Sian’s Christmas Club

Sian from High in the Sky has invited us to share a Christmas story in the few weeks before Christmas, here is mine for this week.

Every year this little Christmas Nativity Scene brings treasured memories for me and laughter for my son.

The nativity scene belonged to my mother and was put out every Christmas throughout our childhood. You will see that the baby Jesus is wrapped in ‘swaddling clothes’ It is a piece of cloth my mother wrapped him in many years ago.
My younger brother insisted that the baby lay in his manger every day during advent whereas my very traditional Irish mother forbid it! The child wasn’t born until Christmas morning and so the manger was to be empty until then.
So, every day the baby was put in the manger by Gerard and every day he was taken out of the manger by mother, first he was in and then he was out, and so it continued all through advent for many years until he got so bashed that his arm fell off!!
My poor mother was heart broken and wrapped him up as you see him here.
When mum died the little crib came to me.
The story of the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes gets more outrageous with every telling and now that my son tells our visitors the story I suspect that by the end of the evening the baby has no limbs at all!
Merry Christmas Gerard…Miriam x

I posted this story on November 28th 2010 so apologies if you have seen it before but as I put the little nativity scene on my kitchen windowsill over the weekend I thought I would share it again.

Thanks Sian

Dancing with Dementia

Goodbye-ee, goodbye-ee, wipe a tear baby dear from your eye-ee.
Though it’s hard to part I know…

Almost 6 years ago I started my job as one of the Dementia Support Workers with Hazel and her team in North Somerset.

As I reflect on the last few years, I realise its time to say a big thanks to you all. My role is to support you and pass on knowledge. But undoubtedly, it is I that has learnt the most. We have laughed loads, cried loads and lived to fight another day. Through your struggles to live with dementia or care for someone with dementia you have taught me the qualities of patience, understanding and empathy.

You have accepted my timekeeping, diary management and navigating disasters as I found my way to your homes. You have taught me to organise quizzes, tea parties and fundraising events. I have learnt how to make cards to raise funds. I think I even impressed you once with my baking and trifle making abilities!

Who would have known – when I was undertaking so much training to support you – that in the end it would be you who would teach me so many more important and valuable lessons?

It has been a privilege to get to know you, to work with you and to share your lives, the good times and the hard times. There is a time for everything, and my time to leave you has come. I have changed during the last six years. You have taught me so much and I have grown. I am a better person. It’s inadequate, but I just want to say thanks to each of you.

I wish you all the best as you continue with your struggles. And don’t forget, as we say in the singing group:

Take care of each other and don’t cry-ee, don’t sigh-ee,
there’s a silver lining in the sky-ee. 
Bonsoir, old thing, cheer-i-o, chin, chin. 
Nah-poo, toodle-oo, Goodbye-ee.


For a reason I just can’t explain, this song, which is the sound track to the film Miss Potter and sung here by Katie Melua, makes me think about people with dementia, their carers and myself learning to live with what each passing day brings us.

I think life is a bit like a dance. The steps you learn are like lessons wound into the melody of the music. The music is the love that surrounds you. The beat is the passion that fills you and the lyrics are the notes that bring it all together. The end is the joy of having danced with you all.

Thank you for the beautiful flowers.
Leave me a message?

Daffodils.Live simply
Live simply Love generously Care deeply Speak kindly Leave the rest to God.

More Childhood Food Memories

Following on from this post. One of my brothers sent me e-mail asking if I remember how to make soda bread, “like mum used to make”
Paul Rankin makes a fabulous one you can buy in the supermarket! is what I was thinking.

We began to recall some more childhood food memories

Fresh Bread in the morning.

Mum used to make soda bread plain or with fruit. Both were equally delicious spread with her Irish butter.
But how could something so beautiful come from something so frightening that sat on the kitchen windowsill for days on end prior to the making?

The first day was fine: an open bottle of milk just sitting quietly in the sun.
The next day the cream on the top of the milk looked decidedly thick.
The following day the contents of the bottle had separated into three distinct parts: The milk at the bottom of the bottle, some watery yellow stuff in the middle of the bottle and then the cream beginning to emerge from the top of the bottle.
Now don’t forget we were young and easily scared. And we didn’t know that milk could grow! How could we?
The contents of the bottle on the fourth day no longer resembled the contents of the bottle on the first day.
“Tomorrow we will have some bread,” said mother brightly, inspecting the horror on the windowsill.
What we didn’t know the first time we watched the bread making was, when mum added the contents of the bottle to the dry bread ingredients the smell of the now sour milk was enough to send a child running out of the kitchen!

Thank goodness for my local supermarket, they sell very clean and healthy looking sour cream that stays put in the pot if and when I want to make a sourdough loaf.

Bread Pudding

Now the whole street loved this, warm from the oven, soft and moist with huge plump raisins.
I can see it and smell it even now. Mum used to mix the ingredients in her washing up bowl and then poured it into a huge tray. She sprinkled sugar on the top of the mixture, which then caramelised in the oven to make a beautifully crunchy top. Oh my I could eat some now.
I have never made this and on the very few occasions I have been tempted to buy a square from the bakers I have been terribly disappointed. I expect if I had a nice recipe?

