From Friend to Family

Dear Katie

Happy 21st birthday!

Yes, I know that every year since I’ve known you has been your 21st – but don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me πŸ™‚

First of all I want to say a huge thank you for taking Wayne off my hands! You are far more beautiful, hard-working and above all tolerant than he deserves! The pure joy on his face on your wedding day was so easy for all to see ❀

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Wayne and Katie

But let’s go right back to the beginning …

I remember the day we met. I interviewed you for a zookeeper position at Tropical Wings. And DIDN’T offer you the job! (Oops – sorry about that!) It wasn’t that I didn’t think you would be perfect for the animals but I was looking for someone confident enough to give a presentation in front of a big audience and I thought you were just too quiet.

So – first impressions are NOT always correct! Boy was I wrong! πŸ˜›

But it’s a testament to your dedication and perseverance that you pestered the boss over and over again after that interview, begging for a chance to work with the animals you adore. Personally I think she just got fed up with answering the phone to you. I was overruled and you started your zoo career. And I’ve never been so pleased to be proved wrong πŸ™‚

katietw
At Tropical Wings with a couple of coati friends πŸ™‚

Oh the many happy hours we spent working together, especially when we were training my beloved otters.

And then James made the mistake of having his 18th birthday. He invited all his young colleagues to celebrate with him and his brothers at a club, and there you met Wayne. So it’s all James’ fault, really!

katiej18
Meeting Wayne on James’ 18th birthday.Β  He fell for Katie immediately ❀ … awwwww πŸ™‚

Time passed and I’d started my Mobile Zoo business. After a year of more work than I could handle alone I approached you with the fabulous offer of becoming my Head Keeper … with precisely no staff under you whatsoever!

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At the Mobile Zoo staff Christmas party – with exactly no staff for Katie to supervise as Head Keeper.Β  And clearly I was beyond supervision!

Together we built up the menagerie till it took over the whole house! Do you remember we convinced Frank the tarantula was yours, just staying temporarily while you waited for a new tank? It was ages before the penny dropped and he looked at me suspiciously through narrowed eyes and said β€œThat’s your spider, isn’t it?” This, and many other funny stories you were a part of, made it into my book.

dippybook1
Katie had a starring role in many of my stories!

Thank you for everything you did which became part of my story, and for making it the best Mobile Zoo in the country! (Sorry about all those kiddies’ parties for 7-year old boys – aaaargh! πŸ™‚ )

katieawad
An old advert for the Mobile Zoo I came across recently.Β  I’m holding Parker the one-eared ferret and Katie has another of my favourites – Nigel the bullfrog!

And now you are no longer my colleague or my employee. Instead you have gone from friend to family, having filled the position of daughter-in-law, and have done so brilliantly! Not only have you succeeded in changing Wayne from a boy into a man (as much as anyone could hope for, but hey, you did get him to eat vegetables, which is more than I can say!) but you have also given me two wonderful grandchildren – pretty impressive for someone only just turning 21 πŸ˜‰

Connie and Frankie are so amazing. I know you made Frank’s joy complete and I’m so grateful that he got to hold baby Connie in his arms. I’m also certain that wherever he is, he’s surely bursting with pride to know that you named our grandson after him, and I’m still not completely certain that he didn’t have something to do with organising his arrival – born exactly 9 months after the day we lost Frank. How does the saying go – Coincidence? I think not!

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With my beautiful grandchildren

Hoping you have a lovely day, and I’m only sorry I can’t give you the one birthday present you’ve always asked for – β€œA miiiiillion pounds, please!” Will you settle for a Krispy Kreme? πŸ™‚

Lots of love

The Monster-in-Law xxx

PS Looking at all these photos of you over the years I’ve just seen a Rainbow Connection – your hair seems to have been black, pink, ginger, blue, brown, blonde … and every colour in between πŸ™‚

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Morning Train

Dear All

Apparently I can see the future!

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I always thought I was a slightly fey, on account of the teeny drop of gypsy in my blood, but it turns out I’m undeniably clairvoyant πŸ™‚

I recently stumbled upon a poem I wrote four years ago – about a lady who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It’s not specified in the poem, but when I was writing it I imagined it to be breast cancer. Weird, huh?

I have no idea why I thought I could really know how she might be feeling. How arrogant of me! I’m now the first to say nobody can ever guess what you go through at a time like this. There’s a well-known saying – never judge anyone until you’ve walked a week in their shoes. This is so true, because once you’ve done that you can say what you like about them. After walking for a week you’ll be miles away out of earshot, and you’ll have their shoes too, so that’s a bonus!

