Black and Pink.

Lloyds Bank Black Horse - Something about DartmoorTuesday 17th January 2017 – I went to Bideford – ‘The Little White Town’ – to officially close my Father’s ‘Black Horse’ bank account.

After that I enjoyed a quick look around a couple of charity shops – and then I went to the Burton Art Gallery – to see Madeline, Gabriel and the rest of the crew…ST833100 Bagpuss and co exhibition at the Burton Art Gallery Bideford. Something about DartmoorST833095 Clangers at Burton Art Gallery Bideford. Something about Dartmoor ST833097 Clangers - Burton Art Gallery. Something about DartmoorI can’t tell you how happy I felt to finally meet Bagpuss face to face – and gaze into his bright blue eyes and remember the magic of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. I only wish I could have picked up that saggy old cloth cat behind the glass – and given him a great big hug like Emily – the little girl who loved him.  Bagpuss didn’t look a day older!Bagpuss at the Burton Art Gallery Bideford. Something about Dartmoor

My Father was a bit like Bagpuss come the end – he slept a lot and was rather loose at the seams but we all loved him.

My Dad putting on one of my hats and making us all laugh.

Dad putting on one of my felt hats and making us all laugh.

He was a wizard at pulling silly faces!

He was a wizard at pulling silly faces!

As another kinda pussycat - 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'!

As another kinda pussycat – ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’!

 

A photo of a photocopy of a precious photo.

Today – Sunday 15th January 2017 would have been my Dad’s ninety-third birthday – he didn’t quite make it.  We had a little celebration get-together – and my sister gave me a copy of a long forgotten photograph – age probably early twenties.  Gosh Dad you were a looker!  

A photo of a photocopy of a photo.

A photo of a photocopy of a photo.

Play it again! Countless times I must have heard the roar of this engine accelerating away – out of your open bedroom door – down the stairs – and into my room!  Happy Birthday wherever you are – your favourite track ‘one’ more time! X

The lights were on GO. Friday 13th January 2017.

Snowy Dartmoor - January Friday 13th 2017. Something about Dartmoor

Left for Okehampton. Dartmoor covered in a blanket of snow – Friday 13th. January 2017 – registration day.

I woke up to BBC Breakfast News – and reports of inclement weather conditions up and down the country except in the South West.  I was so relieved when I drew back the curtains; the forecast was clear and the roads to Okehampton from my direction were ice and snow free – although Dartmoor itself was white.  

Okehampton Town Hall on the corner of the four-way cross.

Okehampton Town Hall on the corner of the four-way cross yesterday.

I had an important appointment to keep – to register my Father’s death at the Town Hall which is situated on the main crossroads in the heart of the town – and to collect the ‘green paper’ for the undertaker – which without – no funeral could take place Friday week. My sister Rosie and her family in Vienna have already booked and paid their fare – it was a very important appointment to keep. Even the weather was on Go.

I knocked once and waited. A very nice man opened the door and went through the registration with me - all very easy.

I knocked once and waited. A very nice man opened the door and went through the registration process with me – all very easy and pleasant.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

The glass roof of Okehampton Arcade yesterday.

The glass roof of Okehampton Arcade yesterday.

Okehampton was Dad’s favourite town in the west-country – where he’d done his weekly shop for years – followed by a gentle amble around beautiful Simmons Park beside the East Okement river. After registering his death – I walked up the Arcade to the park to do a morning lap in his memory. Over many years we must have lapped Simmons Park a thousand or more times together – and then with my boys – when they were younger.  Okehampton was wide awake – people were all about the business of the day – the World doesn’t stop. 

The day had an energy of its own – everything flowed – apart from my camera! I take it everywhere – even with me on this official day.

These are the photos. Each one hurriedly snapped because my camera kept frustratingly turning itself off; I’d neglected to charge it the night before!  I offer no scientific explanation as to why I was suddenly able to turn it back on again – and then again – and squeeze just one more shot before the viewfinder turned black and the alarm went beep beep beep again – using up its last vestige of energy even more! I walked on a bit more and then I’d see another ‘memory’ I wanted to keep – so I pushed my luck again…

Another unanswered question - why is there a number 13 above the lantern? It's always been there but on this occasion it seemed especially significant.  I think I probably think to much!!!

