Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Big boys do cry


This week Stickyfingers gallery and Sleepisfortheweak have joined up for the theme of Emotion. Have a look at some of the other fantastic photos and posts on their blogs.

I'll admit it, I'm a big soft jessy. I was meant to be the person who told MummyLimited the gender of LittleDude after he slipped out. I got as far as 'Its...a...(sniff)... B...(sob)...B...(sniff).. It's...' before degenerating into a blubbery teary mess. I think I eventually got the words out, but by then it was obvious to his mum he was a he.

I suppose you would expect a father to cry at the birth of his son, but is there an excuse for crying at the film Big? (the Tom Hanks late 80s classic). If you sit me in front of a saccharine sweet TV program or film, even if I have only been watching it for a few minutes, at some point you can guarantee the water works will start.

It isn't something I often do in public, the dark privacy of a cinema is okay, but I'm a bloke you know, I have to uphold the macho facade. However, as Za Za Gabor said 'Macho isn't Mucho', and there have been times where I have let the tears flow. Often this has happened where I work, at school, such as when a long time colleague moves on or the kids do an assembly that I'm really proud of.

As a primary teacher I am lucky that I get to work with and build good relationships with pupils in my class over a whole year. For several years as a middle school teacher I worked with the oldest year group, aged 11-12. On the final day of term, boys who had given me grief all year and cursed me in a variety of ways, would strongly hug me goodbye with tears in their eyes, showing me that all my effort was actually worth it. For once they could show their true emotions- I would pay them back in kind and show them that, yes, big boys do cry.

My most public expression of emotion and tears was in quite an obvious place, my Granddads funeral. My Granddad was the main male role model in my life, I spent a lot of time with him as a child, he always had time for me, especially when absent parents didn't. Surprisingly I never saw him cry, he was a stoical man, who never had a bad word to say against anyone, never complained and took his small pleasures in life's beauty.

I was the only family member to speak at his funeral. On that morning I knew it would be an ordeal for me to speak. I wanted to be stoical like him, but knew I would default to blubbery wreck. I couldn't read through my words to the end, even on my own. I asked others to read for me, but it was something I had written the night I found out he had died, and they all said I should be the one to read it. I was right, not only did I cry a river, for the life of me I couldn't catch a breath and was a stuttery, spluttery mess.

So I have opened my old journal for the first time since then. The past five years have papered over the Granddad shaped hole that will always be there, maybe I can read and write it now without splashing the page with salt water.

Walks down the wooded pit and along the canal
Squeezing through the hole in the fence the school kids sneaked at lunchtime
The mini grand canyon of sandstone
Watching the locks fill.
And opening and closing the gates once the boats had gone

The smell of turps in the bedroom
Binoculars always on the windowsill

The stool he sat on, the table he eat at
The bookcase he read from, the bureau he worked at
The fireplace he sat in front of
The bird table he flicked bread on
The cupboard he stored in, the easel he leant against
From oil and water colour landscapes to church walls
He carved, crafted, chiselled and painted them all

He once asked me who I admired most.
Who he admired most was Lawrence of Arabia
(from a man who never left the UK)
He remembered where he was when he found out Lawrence was dead.
In a carriage, on a train to Birmingham.
Someone had that morning's newspaper and it was on the front page.
I said the person I admired, most, then, and now, was him.
He casually scorned my answer, as if ridiculous
His humility shining through

Everytime I showed him a new technology,
he would say,'It's a different world now Danny'
He was born of a different time,
but was a man who would grace any time.

The last time I stayed with him he told me to make sure that I do one thing in this life
'What ever you do Danny, you must have children
the day your Mum was born was the best day of my life.'

Thanks Granddad I you were right, it is just a shame you went 4 years to early and LittleDude wasn't 4 years so late.

I was wrong. Big Dan still cries. Splash. Sniff. Splash.

