Welcome to my collection of hats,
There are so many.
Here are my every day hats,
Carelessly thrown down in a corner,
Ready to grab on my way out or stuff in a pocket.
The cosy woollen one, made with love and friendship,
The linen sun hat that protects me from the glare of the world.
Others are not so comfortable,
This one is stiff and a little too tight,
A teacher’s hat, it no longer quite fits and I long to be rid of it.
Still it sits on the shelf, ready for the days when I have to wear it.
These two in pretty hat boxes are old and precious,
Wrapped in tissue paper and tears.
(Found this poem from last year’s journal and decided I still like it.)
When I was a kid staying at my Nana’s house for the summer, often a load of my cousins would be staying too. Sometimes 4 generations of the family were all there together. My grandparents had 12 children, my Mum was the next to youngest, so I have 32 full cousins and quite a few second cousins too! With all the aunts and uncles that adds up to quite a houseful.
There were a lot of us! On hot days we’d all pile into various uncles’ cars and head for The Beach. There was sand, and sea, and rocks for rock pooling. There were even great places to explore when the tide was out, like The Needles Eye, The Boggie Hole, and Piper’s Cove. There were adders on the rocks and dangerous tides that could trap you. Every year my Nana warned us of the terrible agonised death suffered by some poor wee girl who’d trodden on an adder or the group of children who’d been caught the wrong side of the beach as the tide came in and been “…drooned, deid, aye, it’s a sair fecht.” My Nana had a host of these stories to cover just about any situation and she told them with spine chilling relish!
These warnings ringing in our ears, the uncles would revert to being ‘the boys’ and take us kids out and round the rocks as the tide went out. Only sissies might be scared by Nana’s stories and prefer to stay safe behind and that, of course, was unthinkable! I trusted them to make sure we got back safe with time to spare. In later years I occasionally tried to stay behind with a book but was always chased off by my aunties. These expeditions gave ‘the lassies’ time to stop being our mothers, revert to sisterhood, sunbathe, fight and gossip without being overheard.
There were men fishing for salmon with nets strung out into the sea. There was one ice cream van where, if you were prepared to queue for long enough you could get a Mivi.
This is ‘the beach’ the one where I nearly got sunstroke, the one with a fresh water spring whose water tasted better than lemonade. The.Beach. All others since are judged against it and very few stand the comparison!
The photo is of the beach at Sandyhills. They have a lovely Facebook page, do give them a Like if you enjoy beach photos, red squirrels, badgers or you just remember your ‘beach’.
I am from a den under the dining table, behind the ironing board, from “Persil Washes Whiter” and singing “She wore red feathers…” along with the radio.
I am from the basement flat, warm, cosy with the smell of clean, damp washing.
I am from Bluebell Wood, the bunch of buttercups in a jam jar, the pile of flat grey pebbles gathered from the sands.
I am from the birthday tea and arguing on Sundays, from Andre with his red hair and fierce eyes, Auld Ernie who wasn’t old at all and Nanna Annan .
I am from the bearing of grudges, spats and the gentle, warm arms round me later.
From ‘red and geen should never be seen except upon an Irish queen’ and ‘your Nana’s taste is all in her mouth’.
I am from The Child’s Book of Prayers terrified in case I died in the night and the Lord took my soul and playing whist on Sunday nights. From Nana saying “Hide the cards it’s the minister!” if there was a knock at the door.
I’m from Annan and Scotland, my mother’s home-made lentil soup and Nana’s drop-scones with rhubarb and ginger jam. http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=104087
From my Dad, and Mum on her bus thinking he was at the academy and asking him if he wanted a schoolboy ticket, the day, when she was wee, Mum fell in the Nith, caught typhus and almost died, and the first time Papa and I stood watching a huge electric storm rage across the Solway and he explained about electricity.
I am from sepia photos, one I found in Papa’s wallet that looks just like I did, his long dead baby sister, Nana on a huge motorbike with her hair in a flapper’s bob, Papa’s 40 years and more of safe driving badges and his Canadian war medals, a tiny silver maple leaf he always wore in his lapel, the box in the cupboard full of certificates of birth and deaths.
I’m from all of these things but they are all such a basic part of me that I haven’t needed to look at a single one of them to write this poem. They are what I carry with me and those that are physically lost to me I don’t regret because they are all still here with me if I look for them.
First, while the sky is still full of stars, you must quickly push your toes out of the warm bed and steel yourself for the pain of warm flesh hitting the floorboards. Quickly jump down and run so fast that your feet almost slip. Fumble for the doorknob and creep out into the black tunnel.
Hands out in front of you, grope for the bathroom door. Now as the moonlight catches the edge of the tap you must wet and soap your flannel and scrub its rough surface over your stinging hands and face. Rub dry with the hard towel. Your eyes will widen as they get used to the dark.
