Be Thankful Challenge

be-thankful
This is the first challenge post I’ve done since the ‘Three Quotes Challenge’ (twice) a few  months ago when everyone here in the U.K. could pretend it was still summer, despite the cloudy skies and lots of rain in some places – like poor old Cornwall. Although this challenge stems from the coming Thanksgiving Day the U.S. (November 26th) most of us around the world have things to be thankful for, including me. I’m also thankful for many wonderful people, without whom my life wouldn’t be nearly as rich and fulfilling.

Before I go any further, I want to say a big THANK YOU to fellow (and much-younger-than-me) North of England blogger, Morgan Mills, over at The Sectret Diary of a Computer Science Student, for nominating me for this challenge. Morgan’s not THAT young – I just liked this picture from Pixabay 😀 ):

thank-970872_1280

Now for the Rules:

shutterstock_152788070* Share this image (top one) in your blog post
* Write about 5 people in your life you are thankful for
* Write about 5 things in 2015 that you are thankful for
* Spread the love and challenge 5 other blogs to take part 

Five people I’m thankful for in 2015 are:

My husband, Nick. He’s been my constant support since we got married 45 years ago (on Saturday, October 24th – our wedding anniversary – and our daughter’s birthday, too (Louise – or on WordPress, afairymind at The Story Teller’s Abode ). Whilst researching my books, he’s happily traipsed all over this country and Denmark with me, visiting Anglo Saxon and Viking sites. He’s also supported me (and been very patient) as I’ve written two of the books, and is still bearing up as I write the third book of the trilogy.

How could I not be thankful for our six children? (Quite easily, I suppose 🙂 In order of age, they are: Nicola, Richard, Neil, Louise, Thomas and Christopther. They have filled my life with joy (seriously!) for the past 43 years. They have also cost me hundreds of hours of lost sleep, thousands and thousands of pounds (sterling: £) and caused enough worry to give anyone dozens of ulcers. But who’s counting little things like that . . .?  

The wonderful, professional editor, Doug Watts, who edited my first two books (the second one, last year) and is waiting for the third – which he’s expecting before Christmas. I haven’t told him yet that it’s going to be a little late beacuse I’ve been having so much fun on WordPress. 🙂 I’ll put off telling him a little longer, I think. 

My fantastic fellow bloggers on WordPress. If I hadn’t found so many lovely people out there in this great big world of Blogland, I’d probably have closed down my blog ages ago. I’ve got to know so many of you, I almost feel as though I’ve known you forever. The community spirit is amazing and to be able to share ideas and feelings is a fantastic thing to do. Thank you, WordPress bloggers, for making me feel so welcome, and valued. I love reading your posts and finding out what’s going on hundreds/thousands of miles away. I’ve learned so much from you all – and I just love to learn new things . . .

My sister, Linda, who has been so very poorly this year. In fact she’s been ill all her life and I worry a lot about her.  When I was three and she was only 6 months, we both had whooping cough, which was prevalent at that time (early in 1950). Nor were children vaccinated against it then. I got through it all well, being older, I suppose. Linda didn’t. The illness left her with very weakened lungs, which have caused enormous problems ever since, as the bottom lobe on each lung is collapsed. Needless to say, she needs constant treatment. But this year, Linda also fell off a chair she was standing on to retrieve something from on top of a wardrobe! Not only did she badly break her wrist, she also dislodged her shoulder blade and damaged her already bad hip. So, in 2015, as well as hospital ‘stays’ for her lungs, she’s had a hip replacement operation and one to realign her wrist. As always, she’s taken it all in her stride and continued as though nothing has happened. I’m thankful she has a devoted husband of 43 years and three wonderful children to love her. And I’m thankful to have such a wonderful sister.

Five things I’m thankful for in 2015:

Keeping healthy throughout the year. This, of course, applies not only to me,  but to my immediate family and friends. Only my sister causes me worry, as mentioned above. But getting older can be a precarious business! (Personally, I don’t like the idea one bit and think ageing  -or aging, if you’re in the US – should be abolished.  But nobody ever listens to me.) I think myself lucky not to have succumbed to any serious illness, as yet. I do try to keep healthy by not eating junk food and getting plenty of exercise and, boring as that may sound, I think the strategy has worked. So far.

