Families, Inspiration, Laughter, Motivation, real life, social media, Uncategorized, Whatever, women

People watching

My favourite pastime, people watching. Although I’m sure the people I’m watching, are watching me, watching them!

I could be anywhere, sitting on public transport, watching the non- communication of travellers, head phones on, phone in hand. I’m wondering that they are listening to. Listening to the newest songs on Spotify. Perhaps they are listening to the same as I am? Now that would be a coincidence! Or reading – a furtive message from a loved one, someone they didn’t want to leave in bed this morning, that little knowing smile turning up the corner of their mouth, forgetting they are on a crowded train, still imagining the duvet snuggled around their shoulders. Or the usual message about being on the bus/train, and a countdown of minutes till they get to their destination, looking up at the station sign, following the same journey day-in day-out. 16 ½ min to their station. Positioned themselves in the 3rd carriage along, in the optimum place to alight by the station exit doors, 25 pounding steps down to the entrance, one swipe of the train ticket and out into the fresh air! Or an angry message to someone who has annoyed them. You’d read that in their faces, angry eyes, scrunched up at the corner, tapping furiously on the imaginary keys on the screen. Using both thumbs to get the message across quicker. Angry, angry, angrier.

Now the coffee shop is a place for serial people watchers, you can look out of the window at the people scuttling past on their daily journey never making eye contact. That would be too much to bare, if they did, they would have to stop and buy that creamy hot liquid gold latte. No time, too much to do, can’t carry a coffee, 3 shopping bags, 1 phone and concentrate on the list in their heads. You can see them looking around, getting their bearing, wondering what shop next to go into? The concentration etched on their faces, oh why did they leave it to the last minute to get the elusive gift for the friend who is so very demanding. Or those with more time, and less shopping. Contemplating the warm drink to sustain them as they flit from shop to shop, feeling the fabric of the shirts and coats, scarves and smelling the leather of the handbags. Or is that just me? Am I the fantasy of every people watcher, as I pick up warm cotton checked shirts eyeing up the colours. Feeling the material falling through my fingers, wondering if the hues of blue and green match the newly purchased bracelet of glass and silver beads. The look of curiosity on my face imagining if the cut is too tight and figure hugging, the thought of popping buttons makes me wince and quickly hang it back on the rail. I love looking at the fittings in a shop, rough wood, and cold metal bars, or glass and sleek white wood. All a great contrast against the fluffy clothes and shiny leather. Do others look at my face as I see my reflection in the mirror, and catch the thought going through my eyes ‘ I wonder if I need to put more lipstick on, I’m looking a tad pale’ or the look of shock when I’m realising my hair is messed up after trying the wide brimmed hat on? Or is that the look I see in the faces of other shoppers on the high street?

I never make eye contact when people watching, or ‘being people watched’ if that is a new job description. The eyes are the road to the soul, why would I want someone following me down into my place of sanctity!

My favourite place to do this – the hairdressers, when they sit you on one of those lovely comfortable ‘watching’ chairs looking out of the window. You can be anonymous. A faceless person on a chair, no one will ever know who you are with a towel half covering your head. You see the couples walking past arm in arm, purposeful and determined. Groups of young people milling and laughing and joking with one another, full of hope and enthusiasm, often with the glint of young sex in their eyes. Men in suits, white shirt cuffs and sparkly cufflinks peeping out from beneath double buttoned jacket sleeves. An impossible to recycle, take away coffee cup grasped in their sweaty little hands. Imagining they look cool and trendy, when in fact they actually do! Little men with little dogs on long leads, stepping briskly around to avoid street furniture and rubbish bins.

Hungry boys, hands holding paper napkins and blue and white bags – you know the kind- filled with warm pasties, or sausage rolls, eating with enthusiasm and greed. Girls equally as greedy, munching sandwiches of salad and chicken, on brown rye bread with green leafy salad peeping out between thick crusts. Always followed by those hungry pigeons, hippedy hopping after the food…never the people, we just happen to be carrying their lunch!

The blues rinsed, cardigan wearing older ladies and gentleman, holding their green carrier bags like shields and warriors going into battle. The battle of the youths crowding the pavements, the dog leads, and the discarded coffee cups. Who will win? Maybe them, but more likely to be the young families in mismatched colours, young who have dressed themselves in favourite wellies and summer coats, beany hats with bobbles, stripes and dragon tails swinging down their backs. They will win the pavement war. Buggies like tanks, pushing their way through the hordes of shoppers.

And cars parked on yellow lines, tucked away at the end of parking bays. Drivers furtively waiting to be pounced on by traffic wardens, enviously watching parking meters ready to swallow up shiny coins and click and clack so that they can park without fear nearer to the shops. Not everyone is successful in shopping and parking!

You see why people watching is a skill to be practiced whenever possible? You will never know how much fun it gives. Time and again.

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Family, Inspiration, Laughter, mental health, real life

In celebration of a life.

