Out of the Mouths of Babes

9th December 2021 Just a short blog this week! It’s been a busy one and to tell the truth I’ve been feeling a little bit under par – but I promise to do better next week!

I was lucky enough to be able to go to Barrow last weekend, for the annual pre-Christmas get together with a few of my old schoolfriends from Risedale. We’ve known each other for 50 years now, which is quite a daunting thought. We had a lovely day – afternoon tea with Prosecco at the Town House in Dalton Road (though I can’t help but still think of it as Boots the Chemist, which it was when I left Barrow!). The food was fantastic, scones and mince pies still warm from the oven and served with clotted cream, fresh and tasty sandwiches and lots of lovely sweet delicacies – nicely presented and all washed down with a very nice Prosecco. Just the job for a bunch of ladies of a certain age to spend a few hours together remembering the old and good times. We had a right good old natter together but eventually one or two drifted off with other responsibilities to attend to. One or two of us stayed behind as the evening went into full swing – but that’s another story for another day!

I’m not sure how these friends of mine feel about being mentioned in a blog, so I’ll give no names in order to keep their privacy. Let’s go by their initials only. ‘A’ was one who had to leave – she’s recently got a new puppy and he’d been home alone whilst she was out with us, so she felt she should go and make sure he hadn’t eaten the house. (Hardly likely with a tiny dachshund, but they do like to chew!) Anyway, I hadn’t had chance to chat to A during our meal, so I asked how she was getting along, knowing that unfortunately, her mother had died a few weeks before. A and her brother are in the process of sorting out their mother’s house and belongings and going through all the admin stuff. They both have children, but the brother has grandchildren too, one of whom is a little girl aged six. When asked if she would like to choose something to remember her ‘Nana’ by from the house, the child took her time considering. Her mother, thinking the little girl would choose some ornament from the china cabinet, completely fell about laughing when the little one, after great deliberation said, “I wouldn’t mind having the stair-lift!”

This brought me to think about other occasions when children have come out with something that has tickled my funny bone. My sister has six children, all grown up now, of course, (I can’t believe the youngest is 21 already!), but I remember when she only had three; the two eldest, both boys, and very close in age and a baby girl. At the time in question, the boys were aged around four and three and the family lived near Dumfries. My Aunt and Uncle had been to visit from Barrow and had stayed overnight. As you probably know with young children there is no such thing as privacy, and the next morning whilst my aunt was performing her ablutions, the two boys had burst into the bathroom. The next thing my sister knew was hearing her sons scampering down the stairs, screaming. When they reached the kitchen, wide-eyed and bewildered, their Mum asked ‘Whatever is the matter?”

“Mummy, Mummy!” cried the eldest, “Auntie D just broke all her teeth off and washed them and put them back in her mouth!” They had never before witnessed anyone with false teeth.

On another occasion, her fourth child made me laugh out loud, when his mum suggested it was time for a bath before bedtime. “No, please, Mummy, don’t make me! I promise I’ll be good, I’ll never be bad again, honest. Please don’t make me have a bath!” It was as if she was threatening the worst punishment ever, and we never found out what made him so afraid of the bath.  Nowadays you can’t get him out of the shower!

In 2011, the first Christmas after Glyn died, I had expected to be lonely and miserable, but I was thrilled when Mel (my sister) accepted my invitation to bring the whole brood (including two black Labradors, Daisy and Jackson) down to our cottage in Mill Bank, near Sowerby Bridge. At the time, her children’s ages ranged from 20 to 11, and they were amazing. I confess, I went to town, putting up decorations all over the house, making up Christmas Stockings for everyone and filling them with the daftest things – literally ‘stocking fillers’ such as sweets and puzzles, games, pencils and notepads, and even (I loved these) a ‘ninja’ rubber duck each. Honestly, check out eBay – you can get those little yellow ducks in all sorts of themes from bikers to superheroes! I had loads of fun planning the Christmas lunch, (one vegan), and plotting out the sleeping arrangements for the whole family. I had to cater for two grown women (me and Mel) four boys aged 11, 15, 19 and 20, and two girls aged 13 and 17 and the two dogs. The house only had two bedrooms, but at the top of the house in what was Glyn’s workroom, there were settees and a sofa bed, and in the living-room were also two more sofa beds, so we all mucked in together. I had tried to make it one of those ‘traditional’ Christmases that you so often see portrayed on TV, that rarely happen in real life – but reader, this time it did! Our old cottage with its real fires and an old-fashioned cast iron ‘range’ in the living room, situated in a small village surrounded by hills and woods, was like something from a Christmas card.

The kids were fantastic, messing around, bickering and bantering, sparking off each other, kept us entertained and laughing constantly. There were loads of food and drink, and the kids and dogs loved going down the village into the woods for long walks. It was loud and energetic, but there were quiet blissful moments too. One of my nephews, grown up now, says it’s the best Christmas he ever had, and I’m inclined to agree with him. There was certainly no time to be maudlin.

It so happened, that during Christmas week, the eldest would turn 21 on 29th December, so I arranged to take us all out for a meal to celebrate his coming of age. Came the day (I think it was Thursday) I arranged for taxis to ferry us from Mill Bank to Hebden Bridge, where our table was booked.

Whilst we were waiting for the transport to arrive, the youngest of the bunch said “Auntie Liz, where did the restaurant get its name from?” I had to think and couldn’t come up with an answer there and then, so I asked why he wanted to know. “Well,” he said, “I just wondered if there had actually been a stubborn dwarf that it was named after?” Once again, I was reduced to tears – of the happy sort. The lad had misheard me telling Mel that they would love the Stubbing Wharf. To this day though, in our family it’s the Stubborn Dwarf.

Going back, much, much further in the annals of family history I clearly remember an incident that happened to my older brother. At the time, my mother and father had split up; he was living in Glasgow with his new family so there was just me, my mum and my brother living in a flat on Old Barrow – 6B Barque Street. I think I must have only been around four at the time, which makes my brother about seven. At night when it was time for bed, we could sometimes persuade Mum to let us stay up a bit later by offering to brush her hair for her but only one of us could do it, the other had to go to bed, so there was always a big competition as to who got to stay up. She would put a cushion behind her back for one of us to sit on whilst we performed this task. One particular evening, she was knitting and we had been watching television, when she decreed it was bedtime. Eager to be the one to get to stay up, my brother jumped up on the sofa to get behind her, but as he did so, one of her knitting needles that had been on the seat, stabbed him in the foot. He cried out in pain, and pulled the wretched thing out, flinging it down as he got back down off the sofa. Mum got up to fetch a plaster and told him to sit down quietly and stop yelling. He yelled all the more, a few seconds later as he sat on the discarded needle and punctured one of his bum-cheeks! I still think about this every time I see one of those little round Band-aid spot plasters.

I bet there are lots of these little memories in your life too – things children have said or done that make you smile, or even laugh out loud? Why don’t you share yours and post your comments – I’d love to hear from you!

See you next week!

By lizziehughesauthor

Hello! I'm Liz, a writer from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire. I've lived here for nearly 20 years, although I'm originally from t'other side o't hill as they say around here. I'm from Barrow in Furness, which was in Lancashire when I was born - still, whether it's Lancashire or Cumbria, it still makes me a Northern Lass. That means I'm honest, straightforward and feisty. My current book is (very) loosely based on my family history, though the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty!) I'm hoping to publish in April 2022, or possibly earlier. Watch this space!

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