Another question – why is there a number 13 above the lantern? Today it seemed especially significant although it’s probably been there for years and I’ve just never noticed it.

My faithful old camera did ‘flatline’ eventually.   Here though – are the precious photos from Dad’s official day. 

The way in...

The way in…

By the ponds - and the fountains - and the wooden park house...

By ponds – and fountains – and the wooden park house with a red roof…

Over the East Okement - to stand on 'our' bridge...

Over the East Okement – to stand on ‘our’ bridge…

Something about Dartmoor - East Okement RiverST833039

Another promise of Spring. Bulbs pushing through the earth…

Concentric circles - Time.

Concentric circles – time.

Winter Crab Apples. I picked up a fallen one from the grass - deepest t red and muddy - and put it in my pocket.

Winter Crab Apples. I picked up a fallen one from the grass – deepest red and muddy.  I put it in my pocket for ‘keeps’ – although it too will decay eventually – everything does.

One for sorrow. Not really - Dad knew he was dying - wanted to die - he couldn't go on anymore.

One for sorrow; not truly.  Dad knew he was dying – he asked to die near the end – he had endured enough – and I knew he could’t go on anymore – not even for all his family.  It was time.

The way in and the way out...

The way in and the way out…

Back through the arcade - to the shops...

Back through the arcade – to the shops…

My favourite shop in Okehampton. I 'bought' three items. A mysterious canvas painting of a cave opening - and a copper bangle with a Maltese Cross on it and a wooden, hand carved Holy cross. These two items the ladies gave me with the picture.

My favourite shop in all Okehampton. I ‘bought’ three items. A mysterious canvas painting of a cave opening – a copper bangle with a Maltese Cross on it and a wooden, hand carved Holy cross. These smaller items – the ladies kindly gave me with the picture.  I love this place!

The White Hart Hotel on the other corner of the crossroads.

Finally back to where I started – at the four-way cross.  The White Hart Hotel.

Cave painting. I know why I was drawn to it even though it looks dark. To me

Cave painting.  I know why I was drawn to it even-though it looks dark in there.  To me – its Birth and Death – and the eternal mystery of both.  I’m not sure where I’ll hang it just now!

THE GATE OF THE YEAR by Minnie Louise Haskins

God Knows

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.

 

Heaven-sent.

Today it is pouring with rain again – it’s suitably dismal. Yesterday though – Wednesday the 11th of January 2017 – was Heaven-sent. For the first time since Dad’s passing I woke up to blue sky and white fluffy clouds.

The tower of St. Mary Magdalene's Church South Molton.

View from the yard at work 11-01-17. The tower of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church – South Molton.

I took Wednesday off from funeral arrangements – the undertaker came Tuesday, the vicar is coming this afternoon – and on Friday I shall register my Father’s death.  Wednesday was a work day. It was business as usual – apart from receiving a large bunch of Spring flowers on my arrival from all the gang.

Promise of Spring from 'The Gang'

‘Promise of Spring’  They smell divine.

During a quiet spell – I went out into the yard – where all the scrap metal items are piled ready for sorting and collection.  I pulled out an old lantern that had bits missing – and no glass – but its shape instantly reminded me of Christ’s lantern – in my favourite painting ‘The Light of the World’ by William Holman Hunt.

Holding my lantern aloft to admire it.

Holding my lantern aloft to admire it.

When I held it up to admire it – the wind caught it and blew through it sideways – and I noticed its shadow on the sunlit wall; I’d struck Gold – and Silver…

Renewed and gleaming in the sunlight.

Renewed and gleaming in the sunlight at the back of the yard.

