The memory box

Folding the letter she gently smoothed the sheet of paper under her fingers feeling beneath them dryness of age that had affected it. Eyes too poor to read it now, nevertheless she knew every word by heart having devoured it so often over the years, now carefully stored with so many others and only now seeing light of day.

HARRY!

Closing her eyes his face flashed into her mind, hazy now as she struggled after so long to keep his features sharp and clear, she was losing him to time she knew that and the thought made her smile sadly. So long ago yet brief moments of clarity would invade her thoughts, his smile cutting through the fog and making it seem like only yesterday and then he was gone again leaving her with only these tangible memories. 

Sighing softly she replaced the pages into the large carved wooden box, fingers brushing a small packet as she did so drawing it slowly towards her before cupping it gently in her wrinkled palms and clasping it to her chest.  ‘Not long my love’ she thought to herself ‘Soon, it shall be soon’

Leaving the packet unopened she returned it quickly to the box, thrusting it inside as guilt burned and she slightly afraid of being discovered although she knew she would not be, nobody came any more. A splash of bright colour caught her eye and she reached towards a garish painted picture of a child’s hand with crude scrawl underneath depicting the artist’s name.

Ella.

Another smile, eyes warming briefly before the light quickly faded, no Ella was long gone and this just yet another memory of things come and gone in her many years of being. Sadness less sharp as each year went by panged momentarily before she dismissed it and returned the picture to lie back along its fellow inhabitants of the cluttered old box. 

Her worn gaze swept over the small grizzled teddy bear and the beribboned letters, oh she had been so popular in her day with her many suitors all begging for a smile, a glance, some sign of recognition from her but almost from the first she had only had eyes for him. Sweeping an errant lock of hair from her forehead she leaned further over the box disturbing the contents in her hunt for the one thing she sought. She needed to find it, to bring him close again before her failing mind refused to remember what she was looking for and left her in that absent place where nothing mattered any more. 

There! There it was.  Her heart leapt as she found the one thing she wanted and fingers rapidly cleared the dust from the front of the small framed picture. Lovingly she gazed at the sun bleached photograph, yellow with age, showing a young couple smiling shyly at each other.He resplendent in some bygone uniform showing duty to his country and she delicately pretty in florals and lace, bonnet trailing from fingers gently clasped between his.

Harry.

Even as she gazed the fog came and eyes clouded over, picture already forgotten falling into her lap and memories of him vanishing like mist in the sun. In the shadows of the room a figure waited, brass buttons shining on a uniform of old, boyish face echoing the love reflected earlier on hers. He could wait, he’d waited such a long time that a little longer would not hurt. 

‘Soon my love’ he smiled ‘ i shall see you soon’ 

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There is a happy land

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In the course of my work i encounter many many people. All walks of life, all ages, races and religions. Some of these are your average pleasant examples whilst more often they are sadly the opposite. Whatever the person you meet there are occasionally those who for some reason or another stay firmly lodged in your memory. Up until now it has been my misfortune for all of those of my experience to be of a negative nature rather than a pleasantly positive.

Recently all of that changed when i had a conversation with an elderly man. To begin with he won me over with his lovely chirpy greeting and after a morning of exceptionally rude people he was definitely a balm to my downcast mood. They say that you can hear in the voice when a person is smiling and of this gentleman this was certainly true. Smiling he most definitely was. 

Faintly Welsh with that singsong lilt to his voice he replied that as the sun was shining he was very well indeed and asked after myself in return.  ‘My Lovely’ he called me and that in itself made me smile for it was nice to hear after a particularly harsh day. I explained the purpose of my call and he listened intently before pausing for a moment after i finished speaking. then he began to chuckle and i was taken aback as he announced that he would be glad to help but he really did not see the point for he was not long for this world. ”I’m dying you see” he told me quite nonchalantly.  Like any empathetic person i was horrified and apologised profusely, condolences rushing forth although i wasn’t really sure any of them were enough to befit the situation. Startlingly he dismissed my words with another chuckle and told me that he was ready to go.

”I’ve lived my life you see” he told me ”I’ve lived a very happy life, had a wonderful wife who is waiting up there for me to join her”

Then he began to talk. He told me of his life and his time in the second world war. That he found in me a willing audience there seemed to please him greatly and we talked for some time as he told me of his time as ground crew personnel. Scoffing genially at me as i enthused my love of the B-17, telling me firmly that there was nothing to hold a candle to the good old Spitfire. As he talked he never changed, that same chirpy happy nature shone through and despite his bombshell i found myself smiling too, very much warming to this old man i had never met and he did seem to be genuinely happy. 

