My Time on Meet the Author: Judith Barrow With Michelle Whitham

Good evening my lovelies.  I hope you’re all well and finding plenty to amuse you and any children you may have during lockdown!  Today I’m delighted to welcome the lovely Judith Barrow on to my blog with a wonderful interview.  She’s is talking to us about writing as an escape, connecting with others through her love of walking, the hilarious tale of Mr & Mrs Wilson (don’t miss it!) and her most recent book, The Memory……

GENRE(S):

Cross Genres: Mainly Family Saga/ but also includes Historic Fiction/ Crime Fiction

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF:

I’m originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages at the foot of the Pennines in the North of England but have lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for forty years with my family.

I have an MA in Creative Writing with Trinity College, a BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. I’ve had short stories, plays, reviews and articles, published throughout the British Isles and have won several poetry competitions. I’ve also completed three children’s books but done nothing with them as far as publishing goes.

I’m a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and I also hold private one-to-one creative writing workshops.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START WRITING AND WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?

I’ve written since I was a child; it was a way to escape. My father was the head of the household; what he said was the rule. I didn’t always like it and hid in my writing.

HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED?

Three books (appallingly) written; never to see the light of day again! Five books, if we include this year’s one, so far, with Honno Press (https://www.honno.co.uk/): Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows; a trilogy but also stand-alone books. The prequel to the trilogy, A Hundred Tiny Threads (written because the parents of the protagonist, Mary Haworth, Bill and Winifred, kept mithering me to tell their story). And, in March this year, Honno have published my most recent book, The Memory.

Different from the last four in that it’s more contemporary but still a family saga and written in two time-lines. I’ve also signed the contract with them for another book I’ve already written, which will be published in February 2021. There is another book that I Indie published in 2012, Silent Trauma: its fiction built on fact and a bit of a long story how this came about. It’s the story of Diethylstilboestrol; a drug; an artificial oestrogen, given to women, approximately between the years 1947 – 1975 in the UK, to prevent miscarriages. In short, I became involved in the charity because a relative of mine was affected by it. I was asked to write an article for their monthly magazine. After that, women began to contact me and the article turned into a story, then into a book. The charity was closed in the UK due to lack of funds and lack of interest by the British Government. I’d already had contact with many women and the charity in America: https://desaction.org/ through researching and getting quotes so, when the book was finished, I sent the manuscript to the committee of the charity. I needed to know that they approved of it, that it told their story honestly and that there was nothing in it that would offend or upset anyone. They answered and said I’d told the story as they wanted.

WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTERS WOULD YOU WANT TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH, AND WHY?

Mary Haworth, the protagonist of my Haworth trilogy. She’s strong-willed, so, whatever we’d need, whether it was food, water, some sort of shelter, or a boost to morale, I know I could rely on her. She makes the best of any situation and isn’t thwarted by obvious difficulties. She is tolerant, so would put up with any whinging (which no doubt I would do if too hot, too cold, hungry, thirsty, or bored). But can also be quite frightening when her temper’s up – so she would scare away any wild animals that threatened us. She’s an empathetic and good listener and can also tell a great story, which we would both need to help pass the time until we were rescued… hopefully by my husband who had missed me.

WHAT OTHER JOBS HAVE YOU DONE OTHER THAN BEING AN AUTHOR?

For years I worked in various departments of the Civil Service. But in my time as a stay-at-home mum with the children I had various part-time work: teaching swimming, hotel receptionist, cleaner on a caravan site, sewing slippers, making novelty cakes from home, working in a play school/nursery, working in a youth club. Would being on seven committees at various clubs (swimming, badminton, Scouts, Playgroup, PTA, athletics, gymnastics etc. etc.) that the children were involved in, be counted. I wonder? It felt like work at the time!

OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU ENJOY DOING?

Walking. I walk the Pembrokeshire coast with husband, David. There are a hundred and eighty-six miles of paths and we’ve covered a lot of them but only in stretches. Pembrokeshire is a glorious place to live. I sometimes write about the walks on my blog – and, through that, have made friends with many other walkers from all over the country who pass on their favourite places as well. And David takes the most stunning photographs (though he’s too modest to say so himself), so we always have memories to look back on when he uploads them onto the TV. And I have the most wonderful screen savers!

NAME ONE BOOK YOU THINK EVERYONE SHOULD READ AND TELL US WHY?

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. As the write-up says: “Part memoir, part master class; a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft. It comprises the basic tools of the trade every writer must have”.  I couldn’t say it in a better way. This is a book I read a long time ago and it spurred me on when I was in the doldrums of the second book syndrome.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING YOU’VE DONE IN YOUR LIFE SO FAR?