All the kind bloggers who have read and reviewed my books! As you’ve no doubt read on the blogs of many writers out there, reviews are like gold dust to an author – even if they’re only a couple of lines long. They must be perfectly honest ones though. I would never ask anyone to lie for me. I’d much rather have honest opinions. I’m totally indebted to those of you who’ve done this for me. I generally do a post to say when my books will be free on Amazon, and I know that many of you have downloaded copies in the past. My next 5 free days will be sometime in November. I thank you all, whether you did a review or not

For living in a stable part of the world. This, I suppose can be viewed in different ways. Regarding tectonic and meteorological hazrds, Britain is rarely at risk. We aren’t near to a plate boundary, and we don’t experience tropical storms and hurricanes, or the tornadoes that plague the American Mid-West. We do have floods sometimes, both river and coastal ones, but not on the scale of those in tropical latitiudes. We are very fortunate in all this and, like most people I know, am always grieved by news of earthquakes, typhoons and so on elsewhere in the world. All we can do – and as  a nation I believe we do it well – is provide aid for those who so desperately need it. Britain is also politically stable at present in the sense that we’re not experiencing civil war or riots. We might all be moaning about the usual inflation, wage cuts and the rest that I won’t go into, but that happens whichever political party is in power. We all know the saying about not being able to please all the people all of the time.

For the wonderful holidays I’ve enjoyed this year. We seem to have been away from home more than ever this year. Since going to Andalucia in early May, we’ve been constantly out and about. I’m thankful for this for a couple of reasons – besides just loving visiting historical sites or going on holiday. The first is that our visit to Southern Spain was primarily to do research for my third book. The second reason is connected to my blog. Everywhere I’ve visited, abroad or in the UK, has given me lots of material to use on my ‘Travel’ or ‘History’ posts on my blog. Even our week in Malta was a constant round of photography. So, I’m very thankful for being able to do this, and still have lots of posts to write up.

Finally,  I’m thankful that, in 2015, we still have a ban on the hunting of mammals with dogs in Britain. The current Government has said it hopes to repeal this Act, so allowing this atrocious ‘sport’ to return. Without getting into any political debates here (and I must add that this is my personal opinion, and I respect the rights of others to hold their own opinions on this issue – but I don’t intend to discuss it on this post!) all I can say is that I find the whole idea of dogs ripping animals (most often fox, deer, hare and mink) to shreds absolutely horrendous – and dread it becoming legal again. (The Act was passed in 2005, banning it.) I just hope that 2016 will see the ban still in place.

*

I have so many things to be thankful for, and realise how lucky I am to lead the life I love, with the people I love. What more could I ask?

These are my five nominees:

Joy Pixley

It’s Good to be Crazy Sometimes

Norma

Lifehomeandaway

Khloe

Happy Families

shutterstock_263186459

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with Chioma on her blog, which is appropriately entitled lifehomeandaway. As someone who has quite recently arrived in the UK, Chioma’s focus is on creating a comfortable and caring home for her family – not an easy thing to do in a strange country where everything is different to what you were used to, and everyone you knew – including the family you grew up in – is many miles away.

One of Chioma’s main interests is in making sure her children will grow up in a happy home, so that in future years they have a store of happy memories to look back on. Having learned that I had six children, she asked me if I’d do a post to explain how I dealt will this as my children were growing up, so that is what this post is about. Of course I can only talk about the way things were in my family, and air my own opinions.

I have many happy memories from the years when my own children were young during the 1970s and 80s. How I tried to ensure they were happy is difficult to analyse but I do believe that one of the key things children need is a feeling of security. They all need to know they are loved and wanted.

Me and Tom

Me and Neil

Perhaps the best way to ensure that is by simply spending some time with them and talking to them. Yes, by all means tell them how much you love them now and then. It’s easy to assume that children know that, when perhaps they don’t. Hugs are good, too. Young children also love to be included in daily activities. Mine always loved to help me bake, perhaps roll out their own little portions of pastry or help to put the cake mixture into cases, perhaps decorate them later, too. Most of them loved to be given a duster, or – when they were a little older – iron some of the simple items, perhaps weed or hoe the garden. There are many jobs they just loved to do. I do realise how difficult this can be sometimes, especially mowadays, with both parents often out at work all day. But it doesn’t have to be for long and can often be incorporated into daily tasks.

Play is always a vital pat of any child’s life. In the 1970s and 80s kids played outdoors a lot more than they do today. There were no computer games or even DVDs to keep them glued to the spot.  They used their imaginations, invented situations or played out stories they’d read. And they ran about, enjoying the fresh air! Children’s imaginative play is a delight to watch. I’ve seen mine pretend to be all kinds of things, from strange, fantasy creatures to different characters they’ve come across. Dressing up is a great part of this, so a box of any old or cast off clothes and hats is great. (These old photos are rather blurred, but are just to illustrate my point.)

IMG_5563
My two youngest playing in our back garden, 1988
My second daughter (afairymind) in a oicture which displays her love of making up stories from a very early age.
Playing at hobby horses in the garden

 As they got a little older and played away from the garden, I was always careful to know where they would be, and would never let them wander a long way off, or be out for hours at a time. Traffic danger was never an issue in our village. I would always go for walks with them, go blackberry picking, feed the ducks in the park or have snowball fights in winter. I’ve ‘ve always been an outdoorsy person, so enjoyed whatever we did.

