Stazjia’s Commentary

Archive for July 2008

It’s been very hot and sunny here over the last few days, such a change from the rain we’ve had. I went to visit my brother and his family on the outskirts of London on Friday, came home yesterday. I love going to stay with them. His partner is Kenyan and they have a son aged 1 year 10 months, and my brother has two daughters, 14 and 12, from a previous marriage who live with him. They always make me very welcome and we talk endlessly and have a laugh too.

This visit was for a special occasion. My brother was 50 last April but we have a tradition in our family for throwing surprise parties for ‘big’ birthdays so we thought he’d expect one. His partner decided to arrange it for the end of July when he wouldn’t expect anything. He was told she was arranging a Kenyan party for about 40 of her friends and relatives here in England and I was invited as an ‘honorary Kenyan’. In fact, only her sisters and their husbands were invited, the other guests were our mother, my other brother and his family and our uncle and his partner. My brother was very surprised. He didn’t expect anything like that. He was very pleased and happy.

My uncle is 79 and we haven’t seen him for 25 years. He worked abroad a lot and then his wife got Alzheimers Disease and he looked after her for 7 years on his own. He just didn’t want other people to visit. As he lived in west Wales then, it was hard to arrange to see him. He’s happy now with his new partner. He looks frail and he hasn’t been well. He’s still the same person, though. He doesn’t act old.

When I was a little girl, I worshiped him. I thought he was absolutely wonderful and would follow him around like a little dog. Bearing in mind he was a very young man when I was born, he was endlessly patient with me. In fact, he told me that he adored me as a little girl and I’d always been his favourite. We both nearly cried when we met again after so long on Saturday. I’m so glad I’ve seen him, who knows if we’ll have another chance.

It was such a lovely weekend, I really enjoyed it and am so glad I went.

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Me at the age of six used on my Squidoo Lensography

Me at the age of six used on my Squidoo Lensography

This is the picture on my Lensography, taken when I was 6 years old. The Lensography is a list of all my Squidoo lenses.

I added another one today – Fruit Harvest Recipes. It has recipes for using fruit from your garden like apples, plums, blackberries and peaches. They are all recipes I’ve used often and really like.

I’ve got a second lens nearly ready, should be live tomorrow (Friday) called Preserving Recipes for Summer Produce – the title might change but the URL won’t. I’m still not sure that title really tells people what it’s about. I’m always saying to people, don’t get too clever with web page titles and I think I might be guilty of that this time. Oh well, I’ll keep thinking about it.

Tomorrow lunchtime I go to London for the family party on Saturday. I finally found time to get out the dress I plan to wear and am relieved that it’s OK, it just needs a bit of pressing.

Since I last wrote about Squidoo, I’ve done some new lenses. They are:

Torquay, South Devon
Sugar – Friend or Foe?
Chocolate & Butterscotch Brownies
Tea – Black or Green?
Stazjia’s English Travel Lenses
Stazjia’s Lensography

The Chocolate & Butterscotch Brownies is a recipe and is done in aid of charity as part of the Bake Sale Group – all the lenses in this group support charity.

The Lensography is a complete list of my lenses, sorted into subject. I’ll just keep adding lenses to it as I do them.

I wanted a change from travel lenses so I thought I’d start on food and drink. It was prompted by reading about the charity bake sale and doing the brownies recipe for it. The lens about sugar is a factual look at the use and characteristics of sugar – no recipes. With Tea – Black or Green? I’ve covered the history of tea and then indulged into some nostalgia of high teas of my childhood. I’ve also described a typical ‘English afternoon tea’.

We have a rhyme in the UK:

A son is a son till he takes him a wife
But a daughter’s a daughter for all of her life.

I think that is largely true. Most women don’t distance themselves in quite the same way as some men once they are married. It’s usually the adult daughter who takes responsibility for ailing parents, for example, no matter what other responsibilities she has.

I don’t necessarily think that this is a bad thing. It seems that the most successful marriages are those where the husband is fully committed to his wife and puts her way above his mother in priorities. So often a son is the apple of a mother’s eye. A woman told me recently how the only time she sobbed in public was when her son married but she was quite OK when her two daughters married. She liked her son’s wife so it wasn’t that, she just didn’t want to lose her ‘little boy’.

You do find some men are so emotionally committed to their mothers that they put her interests above those of their wives. They constantly visit and phone and are at their mothers’ beck and call. They take the side of their mothers when they should be supporting their wives.

I know a man who has been married twice and is now in a third relationship. He has children from both marriages and from this relationship. He is a devoted and excellent parent, he really can’t be faulted in any way.

His mother is an extremely possessive person and he was the favourite out of her three children – she absolutely doted on him. When he first married in his 20s, she bought a flat near where she lives and let him and his wife live there. She had her own key and would ‘pop round’, maybe to put some food in their refrigerator or bring something useful, any excuse, really, and she would let herself in with her key. It got to the point where the son was confiding in his mother about rows and difficulties with his wife. The mother, of course, didn’t calm him down and talk sensibly, she stirred him up and eventually she was happy when they divorced. The second marriage followed the pattern of the first with exception of not living in his mother’s flat.

Luckily for him, the man’s new partner is a strong woman who wouldn’t stand for this level of interference and put her foot down. He no longer dances attendance on his mother nor confides in her about his relationship. It’s taken him to become a middle aged man before he could finally cut himself free of his mother’s apron strings.

Next Friday I go to London for a family party on Saturday. This year my youngest brother was 50 and my mother 85 and we’re having a surprise party for the two of them together. I don’t much like going to London anymore but I’m looking forward to seeing everybody. I’ll come home on Monday because I expect I’ll be too tired on Sunday.