Get married. I wrote a post about it; says it all! http://bit.ly/39h9ajW.

YOU WIN A MILLION POUNDS – YOU GIVE HALF TO CHARITY.  WHICH CHARITY DO YOU PICK AND WHY? WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH THE REST OF THE MONEY?

A cancer charity because I was so well looked after when I had breast cancer and, also, because it’s affected many others in my family. I’d put money on one side and persuade my husband to hire a gardener (it’s an acre of land around the house and, though he wouldn’t agree, is too much for him). I’d have a cleaner so I wouldn’t have to do domestic trivia and could have more time to write. I’d give some money to the local animal rescue centre. (Can we get away with not counting that as a charity?) The rest of the money would be shared between my children and grandchildren.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TIME TO WRITE, AND WHY?

I’m usually up at five because that’s when my brain works. I try to resist looking at any social media until I’ve put 1000 words on the page or when two hours has passed. If I don’t have any classes to run later I’ll carry on writing. Otherwise it’s time to start on the domestic trivia of the day and hope to get back to writing later. I always try to get an hour in at my desk in the late evening but, usually, that’s a mistake because if I get carried away I lose track of time and, before I know it, I’m almost catching up to the next day’s writing time. Hmm, does that make any sense at all? Perhaps I should say, I write until I stop! Anytime – but sometimes it turns out to be rubbish.

WHAT WAS THE STRANGEST, FUNNIEST, FULFILLING TIME OF YOUR LIFE THAT INSPIRED YOUR WRITING?

I have to say it was when we let the apartment attached to our home, as a holiday let during the summer months. Though hard work it provided me with a wealth of stories. People are a mystery to me most of the time. I’ve added one here:

The Naturists

 They must have been in their eighties. Mr and Mrs Wilson from Wigan

 Dilapidated car

 ‘Would you mind if we practiced our Tai Chi on the lawn?’

 I sense Husband’s alarm. When I glanced at him I saw he was breathing rapidly and his eyes were bulging a bit. But his ears were still their usual pink; bright redness is the usual signal of him being overly upset.

We’d had a couple who had stayed with us before and practised their judo on the front lawn. It had been quite entertaining until the man did his back in (or should I say his wife did his back in for him with a particular enthusiastic throw). They’d had to leave early with the man lying across the lowered back seat with his feet pointing towards the boot and surrounded by suitcases.  ‘Good job it’s an estate car’ Husband said in a casual way turning back to tend to his lawn where the husband had made a dent.

 I digress.

‘Tai Chi links deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements. See… ‘ the wife explained, taking in one long breath that made her nostrils flare alarmingly as, at the same time, she stretched out both arms. She felled Mr Wilson with one blow. I remember thinking at the time when her husband was smacked on the nose, that he should have known better than to stand so close. After all he must have realised she was going to demonstrate. ‘It’s a health-promoting form of exercise, Mrs Wilson said, cheerfully, as we all helped her husband back on his feet. ‘Sorry, love.’ She dusted him down. ‘It’s like a form of meditation, you know, exercises the whole of you, not just your body. Helps you to stay calm and gives you peace of mind, like.’

‘You didn’t do it right,’ Mr Wilson muttered.

 She ignored him. ‘We only took it up a month or two back,’ she said to us.

Husband carried their two small suitcases into the apartment, his shoulders shaking.

I clamped my teeth together. When I spoke I knew my voice was a couple of pitches higher than normal but there was nothing I could do about it.  ‘Is that all you’ve brought?’ I peered into the boot of the car.

‘Oh, yes, just the two bags. ‘Mrs Wilson linked her husband. ‘We travel light, don’t we Sidney?’

He nodded but said nothing.

There are two things I should mention at this point.

One, my mother was staying with us and her bedroom window looked out onto the front lawn.

 And two, we quickly discovered that this wobbly (no, I’ll rephrase that); this elderly couple were Naturists.

On the second morning after they’d arrived I drew back the curtains of my mother’s bedroom to see the two of them on the lawn, practicing their Tai Chi.  Despite their years their movements were graceful, there was no doubt about that. They moved forward in one continuous action, their hands held out in front of them.  But it wasn’t with admiration but in alarm that I watched them. Because they were completely naked. And I was standing side by side with my mother.

 It was when he turned towards the house and bent his knees and squatted that my mother made a choking noise and fell back onto the bed.