My Granddad and I (the early 90's)

One of his water colours- with granddad and grandson on the beach below

Another water colour- Wightwick Canal where we used to walk (and I played with the lock gates)

One of his oil paintings- This is a morning sunrise in his back garden (including the bird table he built)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

All things bright and beautiful...

...all creatures great and small. the theme for this weeks gallery is creatures. I am sure there will be some great photos and posts, but I don't expect them to make me well up like some did last week.

I enjoy gardening and growing things, I never expected to, neither my parents or grandparents showed any enthusiasm. My Dad's garden was always utilitarian and practical, grass in the middle with a pernial border round the outside, my mum never ventured near one. My grandmothers were home makers and gave me a passion for food. One Granddad made things out of stone and wood , the other was more interested in being a local counciller and Catenian (a kind of Masons for Catholics).

When I first scattered some seeds I didn't realise how much gardening would become a part of my life and that the creatures in my garden and allotment would become either my aides or adversaries.

My Adversaries

Ants. I used to quite like ants. I once even spent an evening on a balcony in Turkey admiring their communication an industriousness- A piece of crisp was too big for the ant that found it, so he went and got some mates, they realised it was too big to get through their front door, so got even more mates who helped break it up into bits that would fit through. That was then. Now I know that they are responsible for setting up little 'farms' all over my gardens and allotments, and I don't like them so much.

You see the... lets call them secretions... of aphids and other little bugs are like a sweet delicacy to ants. So what the clever little ants do is get a few black-fly or scale bugs and put them in a place where they will thrive, such as my broad beans or newly planted contorted willow. The ants then farm the sweet 'secretions', the bugs multiply and my plants or crops wither and die. The above photo is a scale bug ant farm on my contorted willow.

Slugs and snails. An obvious foe. I am sure that anyone who takes gardening even half seriously has come up against these slimy critters. When I first started growing salad I used to go out on snail watch every night. The snails would come out of their lair of decaying leaves under the laurel bush. I would be there armed with a torch and gardening gloves (I'm not so squeamish now). With a quick flick of the wrist they would go flying over the wall into the adjoining ally. Alive to fight another day. This was the phoney war. I have now resorted to chemical warfare. In every other aspect of gardening I am organic, but when it comes to the slimy fellows I now use slug and snail pellets.

I grow enough salad to not be too bothered about the odd snail or two, but I use the pellets when I am growing seedlings. There is nothing worse than spending months germinating, nurturing and overwintering peas or beans only to find a seed tray of stumps in the morning with several snails hanging about rubbing their belly's.

The Pea Weevil.
A relatively new adversary of mine. This is the first year I have had an allotment and whenever I grew beans or peas before I had not come across the wee beasties. It was the beginning of spring when I first noticed weirdly shaped leaves on my peas, I had only transferred them from pots the week before, and was sure they didn't have the strange leaves then.

All the edges were serrated with semi-circular shaped holes. They looked too regular and perfectly cut to be a pest and I thought it was just the way they grew. Then I noticed the broad bean leaves were the same. Wit Google's help, I soon found my foe. It seems there isn't too much to worry about, the plants soon grew on and only the bottom leaves are affected. The only problem is if they lay there larvae in the soil around the plant, they can then eat through the roots and kill it.

All seems okay at the moment, but they are on my radar.

My Aides

Bacteria and Worms

These two creatures make up only a small part of the soil ecosystem, but if it wasn't for bacteria, all my household and allotment waste would amount to sludge at the bottom of a wheely bin.

If I'm lucky, such as in this photo, I get some well rotted horse manure which is riddled with worms. If I didn't have this to spread on my garden and allotment at the beginning of winter, my veg and flowers would never be so good.

Every time I open my compost bin I am greeted by the sight of a mound of wriggling worms. Not that pretty I agree, but just like the 'secretions' of the bugs to the ants, worm 'secretions' are a luxurious delicacy to my plants.

There is something that makes all these little battles worth the effort.