A day to celebrate – today is my mams birthday. She hasn’t been with us now for 25 year, she died on 1st April 1990, but I spend time each year thinking about her, her life, her commitment to us as a family, her health, and most of all the fun and love she shared.

She was born in the 1920’s, one of 5 brothers and sisters, to a miner and his wife. A relatively small family compared to some others in the South Wales Valleys at the time. She left Wales to work in London as a secretary, but as fate would dictate, she soon came back to the relative safety of Wales when the war broke out. She met my dad after the War, and in 1950 they married. They weren’t lucky enough to have children of their own, but I’m very fortunate they adopted me in 1960.

Life certainly wasn’t kind to them, in fact the opposite! My dad had an accident in work – he was caught up in a factory fire. His physical and mental health was affected, and he never really worked again. He had already suffered during and after the war – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – although then it was called shell shock, and the loss of his beloved mum had toppled him over the edge. My mam nursed him back to health, and looked after him. She made sure he took his medication, attended numerous outpatients’ hospital appointments, weekly blood tests and physiotherapy sessions. She supported him each time his health deteriorated, and made some heartbreaking decisions along the road. Un-relentless, un-flappable and always smiling. She made the very best of a bad situation.

Then she became ill, and was diagnosed as Bi-polar. They have such simple names now for something that was at the time called manic depression – that summed it up far more succinctly! At the time they told my dad he had the same illness, and even though I’m not a professional he wasn’t ill in the same way as mam was. You needed patients and encouragement with dad, quiet conversation, and letting him get on with his life the way he wanted to. Mam just wanted to stay in bed, and she did – for days, week and even months at some stage. Anywhere between 6-12 weeks was the norm for the cycle whether she was ‘up or down’. You never knew when she was going to change; you just knew it was going to be a roller coaster ride once she was ‘better’.

She became obsessed with shopping. You had no idea what she would come home with! It was lucky that our financial circumstances dictated the amount of stuff she would buy; there was very little money to go round. She came home one day from a jumble sale with a black bag of clothes, I though that day we had got off lightly. Little did I know that rest of the items were being delivered by a friend in a van later that afternoon. There were 10 bags of clothes, and 3 pieces of furniture. My poor dad and I had got used to it, his job was to stay calm, cool and generally out of the picture, and mine was to help sort, wash, and re bag up things she had decided she didn’t want, and arrange for them to go back to the next jumble sale. The clothes she wanted were carefully stored away in the 3 wardrobes she had.

Do you think it sounds a bleak life? It was my life, I knew nothing different, and we lived like this for 10 years until I moved away to London to work. Then my mam and dad carried on until 9 years later my lovely dad died. It took mam 18 months to decide to sell up the house, and move to a small flat. Luckily I had some very good and patient friends who helped move her. The move wasn’t the hardest part; the de- cluttering was the hardest! Of course she had no one to keep her in check once my dad had died, and so the 3 wardrobes had expanded to more. My friend Alison and I helped her to pack, she wanted to take it all, but of course she couldn’t.

You wonder why I’m babbling on, wasn’t this meant to be in celebration of my mams life. I’m sure you are saying it wasn’t much of a life, but that’s not for you to judge. Let me tell you the funny things I remember about her and why I celebrate her life like this. She loved yellow, all things yellow! We had yellow or gold curtains – in every room, yellow flowers everywhere, yellow cups, yellow towels; she and I wore yellow clothes, and my dad the odd yellow shirt. Our dinner service was yellow, and all the paintwork was yellow too. The house was bright and summery in the darkest winter, and in the worst times of her illness. She sang at every opportunity. At every TV program, whether there was signing in it or not, when she was well she would sing when she spoke to you, if she was on her own it kept her company. She was quite short, and petite enough for me to pick up and hug whenever I came home, like a little doll really, delicate and made of china. Her faith was a big part of her life, and this again gave her the opportunity to sing.

My most favorite story was just before she passed away, her last Christmas with us. As a family we had decided to go for Christmas to Bruge on a coach. The family consisted of my soon to be fiancé, his parents, and his granny. We thought that granny and my mam would get on well, so we asked them to share a room to which they agreed. After a long journey there fraught with a few disasters, we finally arrived in Bruges. I wasn’t surprised at her enthusiasm; she tried everything under the sun. The strange food – jellied ells being one of them. We had a great few days, we loved the time together as a family, and we were all so pleased that mam and granny had got on so well. The last morning came; we went to check out, my father in law preparing to pay the room bills. He nearly fell over at how much theirs was! They had a great time, afternoon tea in the room each day, they had drunk the mini bar dry – on more than one occasion – and had room service each night before going to bed, sandwiches cake you name it! They thought it was all free, and so made the most of it. Of course we never told either one of them, and every time we reminisce about the past – that story comes out without fail.

And the photo at the top of the page, yes that’s my lovely mam, on the holiday in Bruges, at the Christmas dinner table, with a cigarette in her mouth. No she didn’t smoke but she did on that holiday!

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