 Now I know this is totally out of context and misquoted (and I apologize wholeheartedly to Shakespeare) … but the words that sprang to mind when I gazed at him, were ‘…age shall not wither…

Well it was a very warm morning

Mum kept her curtains drawn for the rest of the week

AND FINALLY, TELL US ABOUT YOUR MOST RECENT BOOK AND WHERE WE CAN FIND IT?

Irene Hargreaves lives with her husband, Sam, and her mother, Lilian, who has dementia. It has, for a long time, been a difficult relationship between the two women and, over the last few years made worse by Irene’s mother’s illness. Irene is trapped by the love she has for Lillian which vies with the hatred she feels because of something she saw many years ago.

The book runs on two timelines: Irene’s life from the age of eight, after her sister, Rose, is born and her grandmother comes to live with the family, with flashbacks to happier times with Sam, and in present tense, over the last twenty-four hours when Irene knows she needs to make a decision.

The book. published 19th March 2020 by Honno>. Purchase here: Honno ~ Amazon

Where to find Judith online: Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

FINAL WORDS FROM CHELLE…

Thank you Judith for this wonderful interview.  I think we’ll all agree that the story of Mr & Mrs Wilson is quite hilarious – what a shock it must have been for your Mother!! I definitely think we can get away with not including the local animal rescue as a charity – I’d be donating my money them too.  A cancer charity is always a good cause that is close to so many people’s hearts and I’m glad that you were well looked after.

I’m also lucky enough to have been gifted with a copy of The Memory by Judith and Honno so keep an eye out as there will be a review up in the coming months! (Thank you Judith!).

I hope you’ve all had a good day and stayed in and safe.

Any comments for Judith, just drop us a comment or contact her using the links above.

Chelle x

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected! #ThrowbackThursday

Well, yes it is worth it – we love it, despite the unexpected. Having a holiday apartment attached to our house has brought us many friends; visitors who return year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We love seeing them again. And we are fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there have been downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the two elderly sisters …

I watched Husband walk past the kitchen window and waved. He didn’t wave back. Because of the goggles and the scarf around his nose and mouth  I couldn’t tell if he smiled or not. I thought – probably not. He wore a helmet over a balaclava on his head, navy overalls, elbow length gloves and thigh waders. He looked ridiculous but I didn’t dare laugh. This was serious. He was on a mission… a clearing the sewers mission…

Husband in a hole!

The story of the sewers began  a fortnight earlier in the shape of the two ladies. They arrived late on the Saturday evening; it was already getting dark.  Despite our assurances that it didn’t matter; that we were home anyway, they  continued to apologize profusely as we showed them to the apartment. There’d been traffic hold-ups, one of them suffered from car sickness so they’d had to stop often, they’d lost their way; gone off at the wrong junction of the M4 and ended up in Swansea.

We calmed them down, Husband offered to carry their luggage in.

‘No,’ they said, ‘we’ll be fine. You leave us to it. We haven’t much.’

They were ideal guests; the type we’d  hoped for when we started this venture.

old lady twoold lady

They were quiet, friendly, pleasant to have around.. Ever ready for a chat they sat with us in the garden a couple of the evenings enjoying a glass of wine, some nibbles. They didn’t go out much; just for one or two hours each day. Most of the time they sat on the guest patio, reading. Aged around eighty, we discovered they were twins; obviously both retired; one an ex school teacher, they other a librarian. They called us Mr and Mrs Barrow and we  called them both Miss Smith (obviously not their real name!!) They wore almost identical clothes and shoes, had the same hairstyle, finished one another’s sentences  in the same refined tones. 

When we asked if everything was all right,did they need anything , we were told all was perfect. On the middle weekend they insisted I hand over the clean  bedding and towels and changed the bed themselves. 

On the last evening we invited them in for a meal. They only stayed a couple of hours; we were told they had an early start in the morning.  Later we heard them hoovering. I knocked on the door and told them not to bother, they had a long day in front of them the following day.. Despite my protestations, they persisted for another hour.

 They must have gone very early, they’d left before we got up at seven the next day.

 Which I thought was great; it meant I could get on with the cleaning before the next visitors arrived.

It was halfway through the following week when we noticed the problem. Our new visitors complained that the loo wasn’t working properly and the bathroom was smelling. By the end of the day the kitchen sink in the apartment was backing up with unpleasant water and the lavatories in the main part of the house weren’t flushing efficiently. In fact they were overflowing!

At this point I’m wondering if I should have put a health warning on this post. Hmm?

