Places in our Memories: With Robbie Cheadle #MondayBlogs #Memories

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m welcoming Robbie Cheadle, someone I’ve known and admired as an online friend for many years.

Thank you, Judith, for inviting me to talk about my memories.

As a little girl I was quiet and self-contained. The oldest of four daughters, my mom was often busy with a new baby and so I spent a lot of time alone. I do believe I was a lonely child and passed my time reading, listening to Broadway musicals on my mother’s record player, and doing numerous artistic projects.

By the time I was eighteen, I’d lived in twenty-one houses and attended fourteen schools. Twelve of my school changes occurred before I was twelve and once, I changed schools twice during the same academic year.

I never developed lasting and strong friendships with other girls which may have been a consequence of all these disruptions. Instead, my sisters and I played together. Their births were the highlight moments of my younger years.

A typical picture of me as a child

My time as a baby and a toddler are grey mist to me, but the first powerful memory I have is of the entrance of my sister, Catherine, into my life. She displaced me as the only one and I wasn’t pleased about it at the time.

I wrote a short story about Catherine’s birth, she was born prematurely at 32 weeks, and the subsequent turmoil that ensued. The story is called The New Baby and is included in an anthology called Memories of Mom: Rave Soup For The Writer’s Soul Anthology, 2022 available here: https://www.amazon.com/MEMORIES-MOM-Rave-Writers-Anthology-ebook/dp/B09ZRK4L6B

The following extracts illustrate how I recall feeling about my new sister:

“I prayed: “Thank you, God, for sending me a sister. I don’t mind being an only child though, so would you please take her away and give her to another girl who really wants a baby sister?” 

My prayer went unanswered, and my mother continued to visit the hospital every morning.”

“On the morning Catherine came home from the hospital, everything started to change. I no longer went to school as my mother didn’t want to risk me picking up a cold or other illness. I stayed at home and helped Mom look after my sister.  

The baby was a disappointment. She was nothing like the baby in my nursery rhyme book. That baby was pink, with golden curls and fat, dimpled hands, and feet. My new sister was pale and almost translucent looking. I could see blue veins under her delicate skin, and she had bruises on her head from the drip. Her hands were tiny and clenched and she had no hair at all. When she cried it came out as a faint mewing and I couldn’t see how she would ever be any fun at all. She also took up nearly all of Mom’s time with her numerous feeds, nappy changes, and other needs.”

The entrance of Hayley into my life was unremarkable. We were living on a plot in Honeydew, Johannesburg, and my life was filled with exploration of the tracts of veld that surrounded our house.

Hayley was a howler and I remember my mother walking round and round the sitting room with her while she cried and cried. Her endless crying is how I remember Howling Hayley. She did, of course, grow out of it eventually and became one of my living dolls.

A defining memory I have of Hayley as a baby is one evening when I took the screaming bundle and walked her around to give mom a break. She went to sleep in my arms and Mom and I watched an episode of the television production of She (by Rider Haggard) together. It contained the scene where Ayesha goes into the fire and ages from a young and beautiful woman into a hideous, shrivelled 2,000-year-old woman and then disintegrates into ash. I have never, ever, forgotten that scene and I’ve read the book several times. It is a favourite of mine.

Laura is the youngest and she arrived when I was nine, Catherine was five, and Hayley was one.

Laura’s birth coincided with my family’s relocation from Johannesburg to George in the Western Cape. My grandparents on my father’s side had moved to George a year previously and they had persuaded dad to move to this beautiful city.

Dad drove Catherine, Hayley, and I to George. It was a fourteen-hour drive as frequent “wee” stops had to be made with three small girls in the car. We were driven to George ahead of my parents moving as Mom was heavily pregnant at the time with our new sister. The new baby would be born at the hospital in Johannesburg. We three girls would be cared for by our grandparents for two weeks until my mother was able to make the long car trip.

I loved George. It was totally different from dry and dusty Johannesburg with its violent thunderstorms and frightening lightning and thunder. George was green. There was an abundance of trees, flowers and bushes and it rained a lot of the time.

My grandparents lived in a cottage near the outskirts of the town and their tar road suddenly ended about 1000 metres from their house and became a dirt road and then a dirt track that led into the forest.

The forest was dark and mysterious. Full of huge, tall trees and thick bushes and foliage. We were forbidden from going into the forest on our own as it was easy to get lost amongst so many trees that all looked the same.

Along the sides of the dirt road were trenches where the municipality had been digging. I don’t know why they were digging there but the trenches were so much fun. Catherine and I climbed into the trenches and walked along them, hidden from view.

The bottoms of the trenches were covered in clay. It was deliciously squelchy and sticky, and we loved the feeling of the clay between our bare toes.

One dinner time, I told Granddad Jack about the clay. He said you could make things from it and dry them in the sun. The sun would bake them and make them hard.

What a delight! The very next day, Catherine and I went into one of the trenches and mined for clay. We scooped the clay into a plastic bag and hauled it out of the trench. Very soon, we were sitting on the back doorstep and making all sorts of pots and figurines out of clay. It was a happy time for me.

