Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Blue Heaven

The Bean was free one morning last week, so we headed to a local blueberry farm. Slathered with sunscreen, hats jammed on our heads, we moseyed down this dusty lane to the blueberry fields.

Buckets bungee-corded to our waists, the better for two handed picking, we headed into the bushes.

It was a lovely blue and blustery day, and there weren't too many people out, so we almost had the place to ourselves. The brisk breeze kept the heat at bay. Even if there hadn't been blueberries to pick, I would have enjoyed wandering up and down the rows of bushes, wishing the butterflies wouldn't flutter so much, so I'd have a better chance of photographing them. Needless to say, they kept on fluttering and I got no butterfly pictures.

The farmer stopped his tractor to talk to us. Friendly fellow. Told us all about their war with the waxwings this spring; how to identify the different varieties, and the merits and demerits of each. He gave The Bean advice on how to manage his little blueberry patch at home, how to get the best yield etc. When the talk got technical, I wandered off, picking and munching, munching and picking. Their policy is eat all you want, pay for what's in your bucket. The berries in your belly are free. Of course, if you overindulge you'll pay later anyhow!

"I'm so glad I'm tall," the Bean observed at one point.
"Why so?" I asked.
"Because it looks like only short people were here before us. The lower branches are bare, but the higher one are loaded."

One of many reasons to give thanks for tallness.

"Imagine if you were a bear and you came out of the forest into a clearing like this? "
"I guess you'd be one ecstatic bear."

When the random Beanisms turned into
"If I eat one more blueberry I'll be sick," we knew it was time to go home.

When we took our loot to the shady weighing and paying stall we had exactly four and a half pounds. They didn't do a before and after check of what WE weighed! We paid about half what we'd have paid in the grocery store. The hiking and the fun, the birdsong and fresh air were free.

Made two batches of muffins that afternoon. One healthy and not too exciting, the other not as healthy, but luscious and lemony and sweet. A recipe for Mrs. Flaherty's Blueberry Coffee Loaves sounds tempting, AND it makes FOUR loaves. Blueberry vinegar sounds worth a try. Four pages, both sides, of recipes from the farm. And I still have last year's lot. And of course I'll have to make blueberry cobbler, and blueberry crumble. And we can't leave out blueberry peach pie.....Now that Rise is here I think we'll have to make another trip.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Macho, Macho Duck

Got off my rear this evening and went on a bike ride. Scared into it by an e-mail from Rise, titled Imminent Alien Landing, with details of her arrival time tomorrow. That woman is fit. And I am not - as. So I gritted my teeth and pedalled doggedly into the wind. Set no land speed records, but went the whole, hour-long route, mulling things over in my head. All the gobbledygook with which it is usually filled. And then some.

Stopped before home at the little lake nearby. Except that, with our lack of rain this spring, it has shrunk to a mere puddle. The whole area is a bird sanctuary, and there are signs to that effect, lest you get too trigger-happy with your shotgun.

After propping my bike against a tree, I walked along the little wooden pier. The light was fading, but I could make out the dark shape of a largish duck against the light of the water. He was busy, ducking his head under, for food, I presumed. As I watched I thought "That fish, or whatever, is putting up quite a fight."

Mr. Duck, a muscovy [homely looking critter], was doing some heavy-duty wiggling. But then he apparently gave up the fight. Lo, and behold! A female duck materialised from under him! He strutted [yeah! I'm the man!] from the water, and she waddled after him, both of them spreading their wings and shaking out their feathers, folding their wings back in place, then stretching upwards and giving the tailfeathers a vigorous waggling. Aha. Not dinner time after all. Eine kleine Nachtmusik. Just a little early.

They seemed very satisfied with themselves, and unconcerned that a pair of mallards nearby might have been traumatised for life.

An egret was darting around the water's edge. Usually when I see egrets they are playing statue. With their necks folded into exaggerated esses,they stalk their prey stealthily and almost motionlessly in preparation for the lightening strike at some hapless fish, minding his own business under the water. But this little fellow was hungry, darting to left and right in the muddy shallows. He looked kind of ungainly and as if he might have been glad of a good pair of wellies.

Suddenly the peace was shattered by the loud honking, nearby, of a sandhill crane. Such elegant fowl! Such obnoxious noise! Like those noisemakers people like to take to sports events. The ones that whirl around and make a clacking sound. And make you want to choke the owner.

