more serious reasons so this is just about me it has to be said.
I was told emphatically not to lift anything over 1.1kilograms. As someone who works in pounds, I translated this to being, roughly, a 2lb bag of sugar. I was told not to vacuum or iron and not to push or pull heavy objects and absolutely, no lifting of grandchildren – unless a newborn baby, when I would be allowed to bend the rules slightly and no driving for a while.
In the first few days after surgery, I was glad of the rest I admit. It was quite nice to have everyone else doing the work and for me to sit and watch television or read a book. I was tired and did not feel like doing much anyway.
When we held our annual BBQ a mere ten days later, (a legendary event hereabouts) I was only a little frustrated at being allowed to neither prepare nor clear up. I managed to ignore the empty beer bottles and the carpet that needed vacuuming along with the general untidiness that followed the invasion of 90 guests including two dozen children.
I settled into a pattern of reading and writing. I began to enjoy my enforced captivity. It was certainly very productive on the writing side.
The following week, everyone was back at work and I was beginning to feel a little better and a little bored. The wet washing sat in the laundry basket begging to be hung out on the line. The sun shone, the sky was blue. It would be a crime to leave the laundry sitting there wouldn’t it?
I couldn’t carry it all. I guessed the entire laundry basket and wet clothes, to weigh far more than a bag of sugar.
I had a brain wave. I picked up a pair of socks and put them on the kitchen scales, adding more until my limit was reached. Then, off I went into the garden with my 1.1KG of wet socks to hang on the line. Returning, I carried out the same procedure for the rest of the load—now what? —back to twiddling my thumbs.
Three weeks into my rest period—grandson number four decided to arrive in the world, two and a half weeks early. A tentative cuddle with newborn who weighed 6lbs 6oz (considerably more than a bag of sugar) and then it was back to being good and weighing socks.
Today marks the sixth week since surgery. I have grown used to doing little. As everyone rushes to and from work/shops/urgent business, I have grown used to taking things easy. I am driving again and although I am still not allowed to lift more than a bag of sugar, I am managing to do the shopping by putting things into my trolly—I think I am allowed to push it if it is kept reasonably light—choosing small sized items only, and wheeling the trolly to the car where I unload it item by item. Arriving home I then have to carry the goods into the house, item by item.
Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I tend to do everything at the pace of knots. Correction, I did tend to do everything at the pace of knots. These days, I think ‘the slower the better’. I have had to train myself to take my time. What’s that phrase about slowing down and smelling the roses?
I did not know just how relaxed and unhurried I had become until today. Well, I did say I would get round to telling you eventually, didn’t I?
I was just back from a shopping trip. I had carried in a few items but decided to leave the rest in the boot of the car for a while. (This in itself is a major breakthrough) I was gasping for a cup of tea.
I took a mug from the cupboard and put the kettle on, half filled as per strict instructions. While it boiled, I decided to peel an orange. The orange proved tougher than expected to peel, the kettle proved quicker. The kettle boiled before I was even half way through peeling the orange…
…What did I do? Now, normally, pre-enforced rest, I would have rushed to the kettle, poured the boiling water over the teabag in my mug and then gone back to the orange, hurriedly peeling it while the tea brewed, rushing back to withdraw teabag and pour in milk. Did I do that?
I casually continued peeling the orange and ate same, before walking slowly back to the kettle, re-boiling the water and making my tea.
As I ambled over to put the used teabag in the bin, I had to smile at myself. Where was the rush? Where was that old need to get this done so that I could get on with the other thing so that I could do this earlier and finish that quicker?
That’s when it hit me.
My goodness, what a turn up, it had taken an orange and a kettle to make me realise, I really am living life in the slow lane!
Baby Arthur Bear Geoffrey John, has arrived.
Two and a half weeks early, weighing 6lbs 6oz with a shock of black hair, he arrived at 12.08pm on 4th August 2013.
This little corker is our fourth grandson and the first child for Zoe and Rhys who, though exhausted, are over the moon.
So, without further ado, here is little Arthur and his proud Grandma and Granddad. 🙂
Hello, Flossie here,
I am very sad to report that I have lost my dear old friend Keano. Ol’ Keans, who had slowed to a virtual stop in the last few weeks, has left us. The Boss is sad, the Boss’s family is sad but they all agree, he had a very good life. Unlike other dogs we have known, he did not require an operation or drugs or round-the-clock care. He simple ate his dinner, walked into the garden and collapsed. Very tidy! (Trust Keano to make sure he ate first).
The Vet confirmed his heart had given out and helped him slip away without pain.
This event occurred the night before the annual Barker BBQ which was difficult I imagine, for the family. This annual party had been planned for months, a live band had been booked and the garden was set up with tables and marquee. What could they do but go ahead?
The Boss says it took the edge of the sadness because some of our guests brought their dogs, including Doris, and I made some new friends, not least, Jerry and Maisie, a Springer Spaniel (hence the name) and a Labradoodle. I confess that for the next few hours I did not really notice that Keano was not around.
Things changed the next day. The Boss sighed a lot and I noticed Keano’s bed had been removed – ouch! That did confuse me. That’s when it hit me, I was now, top-dog. All those responsibilities that Ol’ Keans took upon himself, are now mine.
The Boss has read that sometimes, the personality of the dog left behind, blossoms. I think she is waiting for something to happen but honestly, I feel just the same as before.
The house is very quiet. Ol’ Keans had a tendency to bark at everyone and everything coming with spitting distance of the house. The Boss was always alerted to the paper landing on the mat or the postman calling or someone knocking at the door…now these events happen in silence. I know they are waiting for me to step up to the mark and bark but it just isn’t my style.
I bark when I want something, to go outside for instance, at the dog next door when she is in her garden but why bark at the paper? Why bark at someone knocking at the door? I just don’t get it. I always thought Ol’ Keano went over the top. In latter years, he has barked at the family when they arrive which they put down to failing eyesight.
So, the family are waiting for me to transform into something of a guard dog. Do I look like one? They’ll have a long wait! Meanwhile, I’ll do my best to fill Keano’s shoes and keep the family together but I am really hoping they don’t expect too much…