Memories, a tribute to Rowina

This morning I received an envelope from an old friend containing photographs taken at least 55 years ago. She had found them when she cleared her Mother’s flat, after she passed away. I showed them to my Grandson, he thought that they were pictures of his Mother.

I did not recognize myself immediately. I did not remember the ‘evening’ dress I was wearing either. It looked very modern, not my usual style. The picture shows a group of people of mixed ages, sitting around a table at a ‘ Dance’, or some similar event. Everyone in the picture is wearing ‘evening’ dress. All look as if they are enjoying themselves, lots of bottles of beer, plus one large bottle of wine on the table. Soft drinks must have been provided, because I did not touch any alcohol until a lot later in life, even then, very little. I am sitting happily on my husband’s knee. We look so young and carefree, oblivious of all the ‘ups and downs’ to come in the future.

The second picture shows me dancing ‘The Gay Gordons, a Scottish reel. It is the best photograph that I have ever seen of myself. I am laughing, obviously having fun dancing with a friend’s father.

I think that looking at the rest of the company in the photograph, this must have been a fund raising event for the St Vincent de Paul charity in Haverfordwest, organized by the wonderful Father Paul Satori, whose work became the inspiration for the local cancer Foundation, set up in his memory..

The photograph appears to be taken either at the church hall, or a school dining room.. There are metal and canvas chairs set around the table.

My grandfather was a Church of Wales Vicar, while I spent 6 years at a Catholic school.. As a result, I supported both churches. My lifelong friend Rowina, and her husband John Dillon are also in this photograph. I know that they were lifelong Catholics. This is the only picture of them together that I have ever had, I am so pleased to have it.

Rowina was one of my greatest friends. We first met when I returned from my first term at boarding school aged 6. During my time away, Rowina had come to live with my family to help my Mother cope with providing meals for all the men working on our farm, normally eight workers, plus four family. Rowina was a lovely young girl with beautiful blonde hair and a strong cheerful personality.

At that time, there was no electricity or ‘Mains’ water. There were no ‘fridges, no electric light, no washing machines and no handy kitchen appliances, everything cooked on a solid fuel stove, by the light of paraffin lamps at night.

Rowina told me years later that her first sight of me was of a tiny little girl with very skinny legs getting out of the car, wearing an extremely large brown school hat. We soon became the best of friends.

Rowina was the most amazing cook. My Father thought that she was the best cook in the world. Her Victoria sponges had no equal.

She helped my Mother until she got married to a handsome Irish man called John Dillon. The couple found a pretty cottage nearby, and in the fullness of time had 3 lovely children, Pat, Jean and Michael.

When they were teenagers, both girls helped me in various little schemes to make a little extra money, farming was not doing too well at this time. First of all, I had a little Market stall in the local town. Every Saturday, Jean helped me cook thousands of Welsh cakes, yeast buns, cakes and pies, all to order. We did not make our fortune, but it was a good experience for both of us.

Our next Enterprise was to have a ‘Dog clipping’, business, no fortune there either. Just lots of hassle trying to beautify pet poodles whose coats had gotten into a solid mat of wool. After this, Jean trained to be a top class hairdresser who looked after my hair for many years. Jean later married Maurice and moved to Southhampton. Pat married Conrad and lived in Fishguard. Rowina and John settled down in Haverfordwest very near to where I lived at the time, we stayed close until I moved to France.

Rowina and I helped each other through two tragic events. I lost a baby boy, Robert at nine months old, a’Cot death’, while Rowina lost her grown up son Michael in freak accident. Terrible times which we helped each other through.

Other pictures in the envelope I could recall. Jean, the sender of the photos, sitting in a wheelbarrow cuddling my two year old daughter. They are quite recognisable 55 years later.Thank you very much for taking the trouble to send these photos to .me. They remind of all the good times we shared all those years ago. I am now going into my kitchen to try and make a Victoria Sponge in memory of Rowina. I know that it will not be as good. She had the Magic touch. .



Meeting The Neighbours

In 2014, I lived on my own, in a large ground floor flat overlooking a beautiful park. My flat had a south facing yard which I turned into a vegetable and fuchsia garden. It became too much work. I had to carry heavy pots up steps, also bags of compost and other paraphernalia to keep all the tomatoes, beans and courgettes healthy. I did have a long hose so ‘watering’ was easy.