There appeared to be some kind of domestic dispute going on between two cranes. They mate for life you know. Not to be confused with living happily ever after. I felt for them. Why can't we all just be nice to each other and quit honking?

Got back on the bike in the gathering gloom. Wobbled, lost my balance and fell off, hitting the grass, with a bone jarring thump. Lay where I'd fallen, wallowing in the humiliation, gingerly feeling my bones, and wishing I were a duck. Not a sex-crazed muscovey, but a nice, civilised little mallard. A less than auspicious ending to a so-so day.

Things will definitely look up tomorrow, as my beloved sister is arriving, and having her here will make all my owwees better.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Married Woman with Five Children Eats Birthday Dinner Alone in the Company of Her Cat

I was appalled when I read this in the newspaper yesterday. Imagine! Apparently her birthday got off to a shaky start when no cup of tea was brought to her in bed. Gosh, even I know that is a key component of a proper birthday! The unidentified woman sighed, got up, made coffee and served a toasted bagel to the last child living at home. It was not toasted to his satisfaction and he minced no words in expressing his displeasure.

Well, Excuuuse me! If I'd been in her shoes I'd have given that wretched mollyspawn, oops, I mean upstart, a piece of my mind. I'd have shown him how that amazing gadget, a toaster, works, and told him to feel free to toast his own &*%#*$!ing bagel. But enough about what I would have done. The woman in our news item just held her tongue, but was later heard, by one of our on-the-spot reporters, muttering darkly about boiled eggs for dinner. ??? Let the PhDs in Ireland figure out that cryptic comment....

The bagel eater having left for work, our heroine proceeded to putter. And watch the phone. And will it to ring. But that pesky instrument was silent.

Deciding against the option of sitting home, pouting, the newly minted 59 year old rounded up a few quilty friends by phone, inviting them to bring a bag lunch and join her at the local public gardens. Where they sat and chatted under shady oaks and munched their lunch, surrounded by lovely growing things, with the little waterfall gurgling in the background. She did not advise them of the day that was in it, as that would have resulted in too much twittering, which was not the purpose of the exercise. The purpose of the exercise, she confided later to our O.T.S.R., was to spend time in the company of people who, erroneously perhaps, [though she basks in it anyway], think that she is wonderful. One is allowed, she opined, to be selfish on one's birthday, especially when the earth doesn't stop, as it should, and tip its hat to one.

Ruffled feathers somewhat smoothed, she wended her way homeward. And stopped in to see the elderly relatives, who at least have advanced age as an excuse for their faulty memories.

But! What's this? There were flowers on her doorstep and messages on her phone when she got home! And a big smile on her face when our reporters caught up with her for an up-date. She did not, she told them, waddle around like a goose who'd swallowed a basketball for forty five months of her life, develop stretch marks and varicose veins, and huff and puff through five labours, to be tossed aside like yesterday's junk mail at the end of it all. So, even though she did eat dinner with only the cat for company, she had a very nice day, thank you very much. When the bagel eater returned, [and it is well known he has the demeanor of a wounded bear when first he wakes],he swore to defend her against all comers.

She even spoke to him-who-swore-he-couldn't-live-without-her-but-now-seems-to-be-managing-that-feat-just-fine before turning in for the night.

This concludes the birthday rant for this year. The editors would like to thank all the reporters who threw their two cents in. There will be no further discussion of this subject on these pages until this time next year, when we will be revisiting the woman and her cat to see how they are coping with the big Six O. Do you think you can stand the suspense? Our reporters live only to bring you human interest stories such as this one . After all, it could even happen to you!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Uncle Willie

My Uncle Willie died yesterday. Just like that. Nobody even told me he was sick. But then his family has always been stingy with information. Turns out he had cancer. He died peacefully with my Aunt and all his family around him. I just wish I could go to his funeral. That's what families are for. Among other things. To make a good showing at the turning points in our lives. Like baptisms and weddings and funerals. Long ago, when I was young and flippant, and had no care for the future, I made a decision that ensured I would very rarely be able to show up.

When my dad was dying we lived in California. Heaven and earth had to be moved by the OC and my F-I-L to get a passport for baby Liz and get us half way around the world,asap.

When Rise,my only sister, got married, I couldn't go. Three small children and a skinny bank account.

When my mother was dying of cancer Rise was the one trekking daily to hospice, while I wrung my hands ineffectually in Montana. I did, however, make it home for her funeral.