 Trying to be as delicate as possible here!!!loo

And so to the beginning of this sorry tale… 

I watched Husband walk past the kitchen window and waved …

He stopped, came back to the window and motioned (sorry!) for me to open it. ‘I don’t suppose you want to help?’ he shouted through the scarf. I closed the window – the smell was bad. Besides I thought we should have sent for the local drains/ sewage clearing people. Being a ‘careful  with money’ man, Husband thought he could “do it himself” 

 The new visitors went out for the day with a donation from us for meals.

Without going into any more graphic detail all I can say is that the blockage was… cat litter (with the evidence!). Our two little old ladies had apparently smuggled brought their cat on holiday with them (into our “no smoking, no pets” apartment) and flushed the contents of the litter tray down the loo. Which was washed by the water along the pipes only so far before setting like cement in the drains.

Six hours later – and after much shovelling and swearing – Husband conceded defeat and we sent for the specialists. 

I connected the garden hose to the outside tap on the garage and hosed him downBefore he was allowed back into the house, he stripped off.

Which reminds me. Have I told you about the Naturists who came to stay…?

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected!

Well, yes.looking back down the years and now we no longer let the holiday apartment attached to our house, I know it was worth it. We loved letting, despite the unexpected. It brought us many friends; visitors who returned year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We loved seeing them again. And we were fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there were downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

We’ve had many visitors from other countries staying in our apartment and shared great times with them. Couples from the USA, Australia have enjoyed barbeques on the lawn; long boozy evenings of wine and slightly burned kebabs and steaks, of tall tales and laughter.  Visits to restaurants with people from France and Italy. Long walks and talks on the coastal paths with a couple from New Zealand that we’d met from there on holiday in Christ Church, followed by drinks in local pubs. We had a German man stay with us for three weeks who’d come to participate in the Iron Man Wales event. He’d worked hard for twelve months he told us and had to acclimatise himself to the course. Three days before the event he caught a chest infection and had to drop out. Despite his antibiotics he needed to join Husband in a double whisky that night.

Oh dear, I’m sensing a common theme here.

One year our last visitor for the season was a single man. We’ve had people come on holiday alone many times over the years and the apartment always seemed to suit them.

But when he arrived we quickly realised he could only speak a little English and we couldn’t speak his language at all.

hello-1502369__340

He hadn’t been in the apartment an hour before he came to the door brandished the empty bottle of washing up liquid.

’Oh, sorry,’ I said, ‘I thought there was plenty in it.’

‘Used it,’ he said.

 An hour later washing powder was asked for by a demonstration of vigorous scrubbing at a pair of underpants. I didn’t ask!!

‘There’s a box of washing powder under the sink.’

‘Used it.’ He shrugged.

Sunday brought him to the door twice.

First with the sugar bowl.

‘Used it.’

Then the salt cellar.

‘I thought I’d filled it—‘

‘Used it.’

“Used it” quickly became the watchword, whenever we were supplying tea bags, vinegar or handing over shoe polish

Monday he arrived with an empty tube of glue.

glue

‘Sorry, we don’t supply glue.’

He stands, smiling, waggling the tube. ‘Used it.’

Husband went into his Man Drawer and produced a tube of Super Glue. Scowling. Ears red. We never did find out what the man wanted it for, even though the following weekend Husband examined everything he could that would need to be stuck.

 Each day, at least once, the man came to the door to ask for something by waving the empty bottle, carton, container or label at us. Unlike most holiday- makers he didn’t knock on the back door but always came round to ring the doorbell at the front. In the end Husband and I would peer through the hall window.

‘It’s Mr Used It,’ one of us would say. ‘It’s your turn to go.’ Pushing at one another. ‘You see what he wants this time.’

 On the Thursday he arrived with a cardboard roll.

toilet-rolls

‘There are six more toilet rolls in the bathroom cabinet to the right of the hand basin,’ I offered, helpfully.

‘Used it.’

Seven rolls of toilet paper have always lasted a two people the whole week. I handed over three more

 ‘What’s happening in there,’ Husband grumbled. ‘Do-it-yourself colonic irrigation?’

On the Friday Husband produced a list. ’We should charge for this lot,’ he declared. ‘See?’

 It read like a shopping list: milk/salt/sugar/vinegar/butter/tea bags/ coffee/soap/soap powder/toilet paper/shampoo/glue/shoe polish. The writing became more indecipherable after that; think Husband was becoming exasperated… or  there was too much to put down.

‘Really?’ I said, even though I knew the chap had been a pest. ‘You’ve been keeping tabs on him?’

