Posted in Acting, Christmas, Creative, Family, Holiday

The Christmas Kitchen is open!

Last year, when we were all higgeldy-piggeldy and made the last-minute, unplanned move back to the UK, and O/H was having trouble a) finding work and/or b) holding it down once he’d found it; I saw an ad looking for Mrs Claus for a local large hotel’s Santa’s grotto.  Not sure how I stumbled across it but, well, it just seemed like fun.  I thought, what the heck? I applied for it on a whim. Of course, I expected them to be looking for white-haired ladies with a few more years behind them. So I was surprised to say the least when I was actually offered the job.   Of course, I’m going for more of the “Santa Clause 2” Elizabeth Mitchell version of Mrs. Claus, than the Angela Lansbury or Judy Cornwell version …

It was the first year they’d had Mrs Claus at their Grotto, so it was pretty much a chance to make use of my acting and improv skills … which I hadn’t used in so many years.

Basically, Mrs Claus at this grotto, runs a ‘kitchen’, baking gingerbread.  Children, while waiting to see the big man, come in, sit by a table and get to decorate a gingerbread christmas tree with icing and dolly-mixtures. A far more fun and participatory experience than standing in line, probably in rain, or snow, for ages.  Of course, there are always people who find something to complain about.  But, as in any of my past experinces in face-to-face customer service, we tell ourselves through gritted teeth, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  If someone had a problem with one aspect, it would be corrected.  Very soon, someone would have an issue with that correction.  If someone felt there was too much ‘waiting around’ (the word Queue is banned at Christmas!!), then procedures were put in place to streamline the process; then someone would feel that the new procedures were ‘rushing them through’ the experience…

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This year, there are changes; some of the ‘old’ things I miss; other changes are welcome, to both staff, and more importantly, wide-eyed excited visitors who constantly enquire when they will see Santa.  Nothing like building anticipation!

On Christmas eve last year, Santa asked me if I’d consider coming back {this year}. I thought about it for  a moment, and decided I would.  (Luckily, he said he would too, so, along with two of las year’s elves, I’m not the only returnee!)

For all the difficulties, discomforts and downfalls the job brought with it, spending the month of December watching, smiling and laughing, and interacting with countless amazed and excited children really is the best way of filling you with the Christmas spirit!

That, and watching Elf and Frozen on repeat for a whole month …

“Let it go….let it go….”

X

(Update – amusingly, someone reviewed the grotto on a rather well known review site, part of which stated Mrs Claus didn’t look like Mrs Claus – which amused me since how does one not look like an imaginary character?! – and the majority of the review reduced things the reviewer didn’t particularly like to “stupid” and “boring”.  Yes, just those two words.  over and over again.  Great use of vocab, there, nothing like constructive criticism, is there?!)

 

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Posted in Family, Life, Medical, Women's Issues, writing

The last time I saw Paris …

I haven’t been to Paris for 20 years. And I haven’t posted here for a few days.

Last night I was reminded with a jolt why I began blogging, properly, I mean – rather than signing up, writing one post then forgetting about it.

I’m not going to write yet another lament about Paris.  The attacks.  Those terrorists. I’m not going to speculate on who was responsible or what their cause may have been.  Yes, we all know, and have shared in countless tweets and Facebook statuses (stati???), how horrified we are; how we’ll all stand with the people of Paris; how we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.  Yes, we’re all devastated.  Yes, it’s scary and awful and should never have happened …

Last Thursday should have been my LLETZ appointment at the Colposcopy Clinic. Remember? I wrote this blog entry about being told I’d ‘failed’ my cervical smear test; and got sent for a biopsy…

I ended up having to cancel it … turns out it’s that time of the month . And the letter said to call and reschedule if that was the case.  I called twice, the day before, when it was obvious I wouldn’t make it.  I got an answermachine, and left a message.  It said “If you wish to cancel your appointment, leave your name and address; if you wish to speak to someone in the clinic, leave your name and phone number and someone will call you back”.  I left my name and number and message…hoping that I would get a call back to reschedule. I called later and got the same answer machine.  I called the next morning – the day of the appointment, and got the same message, so I left the same message, still expecting a call back.