Are there any out there?

I don’t have a photo of soda bread or bread pudding but I did see a heart in my loaf yesterday.

Story Telling Sunday Two: The Words The Pictures

Good morning
My post today is brought to you by the wonderful Sian over at High in the Sky. The first Sunday in the month is set aside for Story Telling.
Here is mine. I can’t wait to read the others!

Two tales from Paddington.

The vacuum cleaner wasn’t performing the one task it is supposed to – suck! We decided to get a man in. He was arriving between 9 and 1 on Friday. For once the three of us had a day off, not one of us dressed, when at 8.30 am the doorbell rang.

There was me in my nightie, answering the door to a very jolly man from Paddington as it turned out. Did I mind that he was a few minutes early? I let him in and excused myself saying that someone would be down in a while to make tea; I sent husband.

The two of them got chatting over a mug of tea. Paul said he had just been reminded of when he was a boy, a man used to come and service their vacuum cleaner, he was called Dave Hugget and all the children used to hang around when Dave called because his tool bag was full of fascinating things a boy could only dream about owning! The inside of the old vacuum cleaner was, well, just a boys dream and an awful lot of dust! Sometimes something exciting had been picked up, a coin maybe or a bead or something that might need poking.

The man from Paddington listened intently to this story and said how it was “a very interesting story” and it reminded him of being a boy himself and the excitement in his mothers home when the brush man came to check over the bristles on her yard brush!!!!!!!!!!

“So what brought you to this part of the world?” enquired Paul, the man from Paddington said, “a good few years of what I thought was a happy marriage when out of the blue the wife left me, took the house and the children and proceeded with a messy divorce that lasted for what seemed like forever”.

A mug of tea later we learnt that he moved across the country to sleep on his brothers settee and find work. He had no wife, no kids, no place of his own, no money and no job when into his life walked a woman who fell in love with him and him with her. He is the happiest man alive right now with a job servicing vacuum cleaners, a home of his own and a future to look forward to.

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together”.
Marilyn Monroe

Childhood Food Memories

I was reading an article by Anne Widdicombe about her childhood food memories and as I spent a weekend with my brothers recently I thought I would collect some food memories from them.

Like a lot of childhood things the food on the table was taken for granted.
Our mother was Irish, I remember her telling me that food rationing didn’t happen in Dublin and she and her family never ate anything out of a can.
Of course when she came over to England that all changed!

On Friday we always had fish of some kind but our favourite was her tuna fish pie.
I still make it some times as does one of the brothers.

Take a can of tuna in oil, mum used to drain the oil into the bin! I use the oil to make the sauce. Empty the fish into the bottom of a pie dish breaking it up a little. Cook some frozen peas for a few minutes, drain and add them to the dish. Make a white sauce and pour it over the fish & peas. Cook some carrot slices and put them over the top of the sauce, cover with lovely creamy mashed potato and put it in the oven until bubbling and golden.

Soup: always tomato; from a can. My favourite was Cream of Mushroom but I could only have it when I was poorly.
Actually I loved mushrooms but we were never allowed them, they were too expensive.
Irish stew with pearl barley of course. Mum had a huge brown earthenware pot that she put everything in and then cooked the stew in the oven.
Then there was her lovely hot pot that she cooked on top of the stove. She discovered something else that came in a can. Now this is something I will make if one of the brothers comes over because it reminds us all of our childhood, and the boys all love it.

Cut up potato and carrot into large chunks, and onions into quarters. Tip them all into a pan of water; add salt and bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Drain off the water and while the pan is still hot add a tin of Marks and Spencer’s Stewed Steak in Gravy. It had to be Marks & Spencer’s she said because it had no fat! (She would add that in a moment.) Stir everything around to break up the potato a little and heat the meat through. Add a huge slice of butter (this was the days before we had cholesterol don’t forget!) and serve with bread and butter.
Still gorgeous, if you’re not veggy and can ignore the health of your arteries for a while.

Junket, what was that??? Dad used to make it.
I remember the tablets but no recollection of any ingredients or method. None of the brothers can remember anything about it. Perhaps it was a bad dream?

I expect someone will tell me?

I bet you were wondering what picture I would put with this post? I saw this whilst looking for something and it brought back a memory for me.

Strong green cabbage! Not everybody’s cup of tea but I absolutely adore it. Many years ago I spent a lot of time driving up and down the motorway to stay with my mother during the week while she had a long spell of poor health. My youngest brother did every weekend. We used to pass each other on a Friday evening.

In the week Mum & I lived on ready meals from M&S and I used to buy, among other vegetables, ready sliced mixed strong greens every day because they are fabulous and good for you and I never bought such a luxury for my self (the ready sliced bit not the greens!).
By about Thursday Mum would say to me “When are you going home Miriam?” I would tell her, very gently, “On Friday afternoon Mum”
With a beautiful twinkle in her eye she would say.”Good, then I can have something other than cabbage with my meal”

Do you have childhood food memories?