Weekly PhotoChallenge, reflecting

I was walking through town yesterday, enjoying the crowds, and the great atmosphere. It was Exeter Pride, a vibrant, colourful event with a long parade of people wearing rainbow colours, flying the flag and bursting with excitement.

Everyone was happy, or so I thought. Then I saw this lady, she was leaning on a trolley shopper thingy and heading towards the bus stop.


It may be that she was just wondering when the buses would start running again. Perhaps she was reflecting on the loss of youth, a samba band were passing, so everyone was jiggling about. I really hope it was nothing worse.




This is what yellow means!

Yellow is an optimistic colour for me.  It means one thing in particular – SPRING, my second favourite time of the year. Here in the northern hemisphere we are just two days from the winter solstice, a day that fills me with joy. While I know that we have several months of cold, wet weather, I am reassured that each day will be longer by a barely perceptible minute and in a month’s time the sun will rise before I walk to work. I know that one day in February I will stop in my tracks, t smile at a primrose smiling back at me, its sunny yellow heart blowing a kiss. Primroses Before long, yellow signs will be everywhere. “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin     

The year’s at the spring,

And day’s at the morn;

Morning’s at seven;

The hill-side’s dew-pearled;

The lark’s on the wing;

The snail’s on the thorn;

God’s in his Heaven— All’s right with the world!

Robert Browning

Yellow tulip

Before we know it, the temperature will rise a few degrees and my favourite spring flowers will take on more passionate yellow hues.  The equinox will insist on equality, and I, well I will leave off my gloves, happy that winter has departed.

Oh, to be in England

Now that April’s there

And whoever wakes in England

Sees, some morning, unaware,

That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf

Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,

While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough

In England – now!

Robert Browning

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, where Krista throws out a yellow curve ball as a change form the festive colours lots of us are surrounded by. You can join in here,


me, I’ll just wait for spring and its glorious golden yellows!

Signs of Spring

It’s been hard to go and take photos recently. Relentless rain and gales, flooded roads, high tides and fallen trees have kept the gypsy indoors. Yesterday lunchtime at work the sun came out, so I grabbed my coat and went to feel it on my face!

Even so, signs of spring were hard to find.

Signs of Spring

A thousand buds are waiting

to burst with golden pride

beneath tender hawthorn

it’s zenith months away

but first to bloom are snowdrops

a promise rising from the underworld

but now stop wait

don’t miss Mahonia’s fragrance

it will make your senses sway

This post is for Bastet’s ‘Signs of Spring’ challenge, perhaps you ‘d like to join in? http://wedrinkbecausewerepoets.com/2014/02/17/bastets-pixelventures-february-18th-2014/

Just a quickie

To let you know that Bill’s okay! It was pouring with rain yesterday morning when I saw him at the top of my road so I dashed up and we nudged umbrellas.
‘Don’t nag’ he said grinning from ear to ear!
‘You look well dear,’
‘Yes I called the doctor after I saw you last time, managed to get a cancellation. I’ve been on loads of tablets.’
I laughed, ‘So you’re better then? You look good.’
‘I haven’t felt this well for ages but now my (lady)friend has got it.’
‘Has she been to the docs?’
‘No she won’t go.’
‘Not another stubborn one!She’d rather be ill too would she? What do you think doctors are for? Well I’m glad you got some sense in your head at least’ If that sounds harsh it wasn’t, we were bantering and he loves it. We chatted for a few more minutes and then I told him go on home out of the rain and stay out of trouble. Laughing, he pootled off, shouting out ‘You’re looking lovely today.’
‘And it’s nice to see you looking so well, take care’ I said.
Bill looked completely different to when I last saw him all drawn and stooped. His face was plump and the sparkle was back in his eyes, I’m so pleased!

Wondering about Bill

At the top of my road on my way to work this morning, I spotted Bill, he’s a lovely old guy who I told you about here https://lucidgypsy.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/a-contrast-of-elderly-men/  and here https://lucidgypsy.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/january-small-stone-twelve/

Once again I hadn’t seen him for a couple of weeks and I dashed up to him with a smile.

‘How are you, it’s lovely to see you?’ then up close I noticed his face, and knew he wasn’t well.

‘Not too good’ he said, ‘I’ve been coughing all night and sick with my stomach as well.’ He looked grey and didn’t have the energy to flirt with me, as he does with all the ladies. He was walking home from the local shop – about two hundred metres – with a loaf of bread and some milk, leaning heavily on his stick.

‘It looks like you should go home to bed today dear and take it easy, give yourself chance to recover.’

‘I can’t do that, I’m going to see my friend.’ He has a lady friend who lives about a mile away and it isn’t on a bus route so he walks it.

‘Maybe wait until tomorrow and just take care of yourself today, it’s a bit of a walk’ I said gently.