A picnic in the park in 1980
A picnic in the park in 1980

 

Days out and holidays often leave children with happy memories. But this is sensitive territory, as many families can’t afford such luxuries. I know, because we were in that position during the years when I didn’t teach. Later on, when we had two cars, we started to do holidays, just around Britain to start with., then abroad later on. Seaside holidays, or just days’ out, were always a hit.

 

IMG_5561
Family holiday in Norfolk in 1989. Dad with the four younger kids. The two eldest were watching the silly antics with me.
On a Norfolk beach in 1989

I have lots of photos to help us recall family times from years ago, but they would be on no interest to anyone else but us. Many are in albums, others just kept in a big box. They are old and not expertly taken, so look very poor compared to modern photos. But to me and my family, they are very precious.

One of the things Chioma stresses is that there are always compromises to be made in the process of making a home and bringing up children. In our case that was certainly true. There were a few years when I couldn’t go back to teaching, especially when the last two children were still small. So the biggest compromises were financial ones. But we chose to have six children and that was that. We also needed a rather large house, and had many years in a big, three storey Victorian house with six bedrooms. We all loved that house.

I’m really not sure whether this is what Chioma wanted but, as I said, I can only speak from my own experiences. Just being together worked really well for us.

all of us

Beginnings, Middles and Endings

shutterstock_197038109

All stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Most fiction authors write their books with that in mind, although there are probably exceptions. The idea of a beginning, a middle and an end mirrors life itself. We are born, we live our lives, and we die: fulfilment.

I’ve been thinking a lot about life today. And death. Yes, I’m having a ‘down’ day. I’m fortunate in not having too many of those. I’ve always been a cheerful person. I smile a lot, laugh a lot and sing a lot – which probably irritates some people immensely. My parents were cheerful people, who sang constantly (not only in the bath!) so I’ll blame them for that.

But today is not a good one for me. For a start, who could feel happy in the face of so much tragedy in the world at present? The shootings in Paris have left people around the globe feeling both outraged and deeply saddened, and it’s hard to put such violence out of mind.

The weather is foul today. It’s a wonder I stayed on my feet during my morning walk, the wind was so strong. It had been howling all night and to make matters worse, it started to pour down just as I stepped outside. Yet I can’t survive the day without my walks, bad weather or not. When I got home I had a phone call to tell me that my uncle had died. He was eighty nine and had been frail for some time, but when death actually comes, it still hits hard. So I’ve been thinking about him – Uncle Bob – for most of the day, too.

prefab

This old photo was taken in 1954, outside our old prefab. (About page).  Bobby is third from the left at the back. It was his wedding day, in fact. I was to be a bridesmaid, aged seven, along with my five-year-old sister and twelve-year-old aunt. When the photo was taken we were getting ‘dressed up’ inside the house with my mum.

Bobby was my mum’s brother, six years her junior. I haven’t seen much of him these past few years because he’s lived all his adult life in Southport (Merseyside) – which is my home town. Originally from Liverpool, like my mum, he never lost his Scouse accent. He had a happy life though, and died peacefully in his sleep. I’m trying hard to dwell on the good things in my uncle’s life and I know that my depression today is natural on receipt of such news. My main thoughts are with Bobby’s four children, my cousins.

Beginnings, middles and endings . . .

Birth is a most wonderful thing; a new life to start on its journey – whether it is a human child, a terrestrial animal or marine, or a member of the vast plant kingdom – the journey through life will take its course.

Many parts of the world are now experiencing hot, summer days, whilst more northerly latitudes are in mid-winter. In Britain we are fortunate in having what are classed as mild winters and warm summers, i.e. with a few exceptional years, we have no extremes. Apart from the few cold days just after Christmas we’ve had a mild winter this year, so far. Even though today is quite wild, it isn’t too cold.

But it’s always heartening to welcome the first signs of new life in our gardens. It gives us the feeling (often erroneously!) that spring is on its way. Here are a few photos, taken today, of our first lovely snowdrops and hellebores. There are also some daffodils already in bud – which is very early!

So our garden will soon have some colour other than the green grass and evergreens. Soon we’ll have the purple crocuses and yellow daffodils opening, followed by the bright red tulips and a whole array of blossoms on the trees – lilac, cherry, willow, hawthorn, maple, and many different fruit trees and bushes. In summer we’ll have a riot of colour from so many flowers and shrubs. Then by autumn the garden will again fade and winter will follow. The earth’s cycle never ceases.

Beginnings, middles and endings.

The phrase also has my mind racing about my third book. I’m already enjoying the challenge of a new beginning and have spent a lot of time on it this last week. The book is planned out fairly well, although I still need to do some more research for one particular part. I love doing research and have to take care not to let it lead me in all directions.

But today my mind’s on other things.