‘Too true.’ Husband was indignant. ‘We could even charge him for overuse of the battery in the doorbell.’

‘Except that it’s connected to the electricity.’

‘Even worse!’ Husband grumped off to His Shed.

Saturday morning came and the doorbell rang.  Smiling, the man put his suitcase down onto the ground and vigorously shook hands with both of us. He waved towards the apartment. ‘Used it,’ he said. ‘Very nice.’

 

Pattern of Shadows by [Barrow, Judith]

Changing PatternsLiving in the Shadows

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pattern of Shadows         Changing Patterns        Living in the Shadows

Layout 1

A Hundred Tiny Threads

 

 

http://www.honno.co.uk/

 

 

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected!#MondayBlogs

stock-vector-happy-holidays-hand-drawn-creative-calligraphy-and-brush-pen-lettering-design-for-holiday-526547452

Well, yes.looking back down the years and now we no longer let the holiday apartment attached to our house, I know it was worth it. We loved letting, despite the unexpected. It  brought us many friends; visitors who returned year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We loved seeing them again. And we were fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there were downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the Sports Fanatic.

Before I go any further I think I should mention that although we live along a quiet lane we are only a five minute walk to the village. In the centre is the local Co-op. The frontage is very old fashioned; it’s an old building. For years there’s has been talk of building a new store on the outskirts  (actually about five hundred metres behind the existing one, on the edge of common land) but nothing has come of it. In winter the place trundles sleepily along; goods not available because of snow somewhere up country.  the odd garbled message over the tannoy that everyone ignores, staff huddled in corners exchanging local gossip, wandering around, trying not to make eye contact in case you want to ask them something. It’s a place to meet up with local people who haven’t been visible all summer due to being too busy keeping holiday visitors entertained.

Which, as an aside, reminds me of a time I asked Husband to go and buy a red cabbage from the Co-op.

After half an hour he returns, empty handed and looking stunned.

No red cabbage?’ I enquire.

‘No, couldn’t find one. Asked an assistant. She said cabbages were on the veg stall and there  was red food colouring in the baking section.’ He shook his head. ‘You couldn’t make it up!’

In summer the place comes alive: more than one assistant on the tills, lots of bustle, filling up shelves,assistants eager to help. Lots of happy visitors always glad for a natter, which inevitable ends with the comment,”you are so lucky to live here.’

I don’t argue… we are.

The visitors! (Should add here there is a sign asking customers not to shop in their nightwear) Apparently beach wear is acceptable. Nowhere else have I seen people shop half undressed: men in shorts (even Speedos … don’t think too long on that image; not nice mostly), bare chests and nothing on their feet, accompanied by shoals of similarly dressed and bare-footed children.  All very  jolly… until someone runs over toes with a trolley. Or they step in something.

None of this, by the way, has anything at all to do with the Sports Fanatic.

The couple arrived late one Saturday evening. The man struggled out of the car and walked, wincing, slowly along the drive, using two sticks, irritated-looking wife marching in front of him.

‘He’s sprained his ankle,’ she said, tilting her head towards him and without introducing herself. ‘happened yesterday. I came home from work and there he was, lying on the settee, bandaged up. Apparently,’ she stressed the word, ‘apparently our neighbour took him to hospital.’

‘Good of him,’ her husband said. ‘Nice chap.’

Wife snorted. ‘Fine start to our week,’ she said.

‘Mrs Morris?’ I asked. I knew they were down for a family reunion. Her family reunion.

She ignored me. ‘This way, is it?’ Pointing towards the apartment door and stomping off.

‘She’s a bit cross,’ her husband offered. Struggling with sticks he held his hand out to Husband and shook it. ‘I’m Simon,’he said, ‘you got Sky Sports in there?’

 

The following day it was the the reunion. The husband apparently had hardly moved from the settee in the living room of the apartment. 

Mrs Morris was no less cross than before. ‘He’ll have to stay here,’ she said. ‘he says he’s in a lot of pain and can hardly stand.’ She stared at Husband. ‘I’ll be out all day. Would  you go in and see if he’s okay every now and then, perhaps give him a cup of tea. I’ve left sandwiches on the coffee table for his lunch.It really is a nuisance.’

Husband was clenching jaw, the ears were giving off warning signs..

‘It’s fine,’I said, hurriedly. ‘Don’t worry.’

Half an hour after she’d driven off Husband went in to the apartment ‘ I can’t find him, he said.

‘In the loo?’I offered.

‘No! Anyhow, he’s not supposed to be able to move around at all.’