When my cousin, Willie's oldest, got married a few years ago, I was at first determined to go, since there was no longer the excuse of small children. But somehow I was overruled.

And now Uncle Willie has gone to join his brother, our Uncle Denis, in the great cattle market in the sky. I'm not sure my mother would be hanging out at the celestial cattle mart, but she'll probably be waiting at the pearly gates, along with our tall Granddad, Garrett O'Rourke, him of the benign smile and the snow-white moustache [known to me mainly through photographs, as he died when I was only four]. With Granny on his arm, in one of her flowered dresses, with her silver hair tied back in a bun. There'll be singing and dancing and jigs and reels in heaven after the funeral on Monday.

Auntie Bid [I couldn't say her name correctly and my version stuck] is the only one of my mother's siblings left. She was the youngest, and as mad as a March hare, and lots of fun. But now she's in a nursing home because they couldn't get her to take her medicine. The cousins come and take her out frequently. If I hadn't dipped out I could be doing my share there too. As it is, she probably wouldn't know me. So sad, growing old and having all your friends and peers drifting off, one by one, leaving you alone.

As a small child I remember spending time at Granny's. Uncle Denis was the heir to my grandfather's farm, being the oldest son. But Uncle Willie had a cunning plan. He was courting Shelia L, over the hill. Shelia was an only child, on a big farm adjacent to the O'Rourkes. I remember teasing him as he got ready to go. "Willie's going courting!" Polishing his boots and putting Brylcream in his hair. And, while he polished, singing "The Yellow Rose of Texas". Throughout my life, whenever I've heard that song I think of Uncle Willie.

By and by, the lovely Shelia succumbed to his charms. Theirs was the first wedding I ever attended. I was ten. And sat beside a grown up cousin whom I adored. Who explained to me how to eat the grapefruit with the little cherry on top. There was singing and dancing later, and a little too much to drink for the grown-ups. As young as I was, I remember feeling bad for my mother when my dad very publicly flirted with another cousin, sister to the one I'd sat with. It was such a mystery to me, all this grown up intrigue.

The following year we were out to visit in the country again, and the young couple had their first baby. Who I remember tightly grasping my little finger, in the way that tiny babies do.

A few years later this tiny baby, was running around in the farmyard, cursing a blue streak, a talent she'd learned from her dad,to the grevious mortification of her ladylike mother. It was she who called with the sad news. She gave up cursing a long time ago and turned out to be more like her mother, our aunt.

Now that lovely, ladylike aunt has lost her life's partner. I spoke to her today and she sounded characteristically philosophical. Glad that he'd died peacefully, with herself and their eight children around him. That's the way to go. Not the lonesome way so many people die these days, far from family and friends and a place they love.

"Slawn leath" Uncle Willie. May you be in heaven half an hour before the divil knows you're dead. And may you rest in peace.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Book and Movie--A Perfect Marriage

I rented a movie recently and scored. My track record is spotty, at best. I often wonder why I bother. But this time I was enthralled. And watched it again the next night. And hared off to the library the next day for the book.

Turns out I had this book on my TBR list all the time. My list is a messy affair, scribbled in a notebook haphazardly. After reading a review, I had scratched in there "Notes From A Scandal" by Zoe Heller. [It was short listed for the Booker Prize in 2003]. And promptly forgot all about it.

Until Cate Blanchett's face turned up on a movie with a vaguely familiar name. Cate B and Judi Dench were inspired choices for the leading roles. And Bill Nighey is hysterical as the cuckolded husband. Usually I like to read a book first. Then, when I get around to seeing the movie, I'm a bit let down. Because I have formed my own picture and the movie doesn't measure up.

Except for this one. I don't think I could have imagined the characters more perfectly than Blanchett and Dame J portray them. The story is about an affair between a teacher and one of her pupils. But the real story, the underlying, unstated story, is about lonliness, and the lengths people will go to to deal with it. Sometimes its not the story that lures you in so much as how it's told. Zoe Heller is masterful.
Which came across in the movie.
Which lured me to the book.
Which did not dissapoint.
She is sly, tart and wickedly funny. I highly recommend both book and movie. But which to tackle first? I'm afraid you're on your own there. I'd almost say I enjoyed the book more, having Cate Blanchett's and Judi Dench's portrayals in mind. But a movie can only portray so much. At the end of the day the written word rules. Here is a case where movie and book compliment each other perfectly.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Pavarotti I Am Notti....More May Memories

May at our school was a time for processions. Mainly in honour of Our Lady, since our nuns were an Italian order whose patroness was Mary, Help of Christians. Processions were a welcome diversion from class work. Hymns had to be practised, processing had to be choreographed. Reading, writing and 'rithmetic took a back seat for a while. One memorable May, Mother Superior came to visit, all the way from Turin. The nuns were beside themselves with excitement. We practiced all the usual hymns and, since Mother Superior's visit was such a special occasion, we also learned one hymn in Italian. I loved that Italian hymn,even though we didn't have a clue what the words meant.