That was two days ago.  I have resigned myself to the fact that, if they got my message, they will just send out another appointment letter.  I was hoping they wouldn’t do that.  I was hoping they would call me back and actually make an appointment with me, so I could check my diary.  Because it’s almost December.  And December this year, as I did last year, I will be living in Christmas again.

Last year, on a whim, I applied to play Mrs Claus at a large hotel.  it really, truly, was a magical, fun, happy experience.  Of course the pay was crappy and some of the people one had to work with were … well … lacking people skills, and the Christmas Spirit.  Some of the masses and masses of crowds of people jostling for their chance to see the big guy also lacked the spirit of Christmas; there were instances of nastiness and meanness from various sides that could have brought one to tears; BUT, Santa asked me, as we neared Christmas Eve, if I would consider doing it again; and I had little doubt in saying yes, almost immediately.  He agreed.  There were instances, people, occasions, that COULD have ruined Christmas for us all; but there were SO many more magical little instances that made us want to risk coming back.  The happier, smilier, most amazed of the children (and the adults, a surprisingly large number of whom displayed amazing Seasonal spirit!); the individual stories we would hear about, and from the mouths of, certain visitors … someone who had just lost a parent or grandparent; someone who wanted a nice photo with Santa because it might be their last photo; Someone who was so full of amazement and wonder because they’d never seen anything like this before; a group of school children whose class elf had disappeared a week before, then suddenly found his way into my sack of dolly-mixtures … all made the downsides of the job almost disappear.

I wanted to speak to someone and make my appointment in person, so that I could know the date, and not have to worry about another letter with another inconvenient date, dropping through the door.  Because with all the ‘not knowing’, something known and definite would be nice.  And it would be nice if they could at least let me have Christmas, without having to worry about it.

Like for a while, I’ve imagined I could feel a difference between one breast and the other.  The other morning I happened to mention it to the Other Half.  And with all this not knowing he leaped on it and immediately made an appointment at the doctors.  They had a cancellation, so I was there within 20 minutes.  The GP was reassuring, and happy – well, it was first thing in the morning, he hadn’t had the rest of the day to drag him down yet, I suppose – I apologised and explained about the abnormal smear and the waiting for the LLETZ appointment and that O/H, and me I suppose, were on heightened Cancer alert I suppose; anyway, I put it down to my right hand being a lot stronger than my left hand and it being very difficult to tell if both sides were the same; or very different; and in all honesty, I’d been breastfeeding up till a few months before; not to mention had 3 pretty close together; so couldn’t recall what ‘normal’ really was anyway.  He put my mind at ease, had a check (with a chaperone) and was pretty confident he couldn’t feel any difference in tissue on either side.  So, one minor weight, which I hadn’t really mulled over much anyway, off my mind.  But it did awaken me to the fact that it really is always there, in the background, affecting every decision I make.

Which brings me back to last night.  And this post.  And why last night made me remember to post.

My first post when I began this blog was a wake-up call.  A relative had written an autobiography of sorts.  Other relatives, although still with us physically, are, for all intents and purposes of learning from them, their philosophies, their history, their lives, are all but lost to us.  And then, there are relatives, remembered fondly, with whom I wish I could still chat. Now I’m older, and have children, and have had experiences I could have shared with them, there are more things I would have liked to have asked them, and learned from them.  And it makes me sad that I won’t. And in most of those cases, it wasn’t sudden.  They were old, and ill, or we could see it coming. And I committed to writing something of my life, even if just here, in a random corner of the internet that most people will never stumble across; so if there ever was a question my children wanted answered; or wanted my opinion on; maybe they’ll find some answer from me.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Fryer
Photo courtesy of Catherine Fryer

Last night, people went out for dinner, or to a concert, or to a sports game.  And never came home.