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But I digress. (Well, that makes a change, Lucy! πŸ™‚ )

There is one important detail that I did get wrong, at least as far as how I feel about my diagnosis. I’ll let you read the poem before I say any more. Warning: the style’s a bit more β€œmodern” than I usually write and not exactly a contender for any literary prizes. I guess I was trying to be trendy or something πŸ˜›

Morning Train

Monday morning commuters
Rushing to work
Station track station track
Station track station track
Whistle

The Boss in his button-popping overcoat
Sweating and regretting
Last night
Station track station track
Station track station track

Miss Wilson tottering
Heels too high
High enough to raise his blood pressure
And her salary
Station track station track
Station track station track

Kevin wishing he was still in bed
Safe in the arms of his lover
Not carriage-crushed
Forced to breathe air
Already used
Station track station track
Station track station track

Mrs Jean Bradshaw
Respectable in best tweed and pearls
The doctor’s diagnosis
Close to her heart
Stepping quietly onto the sleepers
Station track station track
Station track station track
Stop

Passengers whining about the delay
Being late is not an option
Needing to reach the terminal
But Mrs Jean Bradshaw
Has reached the end of the line

morningtrain

So where was I wrong?

Well, of course it’s obvious – I’m not suicidal. When I wrote the poem I don’t think I could have imagined that anyone with a terminal diagnosis could feel as positive about Life as I do.

Yes, there are days when I feel very down 😦 Yes, without Frank and Sarah to care for my purpose has gone. You might say I feel like there’s no point to me at all. But as you know I’ve already pondered the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything – and came up empty-handed!

But having no reason to live doesn’t mean I want to die. To be honest, my first choice would be to just not have cancer, but irritatingly that isn’t one of the options.

choice
Not having cancer isn’t one of the options 😦

I’m sure there must be many people in my position who don’t want to carry on any more. My heart goes out to them, and I’ve put a link at the bottom of this letter in case it’s of any help to anyone, but I intend to soldier on annoying my friends and family for as long as I possibly can πŸ™‚

I ain’t no Mrs Jean Bradshaw!

Love from Lucy

Not just for those feeling suicidal – The Samaritans can help in lots of ways.

Fancy that!

Dear Dedicated Followers (of fashion)

Those of you who are truly dedicated followers will recall that yesterday I described my *ahem* sartorial splendour!

Now, I wasn’t planning to write this letter so soon afterward, but apart from the tantalising mention of the 1980s blouse which still resides in my wardrobe (in all its shiny shoulder pad-ness) my sister Alice commented on the post.

She replied to my Fashion Editor application as Vogue magazine’s Ms I.M. Larfing, showing interest in my CV but requesting photos of me in fancy dress.

Challenge accepted.

Let’s kick off with a picture of the infamous blouse:

blouse

Anyone born after 1980 will probably find it hard to believe, but this really was fashionable at the time! Our greatest dream was to emulate the glamorous stars of Dynasty and Dallas. (Spoiler alert – it was Kristin Shepard who shot JR πŸ™‚ ) The shinier and shoulder paddier the better!

But as the decade came to a close I just couldn’t part with that blouse. I tried to throw it out several times but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not because it had any real sentimental (or, indeed, fashionable value) but for the simple reason that I could see it had Fancy Dress potential.

I love fancy dress parties! It probably stems from growing up with an extensive dressing up box and a desire to perform (or, as my dear old Mum would have put it – showing off!)

They say β€œAll the world’s a stage”. If that’s true and my life is just a play, well – that would explain a lot! The plot’s rubbish and the costume department needs a severe talking to, but at least the scenery is lovely and hey, I could win an Oscar with this jolly, brave, laughing in the face of Death act!

So what I’m trying to say is that I never grew out of dressing up games. Fancy dress competitions, carnivals and themed parties have been a big part of my life ever since childhood.

Yes, that shiny blouse with its splendid cravat neck and billowing sleeves has been a part of many costumes over the years. Pirate, prince, Victorian lady, film star and headless ghost to name but a few:

headless
James lost his head at Hallowe’en!