I wandered up to the back of the yard – with the lantern still swinging in my hand – to where some grubby old fridges also await recycling. The wind was really blowy – cold and fresh – and invigorating.  After several overcast days I felt alive and happy to be back to normal. It is hard to feel truly sad about my Father’s passing because I knew Death was coming and he’d reached a great age. I saw Death which I think makes it easier. To stand at the foot of my Father’s bed – before him when he died was a privilege – as seeing someone being born. It was profoundly mysterious – and I’ll never forget how lucky I was to be in the right place at the right time 10:50 am – to pronounce him dead. If it had happened a day earlier – I’d have been at work.  Just knowing that he’s not here in person is sad enough but I don’t dwell on that thought because he feels very near in a dimension that I can’t explain; yesterday at the back of the yard my Father was with me in spirit. There have been several uncanny experiences since his passing.

SIlver Birches and Sky.

Silver Birch – ‘Lady of the Woods’

I stood under January’s trees and watched the wind stir through them. I could feel their down-draught sweep over me, around me and through me – it was a feeling of complete euphoria. I spun around with my lantern still in my hand like I used to when I was a child – until dizzy –  I should have been working really – and serving in the shop – no matter! So many things pass through our recycle shop; how could anyone know that by donating that broken lantern it would come to mean so much to another person – me. I guess that’s the ethos of our wonderful shop – SMR Phoenix. I’m glad I went back to work if only for one special day until everything is sorted for the funeral. 

Here are the ‘Ladies’ at the back of the yard – how lucky am I to have them so close in all their moods. On some days their long hair hangs perfectly still but yesterday they had the wind through it – Dad.  You can almost hear the rush in these photographs – imagine my feeling – and feel joy too. Here is the sequence – we reach our crescendo near the end – enjoy!ST832974 ST832968ST832969ST832975ST832976ST832979ST832981ST832984ST832986ST832989ST832990

Going home time.

At going home time.

 

Unending Circle.

Many happy days on Dartmoor remembered. With Tom in 2008.

Grandpa and Tom – and me!  Dad in his eighties atop a Dartmoor Tor – 2008.

Yesterday, 6th. January 2017 at 10:50 am – my Father died peacefully at home.  He saw me being born and I witnessed him die; our circle is complete – unending.  

One of the things I’ll miss about him the most – is showing him my finds.  It is something I’ve done since girlhood and something that he loved to share in.  When he couldn’t get out on his daily walks anymore – it helped to keep him connected with the outdoors through my eyes.  

For me – the greatest loss of all was the thought that he wasn’t able to go outside and see nature for himself.  I hope he can see now – now that he’s got out through the open window.

Showing Dad my eight-pointer antler find. April 2016.

Bringing the outside in.   Showing Dad my eight-pointer shed antler – April 2016.

Catch you later Dad. X

Dad sitting by his fire. December 2009

Dad sitting by his fire.  December 2009

 

New Year New Moon.

dartmoor-pony-on-walkhampton-common-dartmoor-something-about-dartmoor

Walkhampton Common Alignment: Moon, Hawthorn, Pony. Dartmoor – 2nd January 2017.

Today was my first sighting of the New Moon – of the New Year – and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be to see it than Dartmoor. If that wasn’t lucky enough – I touched it too.

dartmoor-pony-on-walkhampton-common-dartmoor-something-about-dartmoor

Chance meeting with a Dartmoor Pony.

'Once in a Blue Moon.

Once in a Blue Moon.

White Light.

Yesterday – 30th December 2016 – I went to Exeter – to the Sales. Not to buy anything cut price – rather – a pair of expensive moss-green trainers for Tom – that predictably were not reduced! They were my Christmas present to him which he’d been patiently waiting for since Christmas Day. Buying post-christmas presents – is just something that we traditionally do now – like putting up the Christmas Tree – or taking down the decorations on Twelth Night – it takes all the pressure off – and lets us enjoy the said simpler pleasures. His challenge was to buy me something for one pound or less but it mustn’t be something to eat – his gift to me is still outstanding!  Something else to look forward to in 2017!

the-exeter-christmas-spider-something-about-dartmoorBy the time – we arrived in Exeter – the light had faded fast – and the illuminations were shining brilliantly in the gloom.  Our first port of call was the big John Lewis emporium – where I instantly fell for a completely ‘useless’ item that was dumped on a sale stand with some other leftovers from the sale.  All of them soiled or broken in some way.  The item that caught my eye was a bronzed armadillo candle with a broken tail. the-john-lewis-pangolin-something-about-dartmoorHe may as well of had a broken wick too because my intention is to never light him. To me – he stood out because he was broken – other than that I don’t know why I wanted him – I just did!