Usually my Littledude creature decides that he won't go anywhere near a roasted carrot, put a finger on a steamed stem of broccoli or munch on a piece of mango. However last weekend I brought home my first pea harvest, we opened up a pod and offered it to him. Low and behold, he popped them into his mouth, one after the other, like sweets. It made me feel all warm inside to know my perseverance had paid off and I knew exactly where his food was coming from and what was in it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A few feathers short of a whole duck

When I was writing my post for the gallery this week, on the theme of motherhood, I remembered an article I had saved about a mother and her woes.

Maybe someone could write it up as an analogy about careless parenting, forward planning or having eyes in the back of your head, but read into them what you will.

You will be pleased to know there was a happy ending

"At Shelton water tower next to the old A5 near Shrewsbury I observed mother duck and six ducklings proceeding across the road.I slowed the car and then stopped to allow safe progress. Mother made for the kerb pursued by youngsters, negotiating the road grid and the kerb to get to safety.

The last three fell through the grid. Mrs duck returns and three flee to safety in the wide verge.

Close inspection showed three ducklings swimming 1m down below the grid.

Thanks to the cyclist and the Morris van driver who also stopped. A wheel brace got up the drain cover.

A long arm scooped out three ducklings while another long arm fended off mother’s attacks."

Liz Simons. Shropshire Star August 1st 2007

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The making of MummyLimited

This weeks gallery theme is Motherhood. For other fantastic photos go to StickyFingers.

As soon as I saw this weeks theme I immediately knew what I wanted to write about and which photos I wanted to use. My partner has changed in a profound and positive way because of motherhood.

As some of you may know my other half is MummyLimited. Before she became the domestic, maternal and blogging goddess she is now, she was determinedly focused on her career. She had worked for a well known high street financial institution for 13 years and climbed to a position where she was responsible for a multi million pound turnover and over 60 staff. The ying was a very good pay package, the yang was long hours and high levels of stress and pressure and the psychological strain that comes with them.

MummyLimited and I had even put off starting our family for a couple of years because of a career opportunity. However when we did start a family it became quite obvious, very quickly that a glass ceiling is still there and it is double glazed and reinforced with safety glass.

Our family planning did not go smoothly and when Mummylimited thought she was on the road to motherhood, sadly we had several miscarriages. The reaction of Mummylimited's employers was simply despicable, cold and callous, mainly due to the actions of her misogynistic boss. Suffice to say after her third miscarriage, with a boss who was more interested in performance meetings about not reaching targets, rather than listening to her pleas for support and compassion, she was signed off work with bereavement. This was the beginning of MummyLimited.

After an initial period of 'letting go', She threw herself into creative activities, making collages, knitting, writing and most poignantly making a pair of booties for each loss. These have now been framed and hang in LittleDude's room.

When she returned to work, priorities changed, becoming a mother was now more important than wages and a career. Two months after returning, while I was away travelling, she peed on a stick and the result was positive.

At first MummyLimited was uncertain, she questioned every decision she made, wanting to do the best for her little boy. She will never stop questioning herself, because she will always want the best

Becoming a mother has brought MummyLimited to life. We are lucky enough, mainly due to the hard work and wages that came with MummyLimited's previous life, that she can now stay at home with LittleDude. Morning peptalk huddles have been replaced with baby a singing group. A starched uniform has been replaced with a daily change of yoghurt spattered and snot encrusted clothes. Praising staff for reaching their daily targets, has been replaced with daily celebrations of Little Dude taking a first step, saying 'cat' or eating with a spoon. Wolfing down a sandwich when she has a spare 10 minutes...has not changed. Conditionally long working hours have been replaced with unconditional love.

I can try all I like to explain the way Motherhood has changed MummyLimited for the better, but I think the best way is to show the way she looks at our son. I have taken many pictures of them together, and each time I do there is a shot that stands out to me.

What I see is MummyLimited looking at LittleDude with utter tenderness, unflinching protectiveness and pure pure love. This picture says Motherhood.