The implications of that suddenly struck us.

‘I’m not bloody clearing up after him if anything happens,’ Husband says.

I don’t answer but I knew it wouldn’t be me, either.

We searched around the apartment, then the garden.

‘He won’t be out here,’I said. ‘He can’t walk.

Just then Mr Morris came running around the corner of the house, a pack of six cans of pale ale in his arms.

We stood and looked at one another

Then, without an ounce of shame, he  said, ‘can’t stand her family. Anyway, there’s loads of sport on the telly I don’t want to miss.’

 

And with that he grinned, walked past us and into the apartment.

Not quite sure what happened the rest of the week but Mrs Morris left on the Friday and the last we saw of Mr Morris was him trudging off the drive, carrying his suitcase, to make his way to the railway station on the Saturday morning

 

 

 

 

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected!#MondayBlogs

Well, yes.looking back down the years and now we no longer let the holiday apartment attached to our house, I know it was worth it. We loved letting, despite the unexpected. It  brought us many friends; visitors who returned year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We loved seeing them again. And we were fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there were downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the  Tai Chi Naturists.

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 They looked a fit couple in their seventies; Mr and Mrs Wilson from Wigan, (actually not a made up name but it’s so long ago they really wouldn’t remember their holiday here… would they?) when they sprang from their dilapidated Ford Anglia.

 ‘Would you mind if we practised our Tai Chi on the lawn?’ the wife asked right away.

 I sensed Husband’s tension and alarm. When I glanced at him I saw he was breathing rapidly and his eyes were bulging a bit. But his ears were still their usual pink; bright red is the ominous signal of him being overly upset.

‘Not at all,’ I said, intrigued. I’m a great people watcher and we’ve had some fascinating visitors over the years. Many have had picnics and parties on the lawn. Husband has accepted this… mainly. And we haven’t had any complaints from neighbours about noise; in fact some have joined in with the parties. We live off a small lane; there are only three more houses further along. A large bed filled with shrubs and a lilac tree and hedges all around the garden shelter the house from view. Which, sometimes has been a good thing!

We’d had many who’d stayed with us before and did various keep fit exercises on the front lawn. and even a couple who practised their judo . This latter was quite entertaining until the man did his back in (or should I say his wife did his back in for him with a particular enthusiastic throw). They’d had to leave early with the man lying across the lowered back seat with his feet pointing towards the boot and surrounded by suitcases.  ‘Good job it’s an estate car’ Husband said in a casual way turning back to tend to his lawn where the husband had made a large dent.

 I digress.

‘Tai Chi links deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements. See… ‘ the wife explained, taking in one long breath that made her nostrils flare alarmingly as, at the same time, she stretched out both arms. She felled Mr Wilson with one blow. I remember thinking at the time when her husband was smacked on the nose, that he should have known better than to stand so close. After all, from the way her nose whistled when she was taking in all that air, he must have realised she was going to demonstrate. ‘It’s a health-promoting form of exercise,’ Mrs Wilson said, cheerfully, as we all helped her husband back on his feet. ‘Sorry, love.’ She dusted him down. ‘It’s like a form of meditation, you know, exercises the whole of you, not just your body. Helps you to stay calm and gives you peace of mind, like.’

‘You didn’t do it right,’ Mr Wilson muttered.

 She ignored him. ‘We only took it up a month or two back,’ she said to us.

Husband carried their two small suitcases into the apartment, his shoulders shaking.

I clamped my teeth together. When I spoke I knew my voice was a couple of pitches higher than normal but there was nothing I could do about that.  ‘Is that all you’ve brought?’ I peered into the boot of the car, hiding the grin.

‘Oh, yes, just the two bags. ‘Mrs Wilson linked her husband’s arm. ‘We travel light, don’t we Sidney?’

He nodded but said nothing.

There are two things I should mention at this point.

One, my mother was staying with us that week and her bedroom window looked out onto the front lawn.

 And two, we quickly discovered that this elderly couple were Naturists.

 On the second morning after they’d arrived I drew back the curtains of my mother’s bedroom to see the two of them on the lawn, practising their Tai Chi.  Despite their years their movements were graceful, there was no doubt about that. They moved forward in one continuous action, their hands held out in front of them.  But it wasn’t with admiration but in alarm that I watched them; both because they were completely naked, and because I was standing side by side with my mother. And Mum had a wicked sense of inappropriate humour and ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome. She’d be sure to offend them by one of her ‘funny’ jokes. I wasn’t looking forward to trying to keep her away Mr and Mrs Wilson for the next seven days.