Sadly many of the outfits of my youth were never photographed. You will never have the opportunity to see such delights as the time I entered a fancy dress competition as Alice in Wonderland, complete with a real white rabbit (one of the many pets we used to walk on leads!) Yep – the cute bunny aaah factor won the hearts of the judges and left the other entrants standing πŸ™‚ Or the day I was Lady Rosemary from The Herbs (if you know who this character is I know how old you are) or the tramp complete with spotted hankie on a stick I had to ruin a perfectly good pair of trousers for.

I did find this sweet one of me being a gypsy (in the days when they sold pegs and ribbons instead of offering to do a terribly bad job resurfacing your drive). Check out all the rick-rack Mum sewed on that skirt!

gypsy
You can’t really see it in this photo but I had big brass curtain rings tied to my ears with cotton!

EDIT: I’ve had my poor memory jogged as to where to find a couple more photos of me in fancy dress as a child! So I’ve added them below – including the one of me as a tramp – you lucky people πŸ™‚

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Tramps’ Supper.Β  Dammit I looked good in that straw hat!
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No idea what I was dressing up as here – possibly Aladdin on a flying carpet, or maybe it was a circus act!Β  I do know one thing – those baggy chiffon pantaloons appeared in virtually every play the KEAL club put on for our long-suffering parents!Β  (Especially the one we performed all in Turkish for a visiting foreign student without any of us actually being able to speak Turkish – don’t ask!)
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World Brownie Day (or something similar!)Β  Don’t I look thrilled? πŸ™‚

So the rest of the photos of me are as an adult (ish).

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I’m not sure if it was me or James inside Percy the Penguin here.Β  We both entertained the visitors at Flamingo Park wearing this on many occasions.Β  Not both at the same time, obviously!
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Mum and me at a Pirate party.Β  For some reason this was one of the rare times I DIDN’T use the infamous blouse, but you can see Mum wore a yellow one she’d presumably also had in her wardrobe since the 1980s!
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I think this was the Queen’s golden jubilee.Β  Yes, I made Frank join in whether he wanted to or not!
flamingo
Who doesn’t love a flamingo? πŸ™‚
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1950s karaoke night with Kathy
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Apologies for the blurriness.Β  I had thought (hoped) there were no photos of me dressed as Olaf but this is a screenshot of a very damning video of me doing a song and dance act. Cringe.Β  Look, it was for charity, OK?
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At my 50th birthday Hawaii 5-0 luau.Β  Aloha!
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Beautiful Sarah as Dorothy and crazy fat me as a crazy fat rainbow for Sarah’s Over the Rainbow 18th birthday party.
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EDIT #2: Alice also reminded me that she borrowed the infamous blouse to be a pirate at Sarah’s party.Β  Yeah, none of us could work out what pirates had to do with the Wizard of Oz, but I’m sure Alice will be happy to give a full explanation – if you’re really interested! πŸ™‚

And of course I’ve passed down my fancy dress passion to the kids. The following picture gallery shows some of the many times when I encouraged (forced) them to wear costumes. And a couple of my grandchildren to show the tradition continues.

cousinsroyal
James and his cousins – Royal party
fireman
The Jamestown Fire Brigade!
gasoldiers
Toy soldiers? ❀
pinklady
Grease is the word!
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Katie and Wayne with their little Glinda and baby Scarecrow (awww ❀ )
seanjuice
Seany-juice
shrek
Yeah – would have been a better costume if Sarah had had a Shrek mask!
thunderbirds
Thunderbirds are Go … with some very dodgy salutes!
seanderekwoody
OK, Woody and … er, who are you supposed to be, Derek?
galiontinman
Mini cowardly lion and tin man πŸ™‚
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Sarah and Wayne rockin’ the leis πŸ™‚
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I’ll be honest.Β  I’ve seen Katie look better, but this is one of the best photos of Wayne I have πŸ™‚
trulyscrum
Awww πŸ™‚Β  She really is Truly Scrumptious isn’t she?Β  And look … the infamous blouse makes yet another appearance!
seanderekrainbow
Derek was Captain Rainbow but we spent the whole day taking the mick out of Sean’s “Mayor of Munchkin City” costume.Β  Come on – votes in the comments box please.Β  He DEFINITELY looks more like a leprechaun doesn’t he?
jsilverclown
Ohhh it’s been so much fun embarrassing my kids with these shots πŸ™‚

I don’t think I’d better get rid of that blouse. Looks like it might be needed again for the next generation!

Bye for now πŸ™‚

Lucy x

A dedicated follower of fashion!

