May is a charming name for a lovely month, I think. It was also the name of my maternal grandmother (May Elizabeth).
Memories of my grandmother, May
One pleasant surprise, when I was clearing out my late parents’ home, was discovering my grandmother’s wedding picture on what I can only describe as a board. She is standing in the grounds of Chiswick House and it is the only picture I have of my grandparents as young people.
I have a picture of her as a young woman after her marriage on my wall in my office and that’s about it for still pictures. She died (of cancer) when I was 7 but I can still see in my mind’s eye the big bottles of Rose’s Lime Juice which I always had when I visited. Gorgeous stuff!
Family legend has it she was a whizz at the card game canasta and, from just after the War to about the late 1960s, used to have all night canasta parties where, another family member commented, “we were still playing when the milkman turned up at 5 am”! There are also tales to be told about her fruit cake, mainly about just how much alcohol did go into it!
I sometimes play canasta on my phone. I wonder what my grandmother would have made of that. I like the sound of the parties though! My only regret here is she died relatively young and other family members have no memories of her at all. That always strikes me as sad.
I remember when I was tiny walking around her square front garden which had rose borders on the outer edge and paving slabs by that plus another rose border in the middle. I had done this often enough for this to become a deeply rooted memory as there were no pictures by my parents of this. It was like walking in the middle of roses (and that’s rarely a bad thing, unless you’re a hayfever sufferer!). I also recall being taken to Chiswick House by my grandmother with my parents often.
When I went back to Chiswick House grounds after many, many years absence, I found myself feeling unnerved when I found I knew what I was about to see before I got to the features in question. I had not been at Chiswick for 15 years + when I had cause to revisit it and it was a strange experience, bearing in mind I was age 3, coming up 4, when my parents moved south due to Dad’s work. I’d not seen any pictures of it in the interval either.
It is likely to remain the strangest experience of long term deeply buried memories resurfacing I’ll experience I think. Oh and if you get the chance to visit Chiswick House (when conditions allow!), do so. It is lovely. Meanwhile here is a link!
May in my Garden
The month of May brings out some of the loveliest blooms in my garden. Right now the laburnum is out in bloom, as is my favourite lilac, the latter having a wonderful scent too. I wouldn’t wear yellow and purple as a colour combination but it seems to work pretty well for plants! I’ve just spotted my first rose looking as if it will flower soon.
Generally the weather is getting better, the days are stretching out, we are well into spring, and there are hints of summer in the air too. At least they are in a good year! In a normal year, there would be the two Bank Holidays to enjoy too. But 2020 is definitely not going down as a normal year by anyone’s standards. And I know being at home has not felt like a holiday in the slightest for most.
VE Day 75th Anniversary – 8th May 2020
I’ve enjoyed walking around Chandler’s Ford with Lady as lockdown has made me focus on making the most of my daily walk with her. The gardens are lovely and I enjoyed spotting the bunting and flags out ready for the VE celebrations last Friday. I hope everyone had a socially distanced good time! Some of the rainbows chalked on the pavements were replaced with chalked “Victory” signs instead.
VE Day also makes me recall my grandparents. My maternal grandfather didn’t serve in the War as he was in a reserved occupation – munitions! He worked in the Woolwich Arsenal and they were always being bombed out.
My paternal grandfather did serve in the Forces, was invalided out, but did then go on to be an ARP warden in London’s East End. My late father did tell me his father had seen things nobody should ever need to see and he didn’t talk much about the War. That does seem to have been a common trait and an understandable one too, though I am glad people have recorded their stories and memories here. Remembering what we should never forget is important.
I do know I am lucky to be here at all. My late father was a very young boy when war broke out and was too young to be evacuated. He remained in the East End with his mother until he was old enough to be evacuated, as his elder brother and sister had already been. Bombing was a frequent feature of his early years. And he remembered when the local school was bombed and the huge craters made by the bomb damage.
My mother was older than my father and did get to be evacuated quickly. Both were sent into the country. Dad would sometimes talk about where he’d been sent to later on in the war but Mum never did. I got the strong impression both were just glad to be back with their parents again and life resumed its normal pattern.
My May Writing News and Memories
May 2020 has been positive on the writing front. I will have two stories, Humourless and The Green Door, appearing in The Best of Cafelit 9 later this year (Bridge House Publishing).
My story Books and Barbarians is also a winner of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition and that is the third year in a row this has happened for me so I am delighted by this.
There will be an ebook produced of this hopefully in June and there will hopefully be a paperback collection of all three Waterloo Arts Festivals ebooks eventually. Books have to be a certain size to be able to produce a paper book with a spine which is why it has had to wait until there were three ebooks available to make it feasible to produce a paperback at all.
What I will miss this year is going up to London for the Festival celebrations though they are staging an online event via Zoom so I hope to take part in the Festival that way. I will be sending in material for use for this which will include an extract from my winning story. And that material is the first ever video I’ve made! I hope to share this in a future post after the Waterloo Arts Festival. It was fun to do and a good learning experience!
Things Improving Towards the end of May?
I’m sure we all hope they do improve and that by the end of this lovely month, there may be more indications leading to life slowly returning to what will become a new normal. I know I shall be keen to get to the hairdressers! I am not even contemplating cutting my own hair incidentally!
This is such a strange time in our history. I can’t think of any other time when the Queen has addressed the nation so often for one thing! I was sorry the VE celebrations were not as they had been planned to be. I like a good parade for one thing (it is a wonderful spectacle and the music is wonderful) and I am conscious now is all the time we have.
You can’t assume, I think, that you will get to do things later on. It doesn’t always work that way. To commemorate the sacrifices of the past is never a bad thing. To commemorate them in the hope those sacrifices will never be needed again is always a good thing.
But whatever happens in the next few weeks, I hope and pray we all keep safe and well and make the most of what we can do and be. I think we are fortunate here in Chandler’s Ford to have a number of walks that make it relatively easy to mix up the daily exercising. I’ve found that a boon for me though Lady is happy to go wherever as long as she plays with her ball in the park first!
Take care, everyone!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
Never miss out on another blog post. Subscribe here:
Subscribe to Blog via Email