Quick, back to the bedroom now, feet pattering quietly on the wooden floor, your nightie flapping and catching round your bare legs. Grab your knickers off the chair and pull them on. Next, feel for the rough wool of your stockings and pull them right up. Fasten them with your garters. Pull up your heavy skirt and slide your arms back into the body of your nightie. With your arms close to your sides pick up your cotton bodice and push your hands into it. In one swift movement, flip your head up, out of the nightie and into the cold cotton bodice. Gasp and pull the thin woollen cardie round you, tight.
Run silently down the dark staircase, jumping over the squeaky third step. At the bottom of the stairs shove your feet into your boots carefully, in case of slugs. Yank your laces tight. Get your rough tweed jacket down from the hook and slip it on. Drag your scarf up over your head and tie it, scratching its rough worsted against your chin.
Slide back the metal bolt and gently open the front door. Wait a moment to check that no one in the house has woken. Slip out of the door, closing it softly and feel the cold steal your breath. In your pocket find the tight ball of mittens, chilled and damp. Shove your fingers in anyway, as the wet threads bite into your thumbs.
Start to walk quickly up the street, glad of the moonlight. Hear the sound your boots make on the cobbles. Turn right at the end of the street, up the hill, away from the town. See the houses change. These older ones are made of grey stones. They are in a tall,thin row. Their big third floor windows shine and glint like dark water. Their stone changes to silver where the moonlight catches its edges. They sit back from the road. Each house with a tiny strip of land in front of it.
Feel the grass of the Common under your feet. The ground is soft but not muddy. Through the dark, fierce, thorns of the hedge you can hear breathing and once see the smoke of some great beasts’ panting.
At the end of the Common walk faster, almost running past the last, dark building. The old church is tall, thin and grey, like the houses. The graveyard smell is dark and damp and you must try very hard not to think about what is in there.
Up the steep hill the road becomes a donkey track and the hedge becomes a low stone wall. Soon the wall tumbles away to nothing and the moor has begun.
The clouds are rising and under them watch the first, soft, morning light and the grey-green grass. Pass the ruins of the old cottage, step off the track and head along the edge of the hill.
Walk carefully now. This is only a sheep track. Look down to see where to place your feet. It is getting lighter now. Know that you are nearly there. Feel in your pocket to check for last night’s bread and cheese.
At the tussock with the big outcrop of stone behind it grab the corner of the stone that juts out and stand on the tussock to clamber up. Mind the sharp edges of the rock-face as they scrape your hands and knees. Now turn and sit on the cold stone, facing out, away from the moor.
This is why you have come. This is why you got out of bed while the sky was still full of stars. To sit up here in the first quiet, light of the new day.
Look down at all the little houses and streets, crammed in so tight together. As the sun comes gently up behind the distant hills, the little valley is filled with a pink and golden light. Faraway, to the edge, the river, broad and twisting. The mist rises softly over it. The narrower canal draws a line across the valley softened, here and there, by mist.
Get out your feast now, so prudently saved from last night’s supper. It always tastes better up here. Take a breath and smell smoke, of course, but also other fresher, greener scents.
Listen. Over the rumbling of the mills hear the water running, the moorland birds waking up,and the distant clattering of milk churns from the diary. The day is started now.
You have stolen an hour from the day and now you must pay it back. Scramble down from your eyrie. Trying hard to keep your footing, run along the sheep track. Do not go back the way you came. That will take too long. Be brave.
Your route runs down the gully beside the stream. The path is cut in halfway up the steep side. It is just wide enough for you to pass. You must mind your footing on the smooth stones that jut up suddenly in places. Do not slip. You cannot go through the day in muddy clothes and boots. Fast, but not too fast, slip and slide your way down off the moor.
Now you are back on cobbled streets, the houses pressing in on you once more. Doors are opening, people are rushing out. Soon you are a tiny part of a great press of people pushing your way to the mill gate. Others are behind you. Today, you will not be late. The gates will still be open. Today you need not explain about the moor and why your money will be short on Friday.
Kaspa and Fiona have taken over my blog for today, because they
need our help.
They are both on a mission to help the world connect with the world
through writing. They are also getting married on Saturday the 18th of
For their fantasy wedding present, they are asking people across the
world to write them a ‘small stone’ and post it on their blogs or on
Facebook or Twitter.
A small stone is a short piece of observational writing – simply pay
attention to something properly and then write it down. Find out more
about small stones here.
If you’re willing to help, we’d love you to do things:
1) Re-post this blog on your own blog any time before June the 18th and
give your readers a chance to hear about what we’re doing. You can
simply copy and paste the text, or you can find the html
2) Write us a small stone on our wedding day whilst we’re saying our
vows and eating cake, post it on your blog, and send
it to us.