Dear Vogue Magazine

I should like to apply for the position of Fashion Editor, which I saw advertised recently.

I have always had a keen interest in keeping up to date with all the latest trends – you might say I am a dedicated follower of fashion.

In my childhood I could often be found at the exclusive fashion shows of all the current designers. Here I am (bottom right, seated) at a major event held at the W.I. Hall in Billericay.

fashion3

As you can see, I was sporting my favourite outfit – the very trendy crocheted red, green and white top and faded stretchy velour trousers of an indeterminate greyish colour. Oh that I could have looked as snazzy as that model on the catwalk!

Soon after that I began to seek out more exotic creations at such chic boutiques as β€œChurch Jumble Sale” and β€œHand-Me-Downs”. The next image in my extensive portfolio shows a little green velvet number. Note how I accentuate the crumpled lace neckline with my unusual juxtaposition of Kirby grips.

fashion2

In my early teenage years I could often be seen modelling stripy leg-warmers, tank tops, flares with a flash in the bottom of the leg made by craftily adding a triangle of curtain material and a poncho knitted by Granny. And this wonderful dress passed down from the girl next door. I’m sure you’ll agree that the collar was not only the height of fashion, but could also be used as a personal hang-glider on windy days πŸ™‚

fashioncollar

By my late teens I was sporting the β€œLittle Orphan Annie meets Calamity Jane” look. This special combination even drew the attention of the World Press as can be seen in this image which appeared in the fashion-orientated Basildon Evening Echo in 1983.

fashion1

Not long after this I abandoned the look for a somewhat more avante garde image, daring to pair cerise and turquoise, with white peep-toes for added panache. Critics might be swift to suggest that I was, in fact, attending a “Vicars and Tarts” fancy dress party, but I must point out that I had very little notice of the event and (having no time to hire a costume) I am proud to say that I was able to produce all of these items of clothing from my personal wardrobe.Β  My sisters obviously had none of my style – Emily (right) looked decidedly normal and Alice had simply chosen to pin a note on her top which, if memory serves, said “A Tart Incognito”.Β  Hardly competition for my stunning ensemble, in my humble opinion.

fashion4

In my early twenties shiny blouses and shoulder pads were the order of the day. I had several of these and, in fact, one of them is still in my wardrobe. [I really wish this was just added for comic relief, and was not the complete, unadulterated truth! I will be addressing the reasons for this in another letter πŸ™‚ ]

fashion21st

Unfortunately my portfolio doesn’t contain any images after the late 1980s. However, as my wardrobe has changed little since that time it seems unnecessary.

I hope you will consider me for this position which, as I have so ably demonstrated, I am perfectly qualified to carry out with the utmost efficiency. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours faithfully,
Lucy Murray

[note to friends: did you know – Vogue magazine was first published in 1892. I think my fashion sense would have been out of date even then!]

PS I may not truly be the most dedicated follower of fashion, but I’ve always believed that what matters most is NOT how beautiful the dress is, but how beautiful it makes the wearer feel. Look at the joy, confidence and self-worth on Sarah’s face as she headed off to the school prom! I love this photo. πŸ™‚

prom

Stop all the clocks …

Dear Time

Stop all the clocks …

210frank
Stop all the clocks …” – W.H. Auden

It is no accident that I have posted this letter at exactly 2.10pm today.Β  I cannot let this moment pass without mentioning Frank.Β 

It is the second anniversary of his death and my heart is aching. As always.

It doesn’t hurt more today than any other day, nor does it hurt any less.

It’s been two years since I lost the love of my life, and yet it feels like two minutes. Tempus fugit – Time flies. Are you flying or standing still? I can’t tell. Everything has changed. Nothing has changed.

It is a commonly held idea that you heal all wounds.

healsclock

But look again at that image.

A couple of Band-Aids on a clock face. Rip those plasters off and the clock will still be there.

Anyone who’s ever covered a child’s grazed knee will know how much pleasure that kid gets by lifting the corner of the plaster up to proudly show off their injury! You don’t heal a wound, you cover it. Perhaps the more there is of you, the harder it is to see the wound, and maybe eventually it will fade to become a scar, but it never really goes away.

You are a strange, man-made concept.

