Saturday, 24 October 2009

My dad.

Every four weeks finds me making the now familiar trip up to Rossendale to visit my dad. He is now in his 91st year.
I have already written of his move into the home where he now is a resident. He is well settled and looks so much more like his old self, than in the 18 months before when he was still struggling on in his own house.
This last year has seen major changes once more in his life, and as always he has accepted them with great fortitude and the limitations under which he now finds himself.
He decided a few months ago, that he would sell the place where he had lived for over 40 years. It was not an easy decision for him to take. And quite emotional for us all.
This has meant a change in my routine when I am there, as it is now necessary to sort through the accumulated books, letters, files, furniture, and so on, to make decisions as to their distribution.
I never thought that we would decide to finally bring dad's clock here with us, (as he'd told Stephen it was his if he wanted it! And Stephen wrote a blog about it)
One of dad's neighbours, Ian, took good care of it, coming in each week to wind it up. And repairing it when it went wrong. It does have a loud "tick" but I have to say as it is on the wall in our back room, it is a reminder of both dad, and the home in which he lived.

One of the things that has amazed me as I have been looking at dad's books and files, is just how much he has written.
He always wanted to be a journalist when he was younger, but he had to leave the Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School and, as his own dad Fred, put it, "Tha con get thiself a proper job......."
so he ended up in local government, before the WW2 started.
But it didn't stop him from writing..................
He was a compulsive writer.
He wrote stories which were published in "The Bedside Guardian," and had short stories read out on what was then the Home Service. Now Radio 4.
This being after the war, which interrupted his life in a big way, as it did to all other people at the time.
I can remember when I was very young sitting by the radio one evening to listen to one of the stories being read.
It was before I went to the very same grammar school and we moved to the address now for sale.
He wrote letters. When I went to college I received one a week. And these would not be short pithy ones! They were always descriptive and interesting.
It carried on after we got married and moved to Portsmouth, in 1974.( And on to Sutton Coldfield in 1981). One letter a week, unless we were visiting dad and mum, or vice versa. They only stopped around 2003, when he began to have problems with his sight.
He wrote to my sister when she moved to London, then Halesowen and finally Knaresborough, where she lives now.
It didn't matter that we all had telephones, he loved the written word.
We were not the only recipients of his letters.......
He wrote to people in Ireland, South Africa, and Canada, not to mention hundreds of letters to our local, paper, "The Rossendale Free Press"
When his sight eventually made it impossible for him, people would stop him and say they missed his letters in the paper.
He was blind in his left eye, due to glaucoma, before the next major problem reared its head. He began to have Age Related Macular Degeneration, and although he has limited peripheral vision, he is now registered blind and partially sighted. Although to look at him it is not obvious.
And he was also an avid reader, instilling in me a love of Shakespeare, and poetry, to mention but a few........ but he had to forgo his favourite pastime of having a book in his hand.
This he accepted and moved on to talking books and the radio. Having a thirst still for spoken words of literature.
He has not complained about his circumstances, and we have been proud of him, all of us, as a family. (We know he is not a saint! And I don't write this looking through rose tinted lenses!)
He has a determination about him which has kept him going and he deserves to be looked after in the best possible way. All the carers at the home love him to bits, and we tell them we love him too.
So I found myself having a conversation all about Beirut, and Lebanon, at my last visit. He has a huge Dictionary, which also serves as an encyclopaedia, and it is a ton weight to lift!!
"Get the Dictionary out," he will say, and so we do. Then we go off into a journey of history, geography, definitions of words, and back again. I learned a lot about Beirut in a short time!! Timelord being in Lebanon for a few days whilst I was visiting dad.
Sometimes I read to him, from the Lancashire dialect stories he has collected down the years. He used to belong to the Lancashire Authors Association and he wrote short stories for Radio Blackburn, (now Radio Lancashire). I recently found all the scripts! Which I am copying for the family.
A man of letters then, truly.
We hope he makes his 100th birthday and gets his telegram from the Queen!!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

What is it about the Lizard that it draws us back?