He could almost be the star of a John Lewis Christmas advert – he was so cute and woebegone. After some further negotiation at the till point – I managed to get him for the knock down price of just two pounds!  He is really an Armadillo – but to me, because I can – he is a Gold Pangolin – I just like the sound of the word! 

Moving out of John Lewis to Next – I bought another adorable creature in the form of a cushion.   next-new-season-harvest-mouse-cushion-something-about-dartmoorIf there is one ‘vice’ I need to give up in 2017 – it is my cushion habit. At least I’ve acknowledged my addiction here – so that’s a start.

Our next stop was the sports shop!  All I can say is – mission accomplished; Tom got his desired trainers.

What an unfamiliar world the sports shop was! The young woman that served me must have been one of the most unanimated individuals that I’ve come across – my purchase from her must have been such an effort.  I’m looking forward to the time when Tom has grown out of the ‘Brand Stage’ – and I won’t have to hang-out in these places!

Further on – I made eye contact with a quiet, homeless man – I ‘met’ him down a gloomy alley near the cathedral. He was sitting in a dark doorway – huddled among his belongings.

I had gloves on – my wallet was in my bag – and it was all too much effort.  I – and the moment passed – I didn’t give him anything.

Further on again – there were a number of more verbal homeless people dossed outside the BHS entrance.  What a sorry sight on a bitterly cold night between Christmas and New Year.  An indictment on our society if ever I’ve seen one.

I just followed my two sons – and thought my thoughts.  Tom led the way – and we enjoyed one last tour under the Christmas Lights before they’re packed away ‘under the stairs’ for another year.  Tom led us up and down one side-street after another – then suddenly I noticed those soulful eyes again; unexpectedly I was back in the gloomy alley. This time – I didn’t walk passed. I just quickly handed him a crisp new fiver and left without wishing him a ‘Happy New Year’ – that would have been crass. The quiet man said ‘Thank you’.

Well this year has nearly come to its end – and I find myself thinking about what resolutions I’m going to make.  Perhaps – I should stop buying cushions for starters!  I’m going to try to get my priorities right too – like the example of ‘The Gold Pangolin’ and ‘The Homeless Man’ – one cost me just two pounds – an impulse buy that I don’t need even though he’s undeniably cute – where as my crisp five pound note went to someone that needed it more.  With any luck it was one of those special ‘Jane Austen’ notes – I wouldn’t begrudge him a penny off it whoever he was. I’ll never forget those eyes.

One of the most notable things about 2016 – are the number of famous people that have died this year.  I’ll miss the stars that made me laugh out loud. I say miss – I won’t truly miss any of them because I didn’t know them personally.  In one shape, form or another they are still here – on cd, vhs and dvd – and Dear Terry is even on a mug! white-lights-2016-something-about-dartmoorThe exception is a favourite singer who died on Christmas Day.  I keep my George Michael collection in the car – because I like listening to him when I’m in my bubble – driving to and from work.  It’s George and me only time.

I have called my imperfect ‘Gold Pangolin’ – ‘George’ in his honour.  It is symbolic of a man that I think was perhaps too vain – too sensitive for this cruel world.  One only need look at the newspapers that used the least flattering image of him – to announce his passing. So unnecessary.  If only ‘Big George’ had had a suit of gold armour like ‘Little George’ – he may still be here in person. 

little-george-something-about-dartmoor

Now I know why I needed him so.

Never too funky – always absolutely ‘flawless’ – forever handsome, eternal white light – George Michael.