I now live in a smaller ground floor flat in the house next door. I have the use of the small grass patch, north facing. The plants are all in pots standing around the edge.

The fuchsias have settled in their new home but now flower later in the season.. They have been joined by hydrangeas and a blanket of self seeding nasturtiums.

I have read through all my old blogs and found most of them exceedingly boring. All about my amateur gardening exploits. I am not going to do that anymore, well, perhaps just a little ‘mention’ now and again.

During that wonderful hot fortnight this summer, all the gardens in my road started to dry up. I was the only person with a hosepipe, so every evening I would sit outside my kitchen window with my hose attached to the tap inside, filling up the watering cans and buckets of my neighbours. It was a chance to get to know some of them. I even offered a ‘shower’ to any one brave enough to appear in a bathing costume. Unfortunately, there were no customers. However, it had been a pleasant way to  chat to the people who ‘ nod’ to me as I wait for the bus each morning. It was great fun!!!!! Thank goodness I do not have a water meter, if I had it would have cost an awful lot of money.

Starting once again!!

I have been trying to get ‘ Back on the Bus’ for some time. My computer died, 3 years ago. It had worked hard for 12 years and could not be repaired. At the same time I took out a funeral policy. As a reward the Company sent me a ‘Tablet’ and a very nice pen. The pen is great but the small ’Tablet’ is not suitable for the Blog, in truth, my poor old fingers are not suitable for the Tablet.

I had already thought of buying a new laptop because I wanted to write a booklet of my family recipes to g ive to my children before all the writing fades from the hand written one that I started in 1957. All went to University with a copy of Delia’s Complete Cookery Course and all four phoned home to ask how to make  gravy. What made my mind up was an e -mail from one of my readers telling me that she had read the old blogs and they had cheered her up. Thank you Ann, this encouraged me to buy a good reconditioned one, I am now trying to get used to it. I agree with your recommendation, ‘Stoner’ by John Williams it is one of my all time favourites. I have just read ‘The Secret Scripture’ by Sebastion Barry. I heard his interview from the Hay Festival and was impressed with his wonderful way with words. That book is so good that I took another of his to the Book group to be chosen among others for our next meeting at my flat in August. It is ‘Days Without End’. It won the 2016 Costa Book of the Year. The other choices were ‘Marriage Plot’ by Jeffrey Euginides. ‘Run’ By Ann Pratchatt, and’ Golden Hill’ by Frances Spufford. ‘’Days without End’ won the vote, I will tell you all about our discussion after the meeting

.                 Once again, I will try to provide something delicious to eat, after the discussion which is difficult when we have Vegan members. It will probably be a quiche, soup, trifle and a cake. Perhaps an exotic crumble with Joe’s ice cream. The Vegans will have to bring their own toppings

This piece has been a trial practice run, relearning how to use my more modern computer which is much more sensitive than my old one.


The Old Bat, feeling a bit ‘low’, seeks a solution.

I have been feeling a bit “down” for some time, perhaps the continuing cold nights have had something to do with it, the frustration of not being able to put my tomato plants out. However, the sudden death of Charles Kennedy brought matters to a head. He had always been my very favourite politician despite his well known flaws. I just could not get it out of my head. The T. V. coverage really upset me, I know that they could not conceal his flaws but was it really necessary to show him in a bad state at “Question Time” on the very day that he died? I thought not.
As you know I live on my own and go out to work on three days a week, I also go to the “gym” on three days so that covers six days, leaving the “dreaded Sunday” which is always an extremely lonely day. It is a “family day” when everyone else is busy doing “family things. My son came to see me last week which was great but I knew that after he left, I was going to have to find something to both fill my time and broaden my life. I thought that there must be many other elderly people in my position, or even worse, so I made my mind up to do something straight away.
First thing on Monday morning I rang The Royal Volunteer Service to offer my time as a “Befriender”, this is a person who has time to visit some one who is “housebound”. On Wednesday I am meeting an official for an interview, I have to bring two telephone numbers as references and three bills for ‘utilities’ to prove my identity. I will have to have a police check, after that I will be paired up with a suitable housebound person in my area. Unfortunately I no longer drive a car so this person has to live within walking distance or on an easy bus route. I have chosen to do my “Befriending” on a Sunday afternoon which is the loneliest day of the week. I cannot wait to get started, unfortunately the police checks takes quite a long time to come through, I also have to have some training. I will let you know how I get on.
My garden is now doing well, you can almost see the plants growing. I put my tomatoes out when the nights were still a bit too cold but I thought, maybe wrongly, that they were strong enough to stand it So far so good.
My favourite fuchsia, I thought it died in the winter, has suddenly sprouted strong growth from the roots. I am so pleased that I will be able to wonder again at it’s bright orange colour and it’s dragon like shape.. It was also a gift from one of my very best friends, so means a lot to me.