‘I’ve got to walk my legs will go otherwise, got to keep moving like Felix,’ his first smile.

‘Felix who?’

‘Felix the cat keeps on walking, so I’ve got to else I’ve had it, I’ll be stuck in my chair!’

‘You stubborn so and so! well just be careful’ I watched him walk on slowly.

I know that Bill’s daily trip to the shop stops him from being lonely, because he speaks to everyone. Apart from seeing his lady friend weekly, I don’t think he has anyone around. He is a very private person and doesn’t know that I know his name even, hopefully the shop keeper would notice if he didn’t show up.

The last time I saw him he was dispensing advice to some students whose car wouldn’t start and he was very perky and cheeky. I really want to see him bounce back quickly and keep on walking like Felix.

Felix keeps on walking, keeps on walking still.
With his hands behind him,
you will always find him.

January Small Stone# Twelve

I’ve just been out with the dogs and along the way I noticed an elderly lady in front of me. She made me think about luck, health and loneliness. Her clothes were an outlandish mix of brightly patterned leggings, old lady sandals and astrakan coat. Just as I caught up with he,r she stopped a young woman and asked her if she would pull her shopping trolley up to the traffic lights at the junction. I paused a second and caught her eye, eyes with those drawn on eyebrows and bright red lips, but she ignored me. She probably wasn’t as old as I had thought, but she was razzled and had a cigarette dangling. The young woman talked to her so I carried on, wondering if she got the help she needed.

Around the next corner was my lovely old man, https://lucidgypsy.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/a-contrast-of-elderly-men/ chatting to a van driver. It’s been a couple of weeks since I saw him, so I was relieved and asked how he was. He assured me he was fine and turned to the van driver saying ‘Hers boodiful’, I laughed and tutted at him and carried on. My last encounter was with another really quite old lady, with her dog, who stopped to talk to Daisy and Dido. I’ve seen her before, but only exchanged Good mornings. Today she wanted to chat so we started with the weather. She had a walking stick and told me how she woke on Christmas day, in agony with her knee. She is having knee cap replacement surgery on Tuesday coming and was quite anxious. I tried to reassure her with stories of friends who had similar work done and said I’d see her in a couple of months good as new. Brave lady, I hope she makes a good recovery.

These lovely people make me so aware of how isolated the elderly can be, but I really enjoy talking to them and I know it makes such a huge difference to their lives. They may not have as many opportunities for chatting as I do – or as you do! If you come across people who may be glad of a smile and hello, I hope you will. We will all be old one day, if we’re lucky.

Five Things They Don’t tell You about Getting Older

When you’re young, skirts and trousers with elasticated waistbands are just ‘old lady clothes’ and you take it for granted that they need the comfort, while knowing that it will never happen to you. Wrong. Elasticated waistbands are manufacturer’s way of making some money from older ladies who are not catered for by designers. They fail to cash in on the silver pound, sticking instead to the young, slim or even emaciated because they make their clothes look better. What they fail to take into account is that even really slim women change body shape with age. You can be small but still have a bug tummy, no waist, no bottom and that hip spring – the difference between waist and hip measurement – decreases from about twelve inches when you are twenty five and a size twelve or fourteen to about six inches when you are fifty even if you still have thirty eight inch hips! So your choice is  whether to  buy skirts or trousers that fit your waist and balloon out like a parachute around your hips, never, ever do your top buttons up, or . . . elastic and crimplene.

Your eyelashes start to disappear, what happens is that they grow inwards. They creep down through some special internal follicles until they reach your upper lip and chin where they multiply like cell division and burst out forming a lush growth to warm your face in winter.

Old ladies can’t wear pretty brassieres. Pretty ones are aimed at young women whose breasts have not yet become matronly. Matronly bosoms appear around your late forties. Oh yes they do, even if you always wore a 34A you will suddenly need a 36F, and the wide straps that go with bras in those kind of sizes. Woe betide those of you who successfully seek out The Thin Strap, because you will have deep chasms in your shoulders. Nope, to contain your new found pitta breads you will require inch wide straps and side scaffolding.

Now, we expect to gain some lines on our faces don’t we? They are lines of wisdom and character of course, and a way of keeping the beauty industry going with our futile attempts to stay young. But what is this crepe like thing happening to my forearms? No one told me about that. And why don’t the magazines recommend that you wear gloves twenty four seven, to stop your hands looking like some haggard witch’s? Because they get paid to advertise hand cream!

Granny shoes. How could they wear such ugly things? This generation didn’t invent ridiculous – oops I mean delicious – heels, platforms and wedges that you need a mounting block to climb into. No, I had them too and could walk miles, dance all night and then walk home again in them. I didn’t live in them, I loved flip flops too. They were never as lovely as the ones around now. I have some gorgeous jewelled and sequined ones, in fact several pairs; I keep buying them in the hope that some will be comfortable enough to walk miles in. If I try that, the impact of every step I take resounds its painful way up through my calves and knees, leaving me hobbling slowly the next day. So, it’s nice comfy cushiony soles for me, little heels on occasion, but even then they would have to be Footgloves. What’s happens to our feet? Well apparently we lose subcutaneous fat from our soles as we get older, who knew that? What I do know is where mine went. Around my middle.