They didn’t live in a war zone; or in a region regularly terrorized by hurricane scale weather patterns; they didn’t even live in a country under military rule or in a permanent state of civil unrest.  They lived in a country in which I have one close relative already living an idyllic lifestyle; and this week another, even closer relative, has been driving around checking out peaceful places and  properties with a view to settling there within a few years.

In 2013, a helicopter crashed into a pub full of people who had, simply, gone to the pub for a quick pint.  Even crossing the road or sitting in your car are not things people think of as being dangerous. But events like a trucks breaks failing or driver error, to the families of people who are now no longer here; have this devastating effect as a shooting, or a bombing, or a typhoon … someone dies.  And more often than not, people die, for no reason, in the middle of their lives. No matter how many times they went to the gym; how many cucumbers they ate or how many chocolate bars they didn’t. Far more people seem to die when they didn’t ‘plan’ to.

So don’t worry about trying to live forever.  Just make sure you live, while you have the chance. And take pictures, and keep a diary. Leave something.

Stay safe, readers XXX  I’m off to hug my baby.

Posted in Life, Ship

All at sea…

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in a cargo ship. Not something that may people have a clue about. I grew up thinking of it as normal. Standard. Something that even if not everyone did, they they at least understood the lifestyle. Now, it seems like a lifetime ago.

M.V.Graig Ffion
M.V.Graig Ffion

I’ve tried starting to write this segment so many times before but always scrapped it.  Not as a blog post, but as an opening diary entry; or as the opening to a personal memoir, or an autobiography; or even as some based-in-real-experience fictionalisation. It always got scrapped because… well, I was young.  I was an embryo, then a newborn, then a young child, while I experienced all of this.  To me, it’s a bunch of muddled memories, some familiar faces and fascinating places – no names or dates or facts or figures.  At least, far too few to write an informed, encyclopedic account.  But that doesn’t mean the memory of this unusual childhood don’t remain.

It’s not something you see these days.  I remember commenting recently, chatting online with fellow ‘children-of-merchant-navy-crew’; how it’s so much against today’s Health&Safety-centric world culture. Someone posted a photo of them sat on their dad’s shoulders next to a massive turbine in the engine room. Irresponsible parenting?  Or an amazing experience for a child to have – traveling the world, outside of charter flights and all-inclusives and package holidays and theme parks.

Not to mention those strict rules about taking children out of school during term time.  Of course, this was the late 70’s (before I was in school anyway) and the eighties.  I’m not sure those rules were in place back then.  We did some school work, of course.  I recall mum coming out of school one day with a pile of work books to take with us.

Some names of places and things about them I recall; probably because on one of my later voyages, my mum made me do a project to take back to school with me, with a section on every place we went to on that voyage.

Messing around on deck – a bucket for a paddling pool!

As far as I know, from family chats, when my parents first met, Dad was studying at maritime college.  Not sure at what point they got married but he was working for a shipping company based in Cardiff Bay (way back in the days before it got rejuvenated and renamed as Cardiff Bay – it was still Butetown … or ‘the docks’, or ‘Tiger Bay’ … where Shirley Bassey was from).  Although I remember being told that all of the ships they ran (or owned, or managed, or whatever) were far too big to come in to Cardiff Docks.  From memory, I think every time we went to join Dad on board, or saw him off for a solo voyage, it involved a train journey to London, then a plane to wherever the ship he was joining happened to be docked at the time.  Again, with no timeline in my memory, he went from 2nd mate (2nd Officer) to 1st mate (1st officer), to Captain, during my memory span.

In fact, I recently learned of a new puzzle piece to fit in – I went on a girl’s weekend to Lisbon, earlier this year.  The conversation arose as to whether any of us had been before.  I quite clearly remember mum telling us (my brother and I) that we weren’t going home as had been planned, but in fact, we were staying on and going to Lisbon, in Portugal.  Shortly afterwards, plans changed again and it turned out that mum and brother and I would go home after all, but Dad would stay on.  It was only during the discussion before going to Lisbon this year, that mum disclosed that it was at that point that dad was made up to Captain.  He was asked to stay on and Captain the ship to Lisbon, but the family couldn’t stay on in case we were a distraction during his first command. I don’t know why – at the time I don’t think I’d ever heard of Lisbon, but I was extremely upset at not being allowed to go. I think it was just the thought of us going home without dad.