The Old bat, praying for warmer nights and no more electrical failures

This year the Spring is particularly late. Last year I had all my tomato plants outside by day and night on May 10th, this year I can only put them out during the day because the nights are so cold, only 6 degrees tonight. Thank goodness I have shipped off a lot to “The Developing Plot” in Oxford. My daughter heard my cry for help, the plants were taking over my house particularly my bedroom, bringing them in and out evey evening became a major job, I had to keep repotting them so as not to hold them back so they had got very heavy. I hope that she was pleased with them, I had varieties that she had forgotten to plant, our favourite ” Sungold” being one “Sweet Aperitif” and “Ferline”‘ being the others.’ I am very interested to see how “Harbenger” performs, it is a new variety, it seems extremly vigorous, I am hoping that it will have lots good flavoured medium sized fruit so I can make tomato chutney, all the lovely small cherry ones are useless for this.
Once again I have been too quick planting runner and climbing French beans so now have had to protect the plants during the cold nights. All the different types of peas are doing well, the “mange-tout” are starting to flower, the “Sugar Snap” “Hurst Green Shaft” and even my “Sweet peas” are growing well. Once again I had notable failures. Having taken all the advice that I gould get, I built a 2 ft barrier around my carrot patch to prevent the carrot fly from eating the seedlings. The seedlings grew to about 2 inches when on a sunny afternoon I literally watched the plants disapear inch by inch before my very eyes. I could not see the fly as it munched up my plants leaving a few to remind me of it’s work.!! I am not going to bother again.
I am having a very unlucky time with my small electrical goods. The first to die was my 13 year old mobile phone which had only been used as a back up and when I went out to call for a taxi. It had cost £17 then and its improved replacement cost £11. Not too bad. The next to go was the charger for this lap-top, another £62 down the drain. This morning my micro-wave gave up the ghost, another £40 to replace it. What else is going to break down??? I expect tht I bought them all at the same time and they have all got the same life span. I did not include my very precious “Free bus Pass”” which I damaged myself in a fit of despair as the bus driver failed to stop and pick me up one morning on the way to work. The replacement cost £5 and a morning going into the centre of my city to get a new one, that is like visiting a foreign land to me.
A Week Later.
I am feeling a bit more cheerful, some very brave carrots have regrown from the roots so I will have a few. Cats are my major problem at the moment, that lovely soft earth is just right for “poo” so I have old Christmas decorations strewn all over my troughs. It is still very cold here at night but looking at my laptop forecast this morning I think that I have only two more nights of bringing the tomato plants inside.The “up side” of all this is that the plants look very well and have started to flower. I am also pleased with my runner beans that I took a gamble on, they are growing very strongly, only one plant has yellow leaves, probably the effect of that very cold night.
I cannot say just how much I enjoy my little Pot/garden, whenever I feel a bit “down” I only have to go outside and do some little job or other and immediately my spirits are lifted, especially now that my collection of fuchsias are starting to flower, thank goodness I only lost one during the winter.
So between working 16 hours a week, going to the gym three sessions a week and being busy in my garden, life is not too bad for this “Old Bat” at the moment.

Old Bat enjoying the Gym after money raising failure.