The big day arrived and we lined the driveway up to the convent and waved little Italian flags and sang our hearts out.

Years later, when we lived in Belgium, we became friendly with an Italian couple. Invited to dinner one evening at their home, I was in the kitchen with Gabriella while the men talked shop. I decided to wow her with my rendition of the Italian hymn from my schooldays, sotto voce of course, so's not to alarm the gentlemen. As I rolled my tongue robustly around those lovely Italian sounds, my friend looked at me with a total absence of comprehension. Turned out, to my everlasting mortification, that I was singing , not in Italian, but in Gibberish!

Now I only sing it in the shower. Gibberish notwithstanding.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Bless Me Father, for I Have Sinned...

I won't bore you with how dazed I am that it's May already. Enough to say that May is one of my favourite months. For many reasons. Not least of which is that I was born in this merry month, just nine months after my parents' wedding! Of course I don't exactly remember being born. Too bad we're so totally oblivious when the most momentous things are happening to us.

The first May memory that comes to my mind is of changing from our navy, winter school uniform to a summer one of sky blue, with a white collar and pretty buttons. Such "incredible lightness of being" that summer uniform induced in me! It symbolised the unfolding of life. Gaunt, grey winter was behind us. New leaves were unfurling on the trees. Fresh green things were poking shyly but determinedly, up from the ground. Daffodils, narcissus, crocus, tulips.... The very air trembled with possibility.

I made my First Communion in May of 1954. A memory etched in my brain is of walking to church that day with my parents. My little brother is not in this memory. Maybe a neighbour was taking care of him. And even though my mother was only five weeks from giving birth to my sister, I don't remember her as pregnant that day. Not that the word "pregnant" was even in my six year old vocabulary. Maybe the memory is so clear because, for once, I had my parents' undivided attention.

I was wearing my white communion dress, which my mother had made. In photos I see a scrubbed and shining freckled face, topped by mother-primped, wavy hair. My expression betrays my embarrassment at being all dolled up, like a dog's dinner. Because, did I mention? The dress was only the half of it. I was also wearing a veil! And white, gauzy gloves, and shiny white shoes that didn't have brown laces in them. And I was clutching a bunch of lily of the valley. The parents were dolled up too, in their Sunday best, and the birds were singing. I don't remember if it had just rained, but the memory has a just-washed, sunshiny feel to it.

The rest of the day is lost in the mists. More than the ritual of First Communion, I remember the preparations of the preceding week, and the twittering of the nuns as they coached us for our First Confession. Because, without the cleansing effects of confession, those nuns were not letting us and our dingy, smudgy, six-year old souls anywhere near the altar. We practiced until those little souls were weary.

Sister[acting in loco priestus-don't bother to check my Latin, I made it up]:
"In nomine patris, et fili, et spiritus sanctus. Bless you my child."

Us[each in our turn]:"Bless me Father, for I have sinned, this is my first confession,gulp."

The holy nuns [and I use the term loosely], had drilled the Ten Commandments into us. Before going into the confession box, to whisper in the dark to the priest about our dreadful shortcomings, we were supposed to examine our consciences. This ritual to be repeated every week for the rest of our days. Nit picking, I'd call it today, since at that tender age

-we weren't much given to swearing;

-we knew nothing about false gods;

-our mothers saw to it that we kept holy the Sabbath day;

-and also took care of 'honour thy father and thy mother'.

Because, whatever about my dad, my mother stood for no nonsense. If you didn't "honour" her [as in - do what you were told], you'd feel the sting of the wooden spoon across the backs of your legs as you fled.

There was little or no chance of any of us committing murder, much as we might like to dispatch a pesky sibling here or there.

As for adultery, all we knew was it had something to do with adults. Logically enough.

Stealing was one evil we experienced first hand.
Stealee:"Sister, she stole my pencil!"
Stealer:"No I didn't, Sister. She's lying!"