(Incidentally, I loved the city on my visit this year.  Will definitely be trying to visit again in the future.)

There are other random memories … or, rather, a mix of memories, and incidences I’ve been told about and have seen or acquired photos to go along with the stories …

I quite clearly remember going to a  place called Nouhadibou  – it was one of the places in the project I did.  It was (well, still is I suppose!) right on the edge of the Sahara desert. We weren’t allowed to go ashore, one reason why I suppose it stuck out in my memory.  Usually, during a 24-48 hour stay in a port we got to go ashore and explore the locale at least once while the crew were loading or unloading coal or iron-ore.  This place, even then (late 80’s?  I think it was my little sister’s one and only voyage, and she was only a baby), on the coast of wild West Africa, was too dangerous for woman and children to be venturing alone. So I only ever got to see it from afar. Sandy coloured everything – ground, roads, hills, buildings, all appeared to be the same colour from our distance.  I watched that movie “Captain Phillips” recently, and in addition to it just reminding me of living aboard ship, the dangers we might have faced didn’t seem all that real, at the time.

I’m told that I was on board during a trip Around the Horn – Cape Horn, right at the bottom tip of South America.  One of the most notoriously rough shipping channels in the world.  I can’t claim to marry the two up, but I have strong memories of being in rough seas, and the ship ‘rolling’ (tipping dramatically from one side to the other).  I remember the edges of the dining tables in the dining room, had small ‘lips’, on hinges around the edges, so they could be lifted and clipped in to place, so eating during rough weather didn’t result in one’s soup pouring into one’s lap.  And every door had one of those little clips to hold it open if needs be.

courtesy of one of the other Captains - encounters like this were pretty exciting!
courtesy of one of the other Captains – encounters like this were pretty exciting!

In passing conversation, I’ve always shortened my childhood to a logline-length “I went around the world, more than once, before I was 9 years old.”  I found this diagram online of world shipping lanes.  I have memories of most; except crossing the Atlantic.  Although I’ve made up for it in more recent times, but I don’t recall ever visiting North America during my voyages as a child.world cargo shipping lanes

New Year’s Eve at sea : I remember having Christmas on board ship, more than once, I think.  Mum made the kitchen crew put coins in the Christmas pudding, like my grandmother used to at home; so those lucky enough would get a treat of some pocket money (if they didn’t choke on it first!).  We were around northern Europe, somewhere.  I vaguely recall going in to toyshops, maybe in Germany or nearby, and seeing puzzles and other toys I’d recognise as being what we would find in the UK, but with foreign writing on them, and different symbols on the price tags. (These were the days before the almighty Euro too, when the UK wasn’t the only one with its own currency). Patiently waiting to open out Christmas presents

After Christmas, we sailed up towards Norway. We were anchored off the coast, I think heading for the port of Narvik, for New Year’s Eve. We had an amazing view of the Northern Lights.  These days I would’ve probably been up all night with my camera, but as it stands, I have no pictures, just memories of that.  There was a tradition (I don’t know if it was made up just for us or if it really was done every year) that the oldest on board would ring the ship’s bell, just before midnight, to ring out the old year; and the youngest on board, would then ring it again to ring the New year in.  As it happened, this year was one of extremes.  Regularly, a retired captain, Captain Hooper, known to all as Hoops I think, who had been allowed to travel on voyages for his own amusement after retirement, I think.  (In all honesty, I never knew why; but if you were a retired seaman who’d spent all of your life at sea, could you imagine being stuck in your lounge looking out the window, or in the day room of some retirement home?  Way to suck the remaining life out of you! I like to think allowing him to ‘tag along’ on voyages was a way of him enjoying his retirement.  And a little rejuvenating I suppose, having children on board too.)  Anyway, he was, by far, the oldest on board; so rung the old year out.  My brother must have been 2 or 3 at the time and got to ring the new year in.picture of graig werdd