If anyone can warn me of any other little surprises I have to look forward to I would be deeply thrilled to know. Meanwhile, where is my foot spa, my feet are killing me.

A Contrast of Elderly Men

I’ve tried to speak to an elderly man who lives around the corner and walks to the local shop most days but he doesn’t make eye contact with me at all. I always smile hopefully. He leans heavily on his stick and is slow as if in pain. He must be well into his eighties and seems so miserable and alone. I wonder if he has anyone in his life. It’s not just me that he ignores – there is another man his age that he passes by without any acknowledgment.

Elderly man number two is a darling. He has a beaming open face with a warm smile and I also see him most mornings, in fact if I miss him for a few days I start to wonder. He also has a stick because he has very bad joints. He’s very happy to talk about his ailments, he has chest problems and recently has had eye surgery and has a very tenuous hold on his sight, but he just keeps smiling. And everyone smiles back. I walked along a little way with him today and he joked with me about being late for work because we were chatting, ‘they won’t pay you’ he said.

I don’t care if I’m a few minutes late, it’s a sad world if I can’t pass the time of day with him. I know his wife dies many years ago but he spends an afternoon with a lady friend sometimes; he twinkled when he told me! This morning he also spoke to a pretty school girl who smiled back and then headed into the shop. I know they love him in there; he hangs out with the dreadlocked shop guy putting the world to rights, getting his milk and bread. Despite his physical problems he still keeps moving, he walks to town – fifteen minutes for me – even if it takes a while, he doesn’t need to rush and I suspect he chats along the way.

So I wonder why elderly man number one is so different, he could just be more reserved, I hope it’s that and nothing worse. But I also hope that I’ll be like number two when I’m getting on a bit (if I’m spared), as we sow so we reap and I really want to keep on talking with anyone who will!

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm, Thoreau.

Twinset and Pearls at the Golden Horn

I’d wondered what sort of person books a ‘Grand tour of Turkey’ and kept my eyes open at Heathrow. Sitting at the departure gate, I got a glimpse of my first pair. ‘Oldies’ travelling friend called them, they must be mid seventies, and I said ‘That’s not old and anyway I like old peeps, I hope to be one someday.’

I asked the Mister if he was indeed on the Grand Tour and he replied ‘Yes hopefully, pleased to meet you.’ Hopefully? Does he think he won’t make it? Maybe he knows something that I don’t. There had been terrorist bombs in Istanbul in recent weeks, so I’d been informed by my colleague, who warned me to be careful. ‘I’m not going to worry about things like that’ I reply, ‘If my numbers up that’s all there is to it.’ ‘Just be vigilant’ he says. I am touched by his concern, check the reports and find there had been a bomb in a tourist market, just the sort of place I head for.

Missus Twinset is actually wearing a Persil washes whiter blazer, embroidered with pastel coloured daisies and she is very ‘Keeping up Appearances’. I wonder if this holiday is going to be quite me. I’m more the trekking trousies, hoodie and vest and my concession to dressing for the evening, are flip flops with sequins in case I have the energy to join in with any belly dancing opportunities. Missus makes me feel scruffy, I wouldn’t ever want to dress like that, but …ladies of her ilk usually leave me feeling a tadge grimy, like I’ve bought all  my clothes at Oxfam and have been under canvas for a week. You get the picture don’t you? Because when I’ve said this to other people I’ve been told that I always look ‘well turned out’, ha! Like a Peter Pan collar over a hand knitted navy blue cardy? The briefing meeting will be interesting, if they are all fogeys I’ll have to try to ruffle them up a bit.

At the arrival meeting we sit beside the above crusties, Frank and Betty – yes really! And are joined by Dave and Lesley, more our age.

We walk with them along Istiklal Caddessi towards Taksim Square, a lively area, pedestrian except for the odd tram carving a path through the crowds. There were fabulous shops, but apart from buying water really cheaply, I was in too much of a daze to soak it up. I’d just been told that breakfast would be at six because we leave at seven-thirty, meaning I would have to get up at five because I’m slow. I didn’t go to bed the night before. Instead, my body had fought against being asked to settle, on the Red Eye, with my head against the cold window, brain whirling with excitement.

We found dinner and sat outside the café with a spinach crepe and an Efes beer for around £8. The beer was just what the doctor ordered to help acclimatize in the sizzling heat, the food just so-so and the Crusties – hilarious!