Which brought us to fibbing, one sin we were intimately acquainted with.

The ninth commandment,in the list Noah,oops! I mean, Moses, allegedly brought down from the mountain, was up there with adultery. Not only were we not concerned, on the playground at recess, with coveting our neighbour's wife. We didn't even think we'd be concerned with it as adults, since most of us didn't expect to ever have wives.

Number ten was less mysterious. Coveting our neighbours' goods was as natural to us as breathing.

But...given the menu of possibilities, it's no wonder we turned to nit-picking, as our first confession turned into our second, our second into our third and so on, for the rest of our lives [the nuns assured us.] Every Saturday you'd hope it would slip your mother's mind. But every Saturday she'd remember, and send you off to the church on your bicycle, to do the weekly spiritual laundry. Lest you lose the run of yourself. No groaning or malingering allowed.

"Bless me Father for I have sinned.It's been a week since my last confession. I rolled my eyes when my mother said I had to go to bed so early [I made sure she didn't see me...]
And Father, I couldn't help myself, I pinched my little brother. And lied when my mother asked me what I'd done to him. Because Father, she sqeezes oranges to make juice for him, and it smells so lovely, but she never gives me any. And my dad said I had to put threepence in my piggybank, and I could spend the other threepence. But Father, you can't get anything for threepence, so I spent the whole sixpence on sweets. And when my dad asked me if I'd put half my pocket money in my piggybank, I told him I did. For these sins I am heartily sorry Father."

It was all very well if you got one of the nicer priests. But you never knew who was lurking behind the door to the confessional,until your nose was five inches from his ear, and it was too late to run. So you waited, quaking, on your knees in the dark, for the little window to slide open, signalling your turn to spill the beans. Some of the priests were gruff old codgers. Scary enough to make a small girl wet her knickers. And wonder, in her shame, if that was also a sin?

If you happened to have your wits about you, and a keen sense of hearing, you could entertain yourself, as you waited in the darkened cubicle, by straining to hear the muffled exchange between the priest and the penitent at the other side of the box. That was a two-edged sword though. You wouldn't want anyone eavesdropping as you confessed your sins, and then noising the news abroad......

Some of the older priests were hard of hearing, and would sometimes ask you to repeat what you'd said. Or, even worse, to "speak up my child." With a little luck you'd get off with a couple of "Hail Marys" for your penance, and stumble out, with eyes downcast and cheeks burning, hoping that no one had overheard, or if they had, that there would be no snickering as you fumbled your way into a pew and joined your hands piusly. And rattled off the Act of Contrition and your penance, with unseemly haste, so you could make your escape and go out into the sunlight to sin again.

It's been many May moons since I was last inside a confessional. For which I may possibly burn in hell, unless the nuns themselves were fibbing. But I haven't thrown the baby out with the bathwater. I believe in God. I still pray. I'd never have survived five teenagers without an unshakeable faith in the Man Above. And His Holy Mother. And all the angels and saints. I'm probably as familiar to them as a bad ha'penny.

"Oh," says St. Peter to Jesus, "it's just your woman in Florida. She's on her knees again, wondering if we could possibly help her out with her latest crisis. She's very persistent Sir. What shall I tell her this time?"

And they always come through for me.

I'm surprised every year at how quickly the year rushes to May. And it reaffirms my faith in the universe when I see new leaves unfurling on the trees, and fresh green things poking up from the ground, and I know that God's in His heaven and all's right with the world. For now.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Green Thumbs and Passion Vines

The Bean, my budding botanist, is working for the summer, landscaping. Back in fourth grade, Mrs. Balace, the teacher he remembers most fondly of all the teachers he had growing up, turned him on to the wonder of growing things. Each child in her class started the year out with a terrarium, some dirt, a handful of seeds and a walking stick bug. Their mission was to sow the seeds and keep the subsequent plants alive, along with responsibility for the well being of Mr. W. S. Bug , who made his home, and cleverly camouflaged himself among those plants. The Bean has had two green thumbs ever since. For a while, in H.S. he was making salsa from hot peppers he grew, and selling it to the teachers. It was too hot for my taste---the kind that makes smoke come out your ears, but he had some dedicated clients!