Smiling still he told me of his wife, clearly from the gentle affectionate way he spoke of her it seemed he really did love her. That he was looking forward to seeing her again in whatever place exists after passing touched me and made me smile. No clearly this lovely old man had lived a happy life, this much was evident from the way he spoke. He stuck in my memory for his charm and his friendly nature and his gentle acceptance of his lot and i wondered if in my own turn i should feel the same. 

I have always been a big believer in trying to do the best we can with the life we have for we really do only get one try at it. There is no ‘return to go’ for those who make mistakes and get it wrong no matter how much we should wish it. Although many years hopefully yet to go i couldnt help but hope that i should be able to say the same as this lovely man, that my mistakes however many were still nothing compared to the happy parts of the life i managed to have. I have to admit a relief that my time is not yet up for i have not yet reached that place where i can look back and say i have led a happy life. My mistakes are many and i am not so very good at getting things right. Yet there are those things, however few, that definitely make all of the difference and i can truly say i feel i got right. It is so very hard to realise just when something is worth counting and when it is of no consequence at all but just sometimes there are things you just know you have to count. Regrets will follow when you realise you should have counted something that you didnt or in hindsight put too much stock in that mattered not at all.

It is all a question of balance and doing for yourself those things that will make you look back and say you led a happy life. Perhaps you may not have started out that way but the world is full of choices and it is up to us to choose the path to the right memories. For myself i shall remember that lovely old man whom i met only briefly but who made me smile on a very bad day and who gave me faith that if you stay true to yourself and what you believe you really do have the potential to be happy. 

Wherever you are sir i wish you and your wife a most happy ever after. 

Ain’t no mountain high enough

quote-Anil-Kapoor-there-are-hurdles-there-are-handicaps-hardships-21496

Pick up any newspaper, turn on the television news and you cannot fail to see the constant doom and gloom predictions of the current economic climate. As we read daily of hardships and hurdles, of food banks and homelessness you cannot help but see the downturn of life in general for so many. There is surprisingly an odd detachment in society  however, with the true realities of a life of hardship being a most alien concept to those more fortunate and favoured. Perhaps it is true that unless you have had to live a reality then why should it even exist for you and this definitely seems to be the case today. Not for the first time i have witnessed people shocked by the genuine realities of life for the less privileged and the admittance of a total unawareness of such existence. Media it seems has much to answer for in its portrayal of modern human lives.

Personally i cannot deny that things have been somewhat of a downward spiral in some elements of my life and, control freak that i am , i find being hemmed into very tight corners a most unpalatable situation indeed. I have likened the situation very much to running a hurdle race and finding that some imp of fate is gleefully adding extra hurdles only in my lane, leaving me running far behind my fellow competitors. 

I have in the past often imagined my life as like that of a rat in a maze, constantly searching for that one door exit whilst fate peers interestedly at my struggles to succeed. I guess here though is where my quirky sense of humour kicks in and i send up thanks that i am not growing an extra ear upon my back. Yes the life of a lab rat would definitely not be one of my choosing and i am more than a little thankful that i am not so far down the species ladder as to genuinely be of the rodent variety.

Despite normally being of such a positive nature it is very difficult after some time not to allow those glimmers of disillusionment and negativity to creep in. It is easy then to self doubt and wonder perhaps if it is not society at all but yourself that is lacking and failing on an epic scale. Looking in the mirror you cease to smile and focus instead on those imaginary flaws and inflate them to fantastical proportions until they dominate your life. I have to my shame done this and i freely admit it. 

”Stupid ugly cow” i have hissed at myself in the mirror. 

I have never been the type of person to outwardly direct my frustrations and self doubt, instead choosing to direct it inwardly at the person i consider to blame. 

Myself.

Perhaps this is more than a little unfair as most of my obstacles have come as the result of outside influences that i genuinely had litte control over and whilst hindsight is a wonderful thing it would have been very hard to erase any of them as each sprang out of an at the time necessity.  Frustrating in the present though when any present efforts are hampered by the chains of the past. But the whole point of running a race is to get to the finish line and often those most remembered are not the ones who came first in blazing glory but those who fell and yet got back up and finished despite coming far behind everyone else. 

So as another monday rolls around i feel a little lightened and ashamed of myself for my negativity thanks to the words of a friend.