Sometimes it seems you pass in an instant. Other times you drag on for an eternity. Remember at school how a maths lesson definitely lasted at least eight times longer than playtime? πŸ™‚

One of the funniest occasions was when you confused little James. He was about 5 or 6 and we were on our way to see Kethrine. About ten minutes into the journey he suddenly asked β€œWhere are we going?” with a suspicious tone in his voice. β€œTo see Auntie Kethrine” I replied. β€œBut it never takes this long!” he insisted. I was baffled and assured him it always took about 20 minutes. β€œNo, normally we get in the car and then … and then we’re there.” he said. It took me a few minutes to realise it was the first car journey when he’d stayed awake – before that he’d always dropped off before we’d even got to the end of our street!

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could sleep through all the bits of you we didn’t like?

I did a quick search for quotes about you – Google threw more than 3 million back at me!

Some of them were sad, some funny, some bizarre! But most were earnest – urging us to remember that Life is short and that you are precious:

β€œStop waiting for Time. Time isn’t waiting for you.”

β€œTime has a wonderful way of showing us what matters.”

β€œThe trouble is, you think you have time.”

β€œTime is not measured by clocks, but by moments.”

β€œIt’s not about having time, it’s about making time.”

And of course every good fairytale begins β€œOnce upon a time …”

oncebook

Like everyone, my life has been a story. Maybe not a fairytale (unless you’re thinking of Beauty and the Beast – arf arf!) but a story nevertheless. A journey through time.

There has been a beginning, a middle and there will be an end. I may have less of you than others, but as we all know, it’s quality not quantity that matters. I hope I didn’t waste too much of you. Another quote I came across was β€œThe time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” I guess I didn’t waste any of you then, because I’ve enjoyed every second!

funclock

And so, having cheered myself up on what is a difficult day, I will finish with one of my favourite little sayings about you:

Time flies when you’re having fun. Unless you’re a frog. In which case, time’s fun when you’re having flies!

frogclock

Time to fly!
Love from LucyΒ  Β 

Missing you with all my heart, Frank xxx

 

Not dead yet

Dear Pansy

So 2019 has begun.

For the last week all I have seen and heard is β€œHappy New Year!”

hny1

A time for celebration. The start of new beginnings and things to look forward to. The first day of the rest of my life!

Sigh 😦

I have tried to be cheerful. Honestly I have. But (if you’re ready for a scary ride!) take a trip with me into that most frightening place that is my mind …

Christmas is over. It was a wonderful time, full of family, friends, fun and food. And more food.

But now everyone has gone, Rainbow’s End is quiet, empty and bare – the decorations are back in the ancient tea chest where they have lived for thirty years.

I don’t know if I’ll even need them again.

It seems my cancer is spreading now, the treatment no longer doing its job efficiently.

I am dying.

Can I find any comfort in my fairytale garden? It has always been my β€œgo-to” place for peace, consolation and happiness.

The flowerbeds that were awash with joy and colour and Life itself are cold and brown:

winterbeds

As I surveyed the winter desolation this morning, the outlook was bleak.

And then I saw you.

pansy

Hello little Pansy! And my favourite colour at that!

Despite the barren flowerbeds, despite the cold, despite the season, there you were with your smiley face to cheer me up! πŸ™‚

Yes, it is winter, but that means spring is next! And you reminded me of something very important.

I am NOT dying. I am living! I’m not dead yet.

And that will be true until I take my last breath. So I won’t be wasting any more time feeling sorry for myself. It IS the first day of the rest of my life, no matter how much of that there might or might not be. There is still fun to be had, blog letters to write … and of course a whole load of chocolate left over from Christmas still to be eaten!

Yay! Thank you Pansy πŸ™‚

Must go – I have life to live!

Love from Lucy xxx

hny2
Happy New Year everyone!

Countdown to Christmas

24. Merry Christmas Everybody!

cal24

I was 8 when I bought my very first record. I felt very grown up going to Downtown Records in the High Street (the place to be seen!) I’d been given a 50p record token for Christmas and was able to buy the single of Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade. Pretty sure it was in the β€œreduced” basket as it was after the season, but it stayed at the top of the charts well into January! I was disproportionately impressed with the backwards S in the title – 8 year-olds are easily pleased πŸ™‚

Thank you for your continued support, and for taking the time to read my letters. Sending my love and wishing you all a very Merry Christmas. I hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow.Β  I shall be giving your poor inboxes a break for a few days now and hope to be back with my nose to the blogging grindstone early in the the new year.Β  I look forward to writing to you all again soon.

Love from Lucy xxx

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