Since the OC went north, the cat's been playing, so to speak. In addition to cutting the grass, keeping the bushes trimmed, and mollycoddling the OC's babies, the bamboo and the fig trees, the Bean has managed to add a couple of banana plants, a coffee plant, two kinds of guava, peach and grapefruit trees, two friends for the existing pomegranate tree, and a fence upon which he is training blackberries and raspberries. There's a collection of pots by the garage with an ever changing and growing parade of seedlings and cuttings, and plants rescued from jobs where they were being pulled out and discarded. A sampling--elephant ears, mother of millions, papyrus..........Can you tell that girls his age are thin on the ground around here??

This landscaping work involves frequent trips to nurseries, and he never comes home empty handed. Yesterday he came home with this passion flower vine. With which I immediately fell in love, and which made me remember these lines:

"Count no men poor who have the stars above,
The peace and quietude of evening hours,
And in their hearts that rarest gift of love,
And in their garden---flowers."

To which I say a heartfelt "Amen."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fruity Cheerios vs. Oatmeal

One of the biggest criticisms I've heard levelled at blogging is "who the hell cares what you had for breakfast?" Didn't think I'd ever stoop so low, but, guess what this is going to be about? Exactly! What I had for breakfast! Even if it means they'll take away my thinking blogger thingy.....

I wouldn't call myself a health food nut. Growing up I was fed healthy food. Never gave it a second thought. My mother, who was a nurse, put it in front of me and I ate it. Fast food was still in the future. Most food was fresh and minimally processed. Bread was often whole wheat. At my grandmother's house, out the country, white, store-bought bread was a rare 'treat'.

Candy was discouraged [which is not to say that we didn't head straight to the local sweet shop the minute we got a few pennies....] My mother tried to satisfy our craving for sweets by serving dessert. Sometimes it was stewed apples with custard [Bird's Jelly Deluxe!] Sometimes it was rice pudding. Sometimes it was sago [yuk, yuk!]. On special occasions it was apple tart[yum!] or queen cakes [double yum!] or, on state occasions, trifle [drool, drool, triple yum!] Always healthy, wholesome tucker. We didn't eat only dessert, but that's what comes first to my sugar-crazed mind. [Shepherd's pie was my favourite of the non-dessert items served at home.]

But when my children came along, it dawned on me that the care and feeding of these little people was my responsibility. Obviously nobody had checked my credentials before assigning me this task. I hung on with the breastfeeding as long as I reasonably could...... Then I haunted the library for books that would steer me in the healthiest direction. Which did not include jars with a happy cherub on the front. So I learned to mash and strain and puree. And, even though it didn't always look that appetizing, it worked. Nobody died. Nobody wasted away from malnutrition. Nobody had to be hospitalized and fed intravenously. Phew!

Liz had some strange favourites for a toddler. When I cut a lemon and used only part of it, she'd ask for the rest and happily suck on it!!! She also liked to pop whole kumquats in her mouth and chew as happily as if they were candy....And when I made coleslaw she had to have the cabbage core. Everything went well until my boys hit their teens and decided to become vegetarians. Which was, quite frankly, a pain in the neck. Stress was high enough trying to keep people fed who had two hollow legs apiece, now I had to accomplish that without any help from meat? Not fair. And then their little sister, who thought they were gods, joined their ranks, but she was still very young and growing....agghh....and stubborn....more stress, as I tried to make sure she was adequately nourished! Thankfully the OC and the Bean are still happy meat-and-potatoes-and-anything-else-I'll-put-in-front-of-them kind of guys.

So where was I going with this? Ahh, yes....breakfast. My mother fed us porridge for breakfast, big heaping bowls of grey stuff. My dad set it up in the evening in the double boiler. We sprinkled it with sugar, poured on the milk and choked it down. And then had a few hunks of buttered brown bread with marmalade for good measure. At least it stuck to our ribs and saw us through 'til lunchtime. But oh! How we longed for summer when she would relent for a couple of months, and let us eat corn flakes or rice krispies instead!

But, just like the sensible shoes that I so heartily resented, I find myself doing many things mum's way, now, at the rapid approach of dotage. Like breakfast. I usually have a bowl of oatmeal, made palatable by the addition of chopped up fruit. Except for lately. Due to the recent visit of small grandsons, I see a most unaccustomed sight when I go to the cupboard for my morning cereal. To wit, a large red and yellow box of Fruity Cheerios. Tiny crispy donuts in every colour of the rainbow. With no sign of an imminent return visit from the boys, and being a thrifty person, there's only one thing for it. I'm working my way through the box. But next time they visit I will implore their mother to buy a smaller box. Because..... are you listening up there Mum?.....I miss my oatmeal!