The strongest wood, is from trees that withstand the strongest winds, And steel, has to  go into the hottest fire/furnace to become the strongest steel. And of course a piece of coal, has to undergo the most tremendous pressures, to become a diamond

I am running my own race, i realise this and must keep on running no matter the hurdles. I may not come first but i will never fail as long as i just keep on running. The same friend pointed out to me the following quote and i realised he was right, i knew it all along i just let negativity blinker my goal. 

Behind every fear, is a person, you want to be. You face your fears, you become the person you want to be. You run from your fears, you’re not living

So following a friendly mental slap, armed with new motivation and the offer of help from that friend i am willing to walk out onto the ledge and take a small leap of faith. Not in him but finally in myself.  Perhaps after all it is not for me to judge my own strengths and weakness but someone more impartial and less biased in any direction as i am in myself. I am willing to try at least for i shall never reach my goal if i keep on standing still. Someday you may know my name, someday you may not but whatever the result i shall know i gave it all i had. Obstacles are there for a reason, to climb over but often the biggest obstacle of all is infact yourself.

It is possible, so i have been told, to climb a Panda.

Anything is possible if you only try. 

who do you think you are

We spend our lives surrounded by people, everywhere all around us interacting yet solitary, dimly aware yet so absorbed in our own lives we take little notice of those around us. I like to people watch, i have a strange curiosity about the people around me and i often wonder who they are and where they are going as they rush along oblivious in their own daily lives. The old lady, face screwed up, bent almost double as she battles the wind and rain clutching a battered old shopping bag to her chest. You can see she doesn’t like the rain, her very haste and whole aura of distaste make it very plain as she forges on and tries to hurry just that little bit faster. Where is she going? does she have a doting husband waiting patiently for her return,missing his companion, glancing now and then at the clock to anticipate her return  or does she return to a home silent but for the cries of a ragged looking tabby pacing anxiously by the door. The workman, lunchbox under one arm walking rapidly and purposefully towards his destination, glancing neither left or right in his desire to get out of the cold. He’s less obvious in his distaste but nonetheless you can tell he wishes he was somewhere else. Is there a wife bustling around making dinner whilst children watch with noses pressed to window, waiting to hurl themselves at him as he crosses the threshold or does he return to a darkened house and a meal for one, to take early to his bed unable to bear the solitude for too long a time. The child, oblivious to anything but the pure glee of splashing with reckless abandon through puddles of muddy rain, pulled along by a mother desperate to get home and not inclined to linger like the child. Does he go home to be smothered in a warm towel before perching on a chair, heels swinging, to await the return of rain sodden family members complaining loudly in a clamorous throng about the weather and the journey home or maybe its is not his mother after all and he will not infact see a parent until long after he has retired for the night, greeted only by a perfunctory kiss on the sleeping childs forehead.

And then i wonder if someone else is watching in me and wondering who i am and where i’m going. I try to see myself from the outside and wonder what i would think of me if i were them. Do they see me? Do they know that i dont mind the rain and am in no hurry to get to my destination. Do they notice that i watch them and wonder at their daily likes or maybe notice the small skip around a puddle and think that some recent event has made me want to share a happiness with the world. Do they know that im the one that goes home to the meal for one but later greeted by the family members bewailing the english weather. I wonder what they see when they look at me, do they even see me at all??

My life without me

Today i was shocked and saddened by the news that an ex colleague and friend had suffered a cardiac arrest. Thankfully due to some twist of fate he was in the right place at the right time and was very swiftly aided and ultimately it seems he is going to be fine. i guess the shock really is that by todays standards this gentleman in question is not particularly old, having not long since taken retirement and settled down to a long earned life of leisure and although it happens this was really not expected.

The loveliest of men always smiling and jolly and such a kind caring nature that my daughter and i long ago christened him ‘Papa Smurf’

It seems we none of us really face up to the fact that we are after all merely limited beings and that eventually whether sooner or later we shall all in the end shuffle off this mortal coil towards whichever end our beliefs may lead us to. Perhaps the saddest thing of all is that this failure to recognise our mortality means many of us just forget to live while we have the chance to do so. It may be that we are afraid or just that have we have forgotten how.

I, like everyone else, simply do not wish to imagine my life without me in it but reality bites and i have to accept the fact that i shall not always be here and life will continue to go on without me as inevitably it always does. Perhaps we all need to learn to live a little more like each day is our last, actually living the life we have rather than drifting with such total complacency and taking it all for granted.

I know Papa Smurf is so thankful he was saved, indeed he said so to all of us and for our part we know the world is far better a place with him in it. Get well papa smurf xxxxx

W. H. Davies

Leisure

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

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