Goodbye 2016. 

* * * * * * * * * *

One thing I know I’ll not be giving up in 2017 – is going outside.  My favourite track… 

 

The Immersive Brontes!

At home with the Brontes feeling their pain.

At home with the Brontes: feeling their pain.  (Graphite study from my collection.)

A couple months ago – my colourful nephew came to visit us from London. I remember listening attentively as he enthused all about his latest ‘money making’ venture – ‘Immersive Cinema’ – apparently it’s a sort of audience participation thing – where you enjoy a meal while being immersed in a fantasy world that has been brought to life around you – as if straight out of the silver screen.  Apparently – being entertained in this way is a booming culture – especially in trendy London circles. Without wishing to pour cold water on anyone’s fire – I kept my thoughts to myself – but couldn’t help wondering who on earth needs to be spoon fed an imagination in this way – and pay for the ‘pleasure’.  I wished him well with his venture of course!  He is such a tonic – always fizzing with ideas – and dreams – and that’s wonderful.

Last night – I immersed myself in some TV – I think it is the first time in over a year that I have actually sat down and watched a television programme of any sort – apart from catching the odd bit of breakfast news in the mornings while on the move.  

What a treat was in store…  

The Bronte Sisters on my widescreen.

The Bronte Sisters on my widescreen.

Everything had been organised like a military operation so that I could sit down and watch – ‘To Walk Invisible’ at 9 o’clock – on the dot.

'To Walk Invisible' on my telly.

‘To Walk Invisible’ on my telly.

Two whole hours of uninterrupted telly – while my two sons set about building a ‘do it yourself’ Gingerbread House – they are twenty-three and sixteen – nearly seventeen. It was a present from eldest son to youngest son who is learning bricklaying at college; an inspired gift that kept them happily amused. While they busied themselves in my cosy parlour downstairs – I retired upstairs to my bedroom where the telly is.  Rather stupidly – the window had been forgotten and was still on the latch from earlier – my unheated room was cold and offered as much comfort as Haworth Parsonage in the 19th century!  I sat down in the armchair with two hot-water bottles – two cups of tea and a blanket around my shoulders – and immersed myself in their unforgiving world.  It would have been nice to have had some powered heating but somehow the realism of seeing my breath condense while still inside – only added to the two hour drama – I was rapt throughout as well as suitably numb!  I thought that the actress who played Emily was particularly powerful – brilliant.  All of them were.

How cold those three sisters must have been inside that roomy Parsonage; wearing long dresses with rising damp – and necklines that exposed them to the grip of every sneaking draught.  My god – I felt their pain!

Something that warmed me up. Two hours later - the Gingerbread 'Parsonage' was complete

Something that warmed me up.  Two hours later – the Gingerbread ‘Parsonage’ was complete!

Back to the modern-day – to where I started.  I guess – I kinda see where my nephew is coming from – although I think immersive cinema is really about this 21st century’s unrelenting pursuit of pleasure and always having ‘a good time’ no matter what the cost is. I don’t get it.

"O dreadful is the check--intense the agony-- When the ear begins to hear, and the eye begins to see; When the pulse begins to throb--the brain to think again-- The soul to feel the flesh, and the flesh to feel the chain." Emily Bronte

“O dreadful is the check–intense the agony–
When the ear begins to hear, and the eye begins to see;
When the pulse begins to throb–the brain to think again–
The soul to feel the flesh, and the flesh to feel the chain.” Emily Bronte

 

The Wish Hound.

Wistman's Wood - Dartmoor

Wistman’s Wood – Dartmoor.  Lair of the Devil’s own dogs.

Don’t be fooled by their rather airy, faerie, wistful name – The Wisht Hounds of Dartmoor are hellish beasts; huge and slathering with fiendish appetites – especially for unbaptised babies.

Tom looking understandably apprehensive up a tee in Wistman's Wood

My ‘baby’ understandably up a tree in Wistman’s Wood – in 2009.  He needn’t of worried though because he’s been marked with ‘The Cross’.