The other reason Narvik stuck in my memory, was when we were to go in to dock, after waiting at anchor, the pilot came on board.  (Each port has its own pilot.  They’re seamen who are so familiar and experienced with their own port, that they are brought on board visiting vessels to guide them in to port).  He explained to my brother and me that it got so dark so early in Norway that all the children had reflective strips on their clothing and gave us both a plastic, reflective disk, on a string.  I think the idea was to wear it as a necklace.  I had that for quite a while, but I’ve moved house so often that somewhere along the line it’s gone.  Narvik was one place we DID get to go ashore to look at.  for some reason I remember it being pretty quiet.  Mind you, this was a day or two after New Year’s, so it was probably still a public holiday or something.  It was pretty dead (and snow-covered) in the town square…for some reason, I just remember a large tank parked right in the middle of the square.  Also snow-covered.  I think we had a photo of it at one point.  Lost, in moves, again. I seemed to recall it being something to do with World War 2; so I looked it up recently, and apparently there was a lot of action there in and around 1940.

One year, we were there for ANZAC day in Australia (although it was years before I met anyone else who knew what ANZAC day was…maybe not even until we moved to New Zealand!), and I remember going ashore to a small, white chapel, possibly made of wood panels; with ceiling fans, and sit in a pew and join in a remembrance service. I remember going to a shop that sold touristy things and gifts, and for years afterwards my mum wore a night shirt that had writing on it, upside down, saying “I’m an Upside-down Aussie”.  It was funny, to an 8 year old. My brother and I had a stuffed Koala each.  We named the Brucie and Lucy. (we had two hamsters at home named that too…not sure which came first).  I still have my Koala.  I’m not sure if it’s made of real Koala fur but it certainly doesn’t seem like imitation fur; and it’s weird, for a stuffed toy, it quite hard, like a taxidermy kind of thing rather than a cuddly toy type of thing.  She’s been lost a few times, and found again.  And she used to have little plastic claws on her hands and feet but one of many pet dogs that have come into and out of my life over the years had a penchant for chewing those particular parts of her.  She is now claw-less.   But, she is one of two things that I still own, currently safe in my own home, from my days at sea.

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The other is a Chinese doll, that was (apparently) given to me by the shipping agent in Hong Kong, I think.  I’m amazed she’s survived this long, to be honest!  Although, admittedly, every pane of glass on her bamboo framed case has been replaced.

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I’m sure after I sign off this post, there’ll be more instances (like the fancy dress party, to which two crew members went as a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste, my brother and I were Robin Hood & Maid Marian, my mum was Crystal Tips … amazing how creative people can be in the middle of the ocean with limited resources…) of things I suddenly remember.  But at least I’ve finally made a start at logging somewhere that it ever really happened…

Posted in Family, Halloween, Holiday, Home, Life

Halloween

It’s never been as big a thing in the UK as the U.S.A.; not from what we can see from watching movies.  I think it’s catching on more, but the general idea of it, the way it is today, is pretty much an American invention.

I recall going to a Halloween party at Youth Club; and trick-or-treating a couple of times, when I was younger.  And then there was the BBC’s “Ghostwatch” prank which freaked my cousin and me out completely; as we were home alone babysitting her little brother, in our mid-teens.

Apart from that, it wasn’t much of a big thing.  Particularly because at this time of year, the UK had Guy Fawkes Night  to contemplate; which the U.S.A. doesn’t.

These days, however, far more than when I was young; there seem to be more Halloween discos, more fancy dress costumes for sale in the shops; pumpkins for sale just about everywhere; another hint as to our Americanisation – since they’re native to North America .