I’ve already bought my train tickets. At one time, it was always cheaper to buy a return ticket and when you check the prices online, those are the prices you get when you put in your starting station and destination and the days you are travelling. If you check on the single tickets, though, they are often cheaper. I’m paying £9 each way (about $18 ) for the single tickets whereas I’d have had to pay about £48 ($96) for a return ticket. That is just so silly. Why would anybody buy a return ticket when it’s over double the price?

The White Horse, Cherhill, Wiltshire

The White Horse, Cherhill, Wiltshire

When I lived in London, I was always going somewhere – different stores to the ones where I lived, to work – I never had a job that wasn’t at least 30 minutes travel time away, to meet friends – always in Central London, never nearby.

Now I’m semi-retired or at least not well enough to work, of course a job isn’t a problem. Since we moved to the country I’ve been self-employed and worked from home which I loved. I could have a lie in bed when I wanted knowing I just had to have a quick shower and go downstairs. I could eat my breakfast at my desk if I was too late to have it in the kitchen. I could work hard and clear my desk and take a day off or work at weekend instead of Friday for example. The only travelling I did was to see clients, usually in London. That was about an hour on the train then a cab ride in London.

We mostly get all our food and household stuff locally. We only go to a bigger town when we want something special like a piece of furniture or more expensive clothes. We can buy reasonably priced clothes for every day wear locally.

I mostly wear casual clothes, jeans, tee-shirts, sandals or boots, waterproofs with a hood. In London I never wore a hooded waterproof jacket, I wore a smart raincoat if it was raining and carried an umbrella (that I usually lost!). During the working week I always wore smart clothes, only wearing casual clothes at the weekend. Then I put on make-up everyday, now I don’t.

I still get the best haircut I can afford and I’m lucky because there is an excellent hairdresser in our town.

Today we went to the local farmers’ market in town where there are real farmers selling their own produce. I bought 2 trout and trout pate from a fish farmer, home made brown bread, and organic raspberries – my very favourite fruit.

Salisbury Cathedral by Constable

Salisbury Cathedral by Constable

Sometimes we go to the big Salisbury market on Saturday. It’s a real headache to park, though, and the city is always very crowded with people on market day. This kind of market is such an old fashioned concept that has been taking place for centuries.

I think the car boot (trunk) sales that take place at the weekend all over the country in fields and carparks are a direct descendent of the traditional markets. Here in Wiltshire, the car boot sales are nearly all amateur sellers trying to sell the stuff they no longer use. It works well – one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. A few weeks ago I bought a watercolour painting of a springer spaniel which I thought was lovely. It is nicely framed and glazed and only £2 (about $4).

My own springer spaniel

My own springer spaniel

Almost everywhere we go in Wiltshire, people are pleasant, chatty and smiley, always ready to exchange a word and a joke. It is a complete contrast to London where that didn’t happen much. I suppose it’s because you hardly saw the same people so never got to recognise them or maybe it’s just that there are so many people around in London that people just can’t be bothered or have time to be friendly.

Read my first blog about The Differences Between Town & Country.

Rudyard KiplingI’ve been very busy over the last few days doing two news lens. The first one is on Rudyard Kipling, author of books like The Jungle Book and Kim and numerous poems. I know a lot of people think he was racist and jingoistic but I really don’t think he was. His language was definitely that of a Victorian or Edwardian upper class man but then he was a product of this time, just as we are.

If you read his novels and poems it quickly becomes obvious that he loved the East, particularly India where he was brought up until he was 5 years old. It’s also obvious that he loved and respected the people there. Another thing that shines through his work is his understanding of enlisted soldiers, often treated like the scum of the earth when they went home to Britain – see his poem Tommy.

I first read Kim when I was a child and loved it. I’ve re-read it several times since and it’s still pleased me as much as it did when I was young. I’m sure when Kipling was sent to England at the age of 5 to be educated while his parents remained in India, he must have hated being parted from his mother and father, his friends and all the familiar sights and sounds of India. Surely, as he served his sentence in England (it must have felt like a prison sentence), got a bit older and read adventure stories, he must fantasized about staying behind in India and living on the streets, pretending to be an Indian boy and having adventures of his own.

I don’t expect this lens to be particularly popular because, although Rudyard Kipling is less unfashionable than he was, he’s still not high on most people’s reading lists. They just don’t know what they’re missing.

The other lens I did is on The New City of Brighton & Hove in Sussex. Brighton is such a popular and fashionable seaside resort and, together with its neighbour Hove, was officially designated as a city in 2000. It’s most famous for its flamboyant Royal Pavilion built by the Prince Regent (later King George IV) in the late 18th century. It was the scene of the Brighton Bombing in 1984 which was meant to kill Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Although Mrs Thatcher survived uninjured, two people were killed and many others seriously injured and left with permanent disabilities.

Then there were the mystery fires that finally led to the end of Brighton’s West Pier – were they arson? The Police and Fire Brigade certainly classified them as ‘suspicious’. Even four years later, there are no answers.

Brighton is a most attractive place to live. It’s 60 miles from London and there is a good, fast rail service to the capital. It has an active nightlife, restaurants, clubs, entertainment and is close to beautiful countryside. It’s little wonder that it attracts a lot of famous people. Currently these include people as varied as Simon Cowell, Lord Richard Attenborough and Nigel Kennedy. In the past they have included Lord Laurence Olivier, Graham Greene, and the exiled Napoleon III.