I never thought after our first visit to The Lizard in Cornwall that we would be returning year by year until now.
We went for the first time as my dad didn't feel like going on holiday on his own after my mum died in 1990, aged just 70.
When asked where he would like to go he pronounced "Cornwall, to the Lizard." As he and my mum had loved it there.
So began an annual trek, beginning in 1992. At that stage it was just ourselves, Alan and my dad. Matt at that time had gone to "Soul Survivor" at Shepton Mallett, a huge Christian gathering at the Bath and Wells showground.
Each year we have returned, with dad, when it has been posssible for him. He has only missed a couple due to his health until now when he cannot make the journey.
We stayed at Trenance Farm Holiday Cottages
And as the years went by, Matt joined us at times then when Alan began his stint at Shepton Mallett there were 3 of us!
When Matt and Heidi were married they came along two years running, the last being 2004, when we were all there, Alan included. We had two cottages then. It was a lovely summer.
So, what is it about The Lizard and Mullion that draws us back each time?

How to describe it?
My dad describes Mullion Cove as "timeless" and on a wet windy night with the sea bashing over the breakwater, "primeval". His memories of the Lizard are special and vivid.
It is a timeless place.
The other side of the peninsula that is Land's End is much more geared to tourists. St Ives, Penzance, Carbis Bay, and the monstrosity that is the theme park at Land's End itself.
The Lizard is a peninsula which begins at Helston,passes RAF Culdrose, and then unfolds as you drive along its spine. Heathland either side, covered in wild gorse, wild fuchsias and tumbling hedgerows, scrub and stunted trees.

Cadgwith village.
The little villages that sit on its edges in coves and bays are all different. Inland is partly a designated wildlife reserve, with Goonhilly in the centre and St Keverne's church a landmark. Other small hamlets dotted about.
Visitors emptying out of coaches at the Lizard village itself, wander along to The Southernmost point and to The Most Southerly Café. This in itself is not commercialised and although there are the usual gift and craft shops, the whole thing is very low key.
In spring now, the RSPB set a watch there as there are pairs of Cornish choughs breeding. They returned to the area after 50 years absence.
I was so excited when I saw them last May flying out of the cave in the rocks where they were raising their brood. I always have a pair of binoculars handy. There are usually seals in the water at the Lizard Point.
All this still does not describe why it draws us back. It stays in the mind visually, and as impressions, tumbling white surf, serpentine rocks, calling sea birds, the tang of the salt in the air on a windy day. Wide skies, turquoise blue of the water, smooth sand in little coves , the rough feel of the granite as you sit on a slab for awhile. The timelessness and the knowledge that year by year it changes very little.
Narrow coastal paths snaking their way along the edges of sheer cliffs or descending into hidden bays. Always always a delight. The scenery is superb on these coastal fringes.
And we have been there in all weathers and all seasons. Seeing the wildness of winter storms, and the abundance of spring flowers, the lushness of summer, and yes we have had some excellent summers there.

Sky endless blue, sea stretching to the horizon in a sparkling, ever shifting panorama, shimmering until infinity.
The scent of autumn, ploughed fields, brown bracken, a sense of the holiday season coming to a close and a quietness arriving.
Mullion village itself is the largest on the Lizard,and is a bustling community, with several artists in residence, which I enjoy. They actually work on site and it is fascinating to see their craft unfold in front of you. They are friendly and like to discuss techniques, offer suggestions and encouragement.
It is to Mullion we returned again this October after a 4 year absence when we had stayed at Housel Bay Hotel, Near Lizard village. It was like coming home. So many good memories there of family holidays, shared experiences, the voices and laughter echoed in my mind.
So, we are back again next June, and hopefully, for as long as we are able to make the journey.

Matt and my dad, on the walk to Kynance Cove. 2004.