In our house, we’ve become more involved in it since living very close to the U.S.A., surrounded by Americans, while living in The Bahamas for a couple of years.  We’ve collected enough Halloween decorations for the container to almost (not quite) rival the Christmas Decorations box.  And the O/H has discovered a talent for carving.  So, in honour, today’s post has more of a visual theme to it.  Here’s some of his creations from the past few years:

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pumpkin4

pumpkin5

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pumpkin7

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pumpkin10

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Amazing what you can do with stencils and a pumpkin carving kit from the supermarket …

Posted in Creative, Family, Halloween, Life, Nails, Women's Issues

Nails

Purely because I’ve been suffering from a mild migraine type affliction today so haven’t been feeling like concentrating on much.  Therefore those things which demand my attention every day regardless used up what little care I had to spread around!

So today, whilst doing this to my nails in a few minutes of down time …

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… it occurred to me to let you know about this little hobby of mine.

I’m not too shallow when it comes to clothes or shoes or make-up.  I have a penchant for handbags; well, bags and luggage in general.  (I think I spent too long working with baggage at the airport a few years ago).  I’ll dress up when I need to – I love a good party and dancing the night away but rarely get a chance to anymore – when I do I like to make the effort.  Make-up I use for, well, making myself up to appear on something; or performing as something.  For example, I’ll be digging out the blusher big time for Mrs Claus’s rosy cheeks next month.  But I’m not one of these who will just die if I have to leave the house without make-up.  In fact, I frequently do.  But Nail Art is something I find fun.

I won’t go to a salon and pay someone a fortune to ‘do’ my nails.  It would be a fruitless waste of my time (if I had any to myself) and money (ditto) , since when I wasn’t there, the nails, be they fake or well manicured; spend the vast majority of their time immersed in liquid….soaking nappies; washing dishes; or being put to good use scraping dried Weetabix from the breakfast table. But, I’ve found that with any addiction I may have succumbed to, the easiest way to overcome it is to replace it with another, slightly more palatable one.  So, many years ago, I trained myself to stop biting my nails by spending more time taking care of them and decorating them.  This was fine when I was working in my first ever full-time regular job, which was in a call center.  In fact, they became a little amusing talking point at team meetings.  A couple of years later, after traveling the USA and Brazil, I started working at the Airport and became subject to uniform regulations (Yup, there was a rule book for that too), which demanded we be ‘well manicured at all times’.  Which was fine, as far as care and attention went; but did restrict my creativity to a few very similar colours that ‘matched or complimented’ the colours of the uniform.  And strictly no stripes, patterns or glitter.

Having babies is another chink in the armour of keeping one’s nails interesting.  They just NEVER stay asleep long enough for the darn things to dry.

Now, I’ve already mentioned how I didn’t know what to blog about, I’ve tried before and failed.  I’ve searched and searched for a ‘thing’ – some people blog about children; some people blog about travel; some people blog about Nail Art… I could never settle on just ONE aspect of my life to blog about.  I’d be leaving so many interesting things out!  So, I’m not claiming to be an expert at it or anything; or anywhere near as good as some of the video tutorials or real Nail art bloggers out there.  Nor would I want to be.  I’ve got far more important things to do with my time than JUST do my nails.  But, since it replaced the chewing and biting and generally uncomfortable and ugly habit, I did, and still do, feel half undressed if my nails are not ‘done’.  I don’t mean ALWAYS having bright garish colours or crazy patterns, or even any colour at all, on them.  I mean, if they’re not neatly filed, or evenly trimmed;  If I’ve managed to rip one whilst doing housework, or chipped one doing the gardening; then it continuously bugs me until they’re sorted, neat and tidy and with at least one coat of clear nail varnish or nail treatment on.

Regardless, over the past few years, have managed to get up quite a nice collection of pictures of nails I decorated. So, without further ado, here’s some of my favorites.