Their nefarious reputation is vastly more menacing than being trapped on the Moor stifled by the infamous fog – without map or compass and no hope in hell of finding your way out. A terrifying prospect but avoidable if you go out equipped. The only thing that might save you from the ‘Wisht Hounds’ is wearing one of these.

Something my Mother gave me.

Something my Mother gave me.

‘The Wisht Hounds’ are the Devil’s own dogs.  

I can’t claim to have ever seen them – thank god – but I’m in no doubt about their existence – it’s more a feeling.  I’ve been around Wistman’s Wood their reputed lair – when the day is drawing to a close – and they’re palpable.

The Wishting Hour after sunset.

Beware ‘The Wishting Hour’ after sunset.  On the path – somewhere near Wistman’s and the B3212 – safety.

 As you step up your pace to get off the Moor by nightfall – there’s a feeling that they are not far behind; baying and drooling for your blood.  They are a cross between ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and your worst nightmare – only neither of those are real.

Yesterday – Wednesday 28th. December 2016 – I encountered a hunting dog with a less formidable pedigree – unless you’re a fox or a rabbit! It wasn’t on Dartmoor either – but right outside my garage – when I returned home from work at the end of the day.  

He’d lost scent of the others in his pack – and was astray and noticeably confused. On first impression, he was nervous and unwilling to come close but after coaxing – I’m thrilled he came to heel. I remember smoothing his bracken-coloured coat that had patches of black and white intermingled – and of wanting to pick-up one of his muddy fore-paws to greet him. They were broad and spread-out between the toes – and I loved his lolloping action as he came to me. He was a strong, handsome breed of dog – a Foxhound.  His eyes were beautiful – almond-shaped and amber in colour – and he had an unexpected gentleness about him that I fell for.  I also loved that he had that sweet ‘whiff of horse’ about him – that brought back thoughts of Jessie.  I’d quite liked to have kept him just for that!

Jessie tacked-up and ready to go - but never hunting.

Jessie tacked-up and ready to go – but we never went hunting.

I was so taken by the foxhound’s gentle demeanour that had there been time – I would have invited him in for some cat food – to help him on his way.  Alas – no sooner had I got to ‘know’ my new friend – he’d pricked-up his ears to a-calling in the distance. To me – it sounded like someone just calling a pet dog or a cat in for teatime – not his Whipper-in calling him home to the Master. Surely – he’d have sounded the horn to bring any strays to heel?  That late in the day – I’d seen no sign of huntsman – or horses – when I’d driven home – I think they had gone home – to earth.  Really it was for the best that he ran off – because Dobby would have attacked him and vice versa; all hell would have broken loose in my kitchen and I’d have been the cause of it.  Foxhounds are not really suitable as pets.

Dobby. A cat not to be messed with not even by a 'Wisht Hound'!

Dobby. A cat not to be messed with not even by a ‘Wisht Hound’!

Just as I clicked the camera shutter – he took off with-out so much as a backward glance.  In that moment – I managed to snap one shot to remember him by – as I’ll never get to pat him again. I love how my camera has caught his sudden movement as he turned without saying goodbye.  If it wasn’t for this one fuzzy ‘memory’ of our meeting – I’d think I had imagined him. 

‘The Wish Hound’ Not so much a photograph – but a ‘tangible memory’

‘The Wish Hound’ Not so much a photograph – but a ‘tangible memory’

'The Ballad of the Belstone Fox' written by David Rook.

A classic in my life. The film version of ‘The Ballad of the Belstone Fox’ written by David Rook.

Ever since seeing the film version of ‘The Ballad of The Belstone Fox’ at the cinema in 1973 – I’ve been ‘waiting’ – unwittingly wishing – for yesterday – when one of it’s stars – the foxhound – ‘Merlin’ would come lolloping out of the screen – to me.  It was magical.

I hope ‘Merlin’ – or ‘The Wish Hound’ as I’ll remember him by – made it safely home to his kennels before nightfall; where he belongs. 