The room at the Grand Halic (Halic means horn)  http://www.booking.com/hotel/tr/grand-halic.en-gb.html?dva=0  was pretty good for a City hotel, but I woke, God only knows how in my depleted state, several times in the night because the noise was dreadful. Do you know what? I really didn’t care, I was right beside the Golden Horn in Istanbul, a place I’d wanted to visit for years.

Growing, somehow.

Growing, somehow.

Crying, why? Depression.  The big saucer eyes red and lower eyelids exposed and vulnerable looking like raw meat, angry, red and sore. The skin on his face was prickly with grey stubble, dry unkempt and with traces of white soap. The ruddy skin of the outdoors worker and long -term drinker. Fleshy folds of jowls, mouth loose, narrow lips. Dentures were in the pot beside the bed instead of in his mouth, so that the structure was gone from his face. He’d put them in and when he smiled he looked lovely but he played with them with his tongue, pushing them up down, in and out of his mouth and scary to a little child, who thought they had a life of their own and would bite by themselves.

As he aged there was dribble from that slack mouth and corners were cracked and sore.  But mostly it was the crying. Always there was pain, headache, debilitating agony all over his head. No drugs worked and he had lots of those, all the anti-depressants of the day were tried. The doctors used him as a guinea pig. He had Valium, Mogadon, and Triptizol and reporting side effects he changed them frequently never allowing any time to get into his system as they gave him headaches, made him groggy, kept him awake – whatever he went from one to the other and then back again.

Occasionally some crisis sent him to the trick cyclist hospital where he stayed for a few weeks. Sometimes that meant they gave him electro convulsive therapy which frightened him terribly and he would cry even more. He was frightened most of the time. Of death, of what was and might be going to happen to him.

Back to him. Those nasty hospitals, old style Victorian buildings that began as lunatic asylums with people that had been there for decades, padded rooms and strait jackets for those who couldn’t be controlled – for whose safety? The child visited and was afraid of him and the other patients. She was very sad but with no way of expressing any emotion, she took it back inside herself where it festered for half a lifetime and could easily have caused her to travel the same narrow, dark tunnel of despair. Fear, hindsight and education gave her some understanding of the possibility land he inhabited. He never went to the war in 1939, although he was twenty seven at the time, he was supposedly not fit, because he had a cycling accident, where he ‘cracked his head open’ and they put in a steel plate. Would that have been likely in the 1930’s? Did such procedures exist back then? If not it would have taken some imagination to conjure that one up.

So, no war for him, he joined the Home Guard and there were remembered whisperings that he had been called a coward. Or was he? Was that maybe something seen on a black and white Sunday Matinee in the 60’s? That war avoiders were called ‘yellow’? So that bicycle accident may have caused damage to his nervous system and lifelong mental illness.

He was a simple soul but he taught her about his small natural world. Look out for adders they can kill, how to dig a trench and plant potatoes, sowing and pricking out seeds, putting salt around slugs and watching them sizzle or how to tell a plant from a weed. When she was little he worked on the land. Each day he got on his bike and rode the mile to get there with sandwiches packed in greaseproof paper and a paper bag – several times re-used. There was no money so they were scantily filled with the cheapest mild cheddar which was always ‘tasteless muck’, dripping – from some scrappy roast dinner  kept in a china pudding basin on the cold shelf of the larder because there was no fridge, or streaky bacon that was invariably ‘salt as brine’. He complained all the time, nothing was ever good.

Because he hated riding his bike in all weathers he was grumpy and she thought that he had returned from a long journey each day, it was only as an adult when her world shrunk that she realised just how close the farm was to home. The farm owners were good to the family; they tolerated the fact that most weeks he would have a sick day, sometimes two. He only left when they sold up and retired. Perhaps it’s surprising that he rode his bike at all when falling from one had caused him so many problems. It was the victim of many punctures and frequent visits were made to the cycle repair shop for a puncture kit. Occasionally great disaster fell when an inner tube or tyre had to be replaced, a major expense. Spoons would be used to lever the tyre on and off the wheel. The child longed for a bike of her own. She would beg for a ride on his but he wasn’t often in the mood to lead her round on it. It was huge, dark green and very heavy. The cross bar prevented her from getting on independently but she kept trying right until her teens when he had no use for it anymore. Then she would wheel it across the road to the pub forecourt, lower it sideways enough to get her leg across and leap on but could never sit on the seat and reach the peddles. She has vivid memory of falling on the crossbar, agony for her warm flesh on the solid cold steel. To this day she is a very poor cyclist.

It’s strange that I’m writing this on Father’s day, I woke up this morning thinking of him and there are lots of stories I could write. For the first ten or so years of my life he was dad and then for the next thirty I didn’t know who dad was. And then Pa Claudie was found, as was a big chunk of myself. So where are they this Father’s day? Lost to me for good this time, but I like to think they are watching over me somewhere and feeling some pride. Bless you both.