 It was when he turned towards the house, bent his knees and squatted that my mother made a choking noise and fell back onto the bed. Laughing!

 Now I know this is totally out of context and misquoted (and I do apologise wholeheartedly to Shakespeare and Cleopatra) … but the words that sprang to mind when I gazed at him, were “Age cannot wither……”

Well it was a very warm morning.

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected!

Well, yes it is worth it – we love it, despite the unexpected. Having a holiday apartment attached to our house has brought us many friends; visitors who return year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We love seeing them again. And we are fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there have been downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the two elderly sisters …

I watched Husband walk past the kitchen window and waved. He didn’t wave back. Because of the goggles and the scarf around his nose and mouth  I couldn’t tell if he smiled or not. I thought – probably not. He wore a helmet over a balaclava on his head, navy overalls, elbow length gloves and thigh waders. He looked ridiculous but I didn’t dare laugh. This was serious. He was on a mission… a clearing the sewers mission…

Sewer Contractor New Rochelle Husband in a hole!

The story of the sewers began  a fortnight earlier in the shape of the two ladies. They arrived late on the Saturday evening; it was already getting dark.  Despite our assurances that it didn’t matter; that we were home anyway, they  continued to apologize profusely as we showed them to the apartment. There’d been traffic hold-ups, one of them suffered from car sickness so they’d had to stop often, they’d lost their way; gone off at the wrong junction of the M4 and ended up in Swansea.

We calmed them down, Husband offered to carry their luggage in.

‘No,’ they said, ‘we’ll be fine. You leave us to it. We haven’t much.’

They were ideal guests; the type we’d  hoped for when we started this venture.

old lady twoold lady

They were quiet, friendly, pleasant to have around.. Ever ready for a chat they sat with us in the garden a couple of the evenings enjoying a glass of wine, some nibbles. They didn’t go out much; just for one or two hours each day. Most of the time they sat on the guest patio, reading. Aged around eighty, we discovered they were twins; obviously both retired; one an ex school teacher, they other a librarian. They called us Mr and Mrs Barrow and we  called them both Miss Smith (obviously not their real name!!) They wore almost identical clothes and shoes, had the same hairstyle, finished one another’s sentences  in the same refined tones. 

When we asked if everything was all right,did they need anything , we were told all was perfect. On the middle weekend they insisted I hand over the clean  bedding and towels and changed the bed themselves. 

On the last evening we invited them in for a meal. They only stayed a couple of hours; we were told they had an early start in the morning.  Later we heard them hoovering. I knocked on the door and told them not to bother, they had a long day in front of them the following day.. Despite my protestations, they persisted for another hour.

 They must have gone very early, they’d left before we got up at seven the next day.

 Which I thought was great; it meant I could get on with the cleaning before the next visitors arrived.

It was halfway through the following week when we noticed the problem. Our new visitors complained that the loo wasn’t working properly and the bathroom was smelling. By the end of the day the kitchen sink in the apartment was backing up with unpleasant water and the lavatories in the main part of the house weren’t flushing efficiently. In fact they were overflowing!

At this point I’m wondering if I should have put a health warning on this post. Hmm?

 Trying to be as delicate as possible here!!!loo

And so to the beginning of this sorry tale… 

I watched Husband walk past the kitchen window and waved …

He stopped, came back to the window and motioned (sorry!) for me to open it. ‘I don’t suppose you want to help?’ he shouted through the scarf. I closed the window – the smell was bad. Besides I thought we should have sent for the local drains/ sewage clearing people. Being a ‘careful  with money’ man, Husband thought he could “do it himself” 

 The new visitors went out for the day with a donation from us for meals.

Without going into any more graphic detail all I can say is that the blockage was… cat litter (with the evidence!). Our two little old ladies had apparently smuggled brought their cat on holiday with them (into our “no smoking, no pets” apartment) and flushed the contents of the litter tray down the loo. Which was washed by the water along the pipes only so far before setting like cement in the drains.

Six hours later – and after much shovelling and swearing – Husband conceded defeat and we sent for the specialists. 

I connected the garden hose to the outside tap on the garage and hosed him down. Before he was allowed back into the house, he stripped off.

Which reminds me. Have I told you about the Naturists who came to stay…?

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected!

Well, yes it is worth it – we love it, despite the unexpected. Having a holiday apartment attached to our house has brought us many friends; visitors who return year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We love seeing them again. And we are fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there have been downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the Hippies.

old hippie

One of the first lot of visitors in our first year (nearly our last!) I’d almost forgotten about them until Husband dug up a string of bells in one of the flower beds the other day. Here I must hasten to add that, no, we didn’t do away with one of them and bury  the body in the garden. In fact I’ve no idea how the bells got there and so can offer no explanation. Which is all besides the point.