Dartmoor has fired the imagination of many writers down the ages – including Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ – and David Rook’s – ‘The Ballad of the Belstone Fox’.

And then there are the old stories that are not ‘mere’ works of fiction. 

A Scarf for Eternity.

I like this hiatus between Christmas and New Year – when the ‘big clock’ winds down-a-bit and the cogs all turn at a slightly slower speed until the year ends; it’s a time to take stock and retrospect…

Dad's grubby old John Lennon hat.

Dad’s old walking hat laid to rest on the bookshelf.

This is a tribute to my Father.  He isn’t dead – yet – but he’ll never read  it.

It has been written and compiled for my Mother – inspired by a gift that she gave him this Christmas – 25th December 2016. It will serve also as a record of his room before the inevitable happens.  The time when his room will be dismantled and all his things dispersed among family. Somethings will have to be simply cleared out.

From the four 'corners' of his room - his life.

Lest any of us forget.  Treasures gleaned around the four ‘corners’ of his room – his life.

He’s finished with reading his newspaper – and with listening to music – and watching the telly.  The hours – the days – the nights are long – so he sleeps in a no-man’s land – curled up like a small, hibernating animal waiting for Spring – that he hopes he won’t see.  He goes in and out of consciousness – in a golden room full of memories – but the birds don’t sing – and the crickets have all stopped chirruping a long time since. He’s waiting – hoping to die.  

Dad’s faithful clock that doesn’t keep time accurately anymore – but ticks nonetheless.  It’s also had a ‘healthy dose’ of woodworm in its long past!

To me – and my siblings – he’s eternally ‘Codger’.  A term of endearment that we gave him as children and it has stuck – and has been passed on – to the next generation. It’s a name that he once thought amusing and encouraged – but he denies that now.  He doesn’t like it anymore but he’s really too old to care. Just as well.  His grandsons call him ‘Codger’ too – especially strong, young Tom – my midnight helper and lifter-upper!  

He has been an eccentric father – both hilarious and embarrassing.

He once fixed a hole on the front of his car with a ‘Fray Bentos’ pie lid – and it was recognisable as such.  I’m doubled up right now remembering it – but not at the time when we had to ride in his bodged-up banger!  I’ve never liked his favourite pies – although I suppose I should be immensely proud; Codger was an upcycler before his time!

Oh – and he fought for his country – called up at just nineteen.

He’d often regale us with valiant stories from far-afield but back when I was young and impatient – I didn’t listen appreciatively.  I was ignorant about war and probably a lot of things – still am. I remember him telling us how he had been holed up on-board a troop ship for three weeks in the Med – ankle deep in vomit.  There’s no need to mention what action he saw; the tricorn hat, scarlet coat – and medals on his chest – say enough.

My father at Chelsea. He didn't like the hussle and bussle of city life - so he returned to the country - and we've been together ever since.

My father at Chelsea. He didn’t much care for the hustle and bustle of city life – so he returned to the country – and we’ve lived together ever since – always.

Dad wearing a different kind of hat – these days!

A larger than life 'Dragonfly' that hangs in ' his last window on the World. I made it for him.

A larger than life ‘Dragonfly’ that hangs in his last window on the World.  I made it for him a ‘long time ago’.

He’s past it now – and we don’t mention the War – or anything. We only share my ‘hairdressing skills’.  I can remember from a very young age being asked to rub his head – or do the exact same thing of combing his hair.  Only then – there was a lot more black.

Wise words above a dying man's bed. I can remember them above thethat hung for years above the marital bed.

It’s alright for him – I do have to get up for work in the morning!  Pertinent words above a dying man’s bed.   I can remember this sign above their marital bed when we were kid’s – five of us!  It evidently had a different meaning in those golden far-off days – before divorce!

I could recount so much about my father – but time is short and the Internet wouldn’t be big enough – so to the job in hand.  

Snow falling on snow. Dad's long hair upon his pillow.

Snow falling on snow.  Dad’s long, wispy white hair laying upon his pillow.