52764_10151375111729813_1723939283_o 64059_10151797153274813_600998103_n 178643_10151330053249813_1100395986_o 338369_10150577621294813_1154001522_o 457855_10150697529449813_1358604668_o 464078_10151655183979813_12932185_o 476463_10150708990739813_888455866_o 482118_10151592974129813_2013344760_n 546227_10151408917049813_2039026515_n 553320_10151592973469813_309345293_n 565027_10151408916999813_21703568_n 704888_10151359200784813_239887926_o 774767_10151442696429813_1142343983_o 944412_10151664341374813_22389992_n 998241_10151857557549813_265608681_n 1011151_10151745590174813_700583239_n 12185123_10153703433129813_8593788537919850648_o

Posted in Family, History, Life, writing

Document your life.

serendipity


A couple of years ago, I don’t remember how I heard about it, but my grandfather published a book, about his life.  Now I’m plugging it, but not as a great literary masterpiece. Indeed, I don’t believe it was intended as such.  I mean, even I, poring over it and rushing through to discover what gems of memories the next page held, with rose-tinted glasses, spotted a few typos and spelling mistakes; and worried overtly about the over-use of exclamation marks.  (Although granted, when subject matters such as being held captive at the spear-ends of a thousand tribal warriors are being discussed, there may not be enough exclamation marks one can insert to illustrate the mood of the situation).

No. What really struck me, even before half-way through, was that you can know someone your whole life – a parent, grandparent, even a close friend who mimics any of these relationships, and you still won’t know everything about them.  If they’re older, they had years and years of a whole other life even before you were born, let alone since you were old enough to remember.  Even tidbits of memories and information and the odd photograph that another mutual relative or friend may share with you about the person in question, can’t quite make up for the said relative recounting their own whole life in memories and photographs, and setting it out in a format that will be around long after they’ve gone.

To put a bit more gravitas on this, the subject in question is my paternal grandfather (adopted, also great-uncle by marriage but the vast complications of my weird and wonderful living-memory level heritage can be dealt with at a later date. Although, incidentally it’s pretty much explained in the book!).

At almost the very same point in time as he was putting this memoir together, the corresponding memories my maternal grandparents may have had, were slowly becoming lost to us.

Little did we know at the time, but by now, the two wonderful people who featured so heavily in my life, and those of my siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles, are both, happily living in oblivion, physically quite good specimens for their ages but mentally, all but totally unaware of who their own children and grandchildren are when any of us visit them.  My maternal grandfather can wake up from a nap, speaking to whosoever is nearest in perfect Italian, believing he is back there in the height of World War Two, or visiting with his wife years and years later, ordering a bottle of a restaurant’s finest wine in native tongue and being mistaken, with his jet black hair even late into life, for a local.

My grandmother can be sat watching the tennis in the TV room, and tell my aunt (whom she does not recognise, and believes to be the latest care-worker) in all seriousness how she was there just yesterday, sat next to Val Doonican near the Royal Box.  Blissfully unaware is she that this memory is from the safety of her own little dreamworld.

The fact that this book by one grandparent, and the deterioration in the mental states of others, all seemed to happen around the same time, really brought home to me one thing – we should all take the time to document our lives.  I still have countless relatives who can recount tales, memories, share photographs, of my maternal grandparents, but there are things about their lives that only they would have been able to tell me.  The fact that I can still go and sit next to them, and offer them a cup of tea, and chat about how nice the sun is, sitting in the conservatory, only serves as a poignant reminder that the stranger sat next to me was so much more, at least to me, just a few very short years ago.

We can’t all say that we were bomb disposal experts during the blitz, or best mates with the earliest TV pioneers.  We can’t all claim to have traveled the world extensively, we’re not all novelists or artists; we won’t all be remembered for our amazing cooking or leave behind wonderfully hand crafted wooden love-spoons. And no, not everyone who writes a book will become a New York Times Best Seller.  But, the odd little world of vanity publishing is becoming not so little any more. It may well result in a load of self-gratification drivel flooding the bookshelves of Hay-On-Wye in the future; but on the other hand, in years to come, a tangible, touchable copy of the inside of your mind may well be the most precious thing you could leave for your children, grandchildren, and all those who come after.

Peter Watson-Wood’s memoir “Serendipity … a Life” can be found on Amazon and on his website.