There were just the two of them when they arrived in a small battered car, decorated with brightly coloured swirly shapes. Having always yearned to be ‘one of the beautiful people’ , and knowing I’d no chance, I thought they both looked wonderful in their colourful clothes and long flowing locks ( him and her). Our three children were very young at the time and were mesmerised, especially when, before even unpacking, the man sat cross-legged on the front lawn playing his guitar and she sat alongside banging on a tambourine. Being a conventional type of chap Husband was wary. ‘Hope they don’t stay in every day making that racket.’ (obviously seeing his quiet weekend and evenings pottering in the garden quickly disappearing). ‘Oh, live and let live,’ said I, wistfully.

 Words I needed to remember later that day.

Thinking discretion was the better part of valour I persuaded Husband to take us to the beach; giving the couple a chance to settle in.

Five hours later we piled three weary kids into the car and went home.

We could hear the noise as we drove up the lane to our house. ‘What the …! Husband, looking forward to a quiet beer after his strenuous Family Day of playing football, keeping three kids from drowning in the sea and being being buried in the sand, stared at me with horror.  It was extremely loud. ‘It’s actually music,’I said. ‘It’s coming from our garden and it’s actually too bloody loud,’ said he.

hippies dancing

As we turned onto the drive we were faced by a large camper van. We parked the car next to it and got out. There were half a dozen dancers on the lawn. One of them waved to us. I half raised my hand in reply before I heard Husband’s sigh. (I think I should add here that when we moved into the house the acre of land around it was a field and it had taken three years to get it anything like a garden. He’d worked hard on transforming it and it’s the only thing he’s precious about )  Two of the women were holding small bunches of flowers; Dianthus, I realised (and hoped Husband didn’t)  from around the edges of the garden. No such luck; I watched with interest as his face turned puce. ‘Oh dear,’ I said, suddenly aware that I was tapping my feet to the beat.  The kids, ecstatic, joined in with the dancing. One woman picked up our daughter and twirled her around. Seeing Husband looking at his churned-up grass, and seeing our original woman holiday-maker amongst the others, I thought I should say something.  ‘They’ve got visitor… our visitors.’ ‘We’ve got trouble,’ he growled, pointing to the back of the van where  a pile of rucksacks and sleeping bags lay on the ground

van

Just then four men appeared from around the corner of the house and gathered up the bags. They walked away from us. For the second time Husband said,’what the …’. And followed them. I followed him. I wasn’t too worried, after all their van had ‘Peace’ written along the side. We knocked on the door of the apartment. The man who answered wasn’t our visitor. He looked to be around forty-five; an original hippie. ‘Hey, man,’ he said, holding up a hand. He actually said ‘Hey, man,’ like someone out of a third rate film.

‘Who are you? ‘ said Husband. I noticed his ears were bright red, a sure sign of an impending explosion. (oh, dear, I always make him to be so angry in these posts)

‘Friends are staying here,’ the man said. ‘We’re going to kip down for a couple of days with them.’ The other men looked on from inside the kitchen, bottles of beer in their hands. There was no sign of ‘our’ visitor.

‘Just going to stay a couple of days,’ said one of the others.

‘Got a problem with that?’ said another.

‘You got a problem?’ The first man again..

 I felt the first tremor of trepidation. ‘Should I call the police?’ I whispered, poking Husband in the back.

He didn’t answer. What he did say to them was, ‘No,I’ve not got a problem. Because what you’re going to do is…you’re going to leave.’There was a long silence, then some mutterings. The men bunched up behind the older man. I was really worried by this time, Husband was no match for them.

Then one said,’ we come in peace.’ He did! He really did say that!

‘Then… in peace, you’ll leave,’ said Husband. I had the urge to giggle; I think it was nerves. ‘From my count,’ continued Husband, ‘there are ten of you. Eight too many. Eight have to leave.’ 

‘No way, we’re doing no harm.’

 It was a stand-off. We all stared at one another. Then Husband said,’okay, then that’ll be fifty pounds each.’ I knew he didn’t mean it; we’re only insured to take two people in the apartment and he’s not one for  flouting the law. It was a gamble.

 I’ve never seen people move so fast! They last we saw of them was the billowing of smoke from the exhaust of the camper van.

 Until, that is, Husband dug up the string of bells the other day