Because I’m a night-owl – I’m the one who ‘puts’ the old man to bed – it is my last job of the day.  Codger is permanently in bed you understand – he hasn’t got up for over a year – but he needs straightening-out, pulling-up and tucking-in  – and a good drink of water before I trundle off up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire.  He hibernates most of the day apart from when his carers and nurses come in to do the necessaries – but on my shift he is perceptibly more ‘active’ and verbal!   He expects me to do one last thing before I’m dismissed – “Comb my hair Melly.” he assertively asks! Dutifully – and lovingly – I stand at his side – sometimes half-asleep – me that is – and I run the comb through his snow-white hair for ten minutes or so until I’m done – in! 

“It’s soothing.” he says – as my eyelids begin to shut!

The warmth inside his room coupled with the tick-tock of his clock makes me sleepy – but the bugger of it is – he’s deaf and he can’t hear it!  He’s been – and still is – an awkward old bugger at times!

Inspirational words. KBO "Keep buggering on." He will.

KBO – Winston’s motivational acronym on Dad’s wall.  “Keep buggering on.”  I will.

In this ‘hour’ – he sometimes asks me ‘Who’s that behind you?” There is no one else up.  Perhaps it’s just that man in a long black robe waiting in the wings again to collect him; he’s cheated ‘Death’ before.

His room is full of memories and warmer things – and photographs of when we were young.  Nicholas, Simon, Caitlin and Rosie – and me. I’m his middle daughter and the only one out of his children that he saw being born.

When we were young. Photos taken by Dad on with his Leica. I'm the fat roly-poly one in the washing up bowl - top right!

When we were young.  Photos taken by Dad with his Leica.  I’m the fat roly-poly one wedged into a washing-up bowl – top right!

There is a small Christmas tree in his big bay window but there weren’t any presents under it this year.  He doesn’t want or need anything – he’s tired of all that – of living.  Musing about his room while I combed his hair last night – I remembered something that I put next to his clock for safe-keeping on Christmas Night; a pure cashmere scarf to be kept in it’s cellophane wrapper for later – from ‘his’ Sallie – our Mum – Granny.

Where we all began.

Where we all began.   Aged 28 and 17 respectively on their wedding day.  St Peter’s Church – Hangleton, Sussex.  12th. January 1952.

The ‘dragonfly-blue’ scarf is not for wearing now – because he doesn’t need it under his toastie warm ‘blanket of snow’ – a 13 tog duvet with a fleece atop.  Rather – she bought it in readiness – and it comes with instructions for use.  The scarf is for when he falls into the deepest of sleeps – the coldest and longest sleep of all – to keep his neck warm – for eternity.

From here to eternity. Dads new scarf from Mum.

From here to eternity.  Dads new scarf from Mum.

For a man whose life is almost over – I think it is an inspired, loving and useful gift – that only ‘his’ Sallie could have thought of.  She chose his colour – because he always built ponds to attract dragonflies. The scarf is a testament to their love that has withstood the test of time – even though they’ve been divorced longer than they were married! Somewhere light years from here – they are together on his motorbike – with her arms tight around his waist – forever.  

Five children – and five grandchildren later – this is for them too. For Jason, Archie, Araminta, Tom and Tobias – and to all his sisters and brothers – nieces and nephews. . .

And for Helen – his main ‘Homelife’ carer. 

Helen at 'home' - with Dobby fast asleep on the other chair.

Helen at ‘home’ in the ‘spiritualist’s chair’ doing her paperwork.  With Dobby our cat fast asleep on the other side.

The ‘big chair’ can tell more stories from Dad’s childhood and of much harder times between the Wars when his life was unsettled in more ways than one.  It is no wonder that he is so embedded now – in his golden room – in his home of the last forty odd years. He’s surrounded by those who love him and who’ll look after him to the very end. 

They say ‘old soldiers never die – they just fade away’.  In Dad’s case it has proven to be true – it has been a long, long – long goodbye… 

Still in the land of the living! Being kept warm by his sheep blanket – a previous gift from ‘his’ Sallie – for use this side.