Retroladytyping …

The Legacy

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Near our back door we have a broken pot which contains various gardening implements.  These are proper implements, some dating back to the 1950s, as their cracked handles and rust illustrate.  They have been used, neglected, abandoned in the rain, buried in mud and rescued, but never replaced.  Some may be  vintage; some are just plain old; all are useful and are used – frequently.

We acquired them from our parents, now sadly no longer with us.  (Sad, but not tragic – they all lived into their 80s and 90s).  They were all keen gardeners and we were lucky enough to be given free run of their garages and garden sheds.  We toyed with the idea of a car boot sale but these, and other,  old, damaged, but still useful tools now stored in the garage, had much more than monetary value for us, and still do.  I’m not sure where old ends and vintage begins, but these items are more valuable than they look.

Young and old hands have grasped those handles over many years, dug, tugged, raked and hoed to produce gardens which, we think, were worthy of more than a Chelsea medal.  Those gardens  fed us, entertained us while we ‘helped’ as children, kept us busy and out of mischief and gave our parents a hobby well into their old age, as well as providing a sanctuary  when indoor life became too much to deal with.

Now they are used by us and our siblings in an attempt to create a similar place, with varying degrees of success.  It can safely be said that I am an enthusiastic gardener, but will never have the skills demonstrated by my parents, or in-laws.  However each time I grasp one of those muddy damaged handles and use that rusty trowel, I remember them and their gardens; each time I use that extra large, and very strong, yard broom, I bless them; each time my husband uses his work bench, customised with old lino,  and vice  – old and very, very heavy – which he inherited from his father, he remembers his dad.  I’m not quite sure why he needs a vice; I’ve never seen him use it, but he loves it and insisted on transporting it and the workbench from his dad’s garage to ours, enlisting the help of a neighbour to heave it into position.

There is a rusty sweet tin in our garage,  which used to belong in the Aladdin’s cave of my father-in-law’s garage.  It contains all manner of nails, screws, tacks and even the occasional rusty coin.  I have briefly considered going through it, sorting out what is useful, and replacing the rusty tin, but I can’t; I just can’t, any more than I could replace the several trowels, rakes and forks which we have by the back door.


forget me not




The Special One

mixedWhen we are out walking and need to consult an ordnance survey map, I have an aversion to those areas which are designated as ‘plantation’. Those tall, thin regimented groups of evergreens seem incongruous in a natural environment.   So, if possible, we avoid them, preferring the  randomness of the fluffy clouds of deciduous woodland, with their wild undergrowth, twisted branches, hanging leaves and individual beauty.

Sometimes it has to be done. There is no feasible way round.   Occasionally, however, a fluffy cloud reveals itself amongst  the ranks of the plantation, the fluffiness a cover for its strength in standing alone amongst  the regularity of its surroundings.   It may be crooked; it may not have leaves; the branches may protrude at random angles; the trunk, instead of standing tall, may lean to one side, with broken branches having almost given up, but hanging on regardless of the controlled environment around it.

It is there: noticeable and special. It is strong enough to stand amongst the ordered ranks of those selected to be in the plantation.  It hasn’t needed controlling, nurturing or special consideration; it goes its own way and flourishes, ignored by all the others, but there and noticeable because it doesn’t conform. I saw a tree like this yesterday. I remember it, not standing as tall as the others, but an individual with  its differences displayed. It had escaped the pressures imposed by those who sought to cultivate what they saw as a worthwhile, valuable crop. If it is allowed to develop, it will become stronger, develop blossom, leaves and maybe fruit. The others will be cut down, sold and used. Their worth will be tangible and quantifiable. The individual, special one will not have a measurable worth, but will stand alone, proud and admired amongst all the blandness of the plantation.

Substitute the word academy for plantation, student for tree, exam results for crop, and maybe that is the future for our children’s education.   I hope not.


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The Coolness of a Laughing Gnome

laughing gnomeAlong with many others I couldn’t quite believe it when I heard the news of the death of David Bowie.  In my half-asleep state I thought I had dreamt it.  Such an iconic figure must live for ever, surely?  I wasn’t sure why it mattered so much to me; I hadn’t actively listened to any Bowie for quite a few years, then it dawned on me:  he wasn’t iconic at all as there wasn’t (isn’t) a single Bowie identity;  the restrictions involved in that were not what he was about.   He was all things to all people, adapting and reinventing himself throughout most of his life.  Whatever he was at any particular time was ok.

My most formative years, adolescence, were spent listening to David Bowie in all of his incarnations.  During those turbulent times from age 11 to 18 and beyond, with all its uncertainties and anxieties about identity, appearance and acceptability with occasional paranoia and bouts of extreme self-doubt there was one constant – change.  David Bowie epitomised those changes and made it cool to be different.  I often felt different, not one of the crowd, with my then uncool specs, wayward hair and what I believed to be my odd, geeky appearance.  But that was fine … David was geeky, strange and yet was cool.  So I must have been the same.  I wish I had realised that then.  I do now.  It’s ok to be true to yourself, ok to be different, ok not to be one of the crowd; in fact it’s better than ok, it’s cool.  David said so.

I have chosen The Laughing Gnome as the title for this, because throughout yesterday it’s the track which kept coming to mind.  I think it might be because it is so different, is not ‘worthy’ or artistic in the way that his other recordings are and which have been played many times today.  It is, however, cool, geeky and funny.  I loved it as a teenager and I love it now.

RIP The Laughing Gnome.


laughing gnome single

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