As I said in my previous blog, we are trying to raise money to send our local youth club to Ghana to help in an orphanage during the summer holidays.  I had worked really hard making 160 Welsh Cakes by hand to sell at a cake stall in another youth club hall. We expected to have hundreds of people to turn up to buy the cakes also the hand crafts sent from Ghana. What happened, no one turned up, so I sat there for four hours hoping that someone would. Well, a few people wandered in, enough to make me stay there. What had gone wrong, they had for gotten to advertize. I now have a deep freeze full of beautiful welsh cakes, thank goodness they freeze well and will be handy if anyone drops in for a cup of tea as they thaw in moments. This is a problem, they are far too handy for me to ‘scoff’!!!! Apparently, our Youth club is going to have another sale in our hall in April. I shall make sure that they have arranged lots of advertizing before I even think of making another one!!! I am now back to being a “Grower again, I have sown many seeds which I hope will stock my vegetable garden. I have sown them later this year,as last year I made life far too hard for myself as Spring was late so I could not put my tomato plants outside until the night temperature was over 10 degrees, I was carrying heavy pots into the house every night, it nearly killed me. I have a new hobby,.”Going to the Gym”, I have joined a special gym for Women only. It is not like any gym that I have heard of before but I am going to give it a go because it fits my special needs. I had started going to a class called “Gentle Exercise”‘ I think that it probably was gentle for some people but not for me. I found an hour of continual marching and bending just too much. The teacher did say that we could drop out and rest at any time but Pride always took over and as no one dropped out neither would I even if it killed me, so I always did too much. At this new gym we do not exercise standing but lie on electric driven beds which stretch the body in different directions whilst we hold on to metal bars and stretch, each bed is different. This is not a good description. We do the prescribed exercise on each of 6 beds for 5 minutes only. It is called Curve I Cure. I will let you know how I get on, so far so good, I felt exhilarated. The sessions are only 30 minutes and you can go 6 times a week, of course there is a cost, £20 a month. you can book in at any time 5  days a week. I was only slightly stiff the day after but I knew that I had been exercising. I will let you how I get on, I have signed up for a year, lets hope I make it.


The”Old Bat”‘catches the Shopping Bug!!!!

When I moved from the farm to the city I did not have the right things to wear so I had to buy a new wardrobe of clothes,  nothing “flash” but just things to wear to work and something a bit nicer to wear when I went out. Also my old worn out under-wear was not suitable for my visits to the hospital..   This was thirteen years ago, now those clothes are worn out. I hate shopping. not only in the city.  I could shop on-line, my friends were  just persuading me to do this when I spotted an advert in my  T’V’ Times for just the sort of trousers that I wanted. The firm was “Damart”, well known for producing very good thermal wear. I sent for the trousers by telephone and was very pleased,  they were just right for my size and age. If they had been wrong the firm would have collected them from my house. A catalogue was included in the parcel. Knowing that all the rest of my clothes were wearing out I studied all the cheap “offers”  month  by month  as the catalogues arrived.   I waited  and waited until I could buy all my favourite brands at a fraction of the “shop” price. It was like a game (Hunter gathering my new clothes).
I enjoyed waiting for the parcels to arrive with a frisson of excitement at the thought of more cheap, tempting offers. I now have everything that I really need at a very cheap price so the ‘Game” must stop, but the catalogues keep arriving.
I had said to myself ‘no more,” until last week when the latest one arrived with an offer that I had  difficulty turning down. At the very beginning, there was an advert showing a very pretty “Mary Berry” style summer jacket, navy twill with summer flowers printed on it. Mary Berry (the cake baking Queen) had worn just such a jacket when judging “Bake Off, and I loved it, it was cheerful .  I lusted after this for months, it was quite out of my reach, price wise. This week the price has dropped 60%, too tempting. I could now afford it, I don’t really need it, is a luxury, should I treat myself?
Having thought about it, I have made a compromise, I have bought the jacket, it will arrive next week,  I have cancelled all further catalogues so that I cannot be tempted again in the near future

. It was so nice, waiting for a parcel present’, a little bit of excitement, we all like something to look forward to which does not happen so often as you get older. I could easily get addicted to receiving parcels!!! Perhaps now, I am getting a small bit wiser1!!!! I hope that the jacket lives up to expectations, if it doesn’t I will send it back. Lesson learned!!!.