One morning, Granny Joan said that Mom and Dad were in the car and on their way to George. Catherine and I were excited, but Hayley was too young to understand what was happening.

Eventually, late in the afternoon, the car arrived with both my parents and a very funny looking, wrinkled, and red baby. I got such a fright I ran away. I thought that Laura was the ugliest baby I had ever seen.

Poor little Lu! She looked like that because she had become dehydrated during the long drive.

In retrospect, I was fortunate to grow up in a family with three sisters. We all still live in Johannesburg and our families spend the high days and holidays together.

Back row: Robbie and Laura.
Front row: Catherine and Hayley.

Thank you, Judith, for giving me this opportunity to share about my memories of my childhood. I’d like to close with this poem I wrote about my sisters for Catherine’s fortieth birthday.

A sister is … by Robbie Cheadle 

 a thief, stealing attention that is rightfully yours;   a port in a storm, when your house of cards falls; 
a fountain of knowledge – your problems, not hers;   a megaphone whose voice is louder than yours; 
an expert on everything you try for the first time;   a comedian who’ll dance and make you laugh till you cry; 
a cloths horse, ‘specially when she’s borrowed your clothes;   a home where your children are always welcome; 
a confidant with whom you share secrets and hopes;   a purse to help you out of a bind
a competitor who always shines brighter than you;   an advisor when your spirit is battered and bruised; 
a shoulder to cry on when life lets you down;   a beauty queen, who’s face is fairer than yours; 
a diary of shared memories, the old and the new;   a voice of reason, when yours has taken a day off; 
a provider of wine, in good times and bad;   an embarrassment who recalls your drunken antics; 
an artist, who’ll make up your face, if you beg; the best thing anyone could ask for. 

From Open a new door, a collection of poems by Robbie Cheadle and Kim Blades available here: https://www.amazon.com/Open-new-door-collection-poems-ebook/dp/B07K4RRC4W

Author CV – Roberta/Robbie Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with eleven children’s books and two poetry books.

The eight Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie and Michael have also written Haunted Halloween Holiday, a delightful fantasy story for children aged 5 to 9. Count Sugular and his family hire a caravan to attend a Halloween party at the Haunted House in Ghost Valley. This story is beautifully illustrated with Robbie’s fondant and cake art creations.

Robbie has also published two books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie has two adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories, in the horror and paranormal genre, and poems included in several anthologies.

Robbie Cheadle contributes two monthly posts to https://writingtoberead.com/, namely, Growing Bookworms, a series providing advice to caregivers on how to encourage children to read and write, and Treasuring Poetry, a series aimed at introducing poetry lovers to new poets and poetry books.

In addition, Roberta Eaton Cheadle contributes one monthly post to https://writingtoberead.com/ called Dark Origins: African Myths and Legends which shares information about the cultures, myths and legends of the indigenous people of southern Africa.

Follow Robbie Cheadle at:

Follow Robbie Cheadle at:

Website:

https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog
https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/bakeandwrite


YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVyFo_OJLPqFa9ZhHnCfHUA


Goodreads
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15584446.Robbie_Cheadle

Purchase links:
TSL Publications (paperbacks)

Lulu.com (paperbacks and ebooks)

Amazon US (paperbacks)
https://www.amazon.com/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ


Amazon UK (paperbacks)
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ

Places in our Memories: With Carol Lovekin #MondayBlogs #Memories

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m really pleased pleased to welcome Carol Lovekin.

Since Judith invited me to contribute to this strand, I’ve spent weeks mulling over too many memories of a myriad places. A moment here, a memory there, this place briefly visited and only half remembered; this one part of the fabric of my life. And it occurred to me, perhaps I could take the premise literally and highlight ‘places’ plural.

Maggie, my mother

Many of these places and moments featured my mother. She was and remains a huge influence in my life. She was Irish, she played the piano and had a way with words. My mother held space, she had an authentic sense of the importance of place and my memories are littered with moments and memories of her.

The word ‘moment’ reminds me of the Kate Bush song, Jig of Life* and the line, ‘I put this moment, here…’ In the song she asks, ‘Can’t you see where memories are kept bright?’ I can and still do: places with moments stitched to their seams. And at the centre, my mother invariably making more sense than, at the time, I gave her credit for. These memories are in no particular order.

Memory:

I’m nine and can barely swim; riding on my father’s shoulders in a chilly stretch of the river Avon, roped off to resemble a lido. There are rocks underfoot and he slips. I’m falling, it’s cold and deep and I’m swallowing water . . . drowning. . . drowning. . .

I didn’t of course. Dad hauled me out and ‘kissed me better’ while my mother announced her disapproval. (‘I told you not to do that, Ken! What’s the point of the rubber ring if she doesn’t use it?’) And that was indubitably that. Instead of throwing me back in, they fussed, although, to my horror, my mother did suggest a swimming pool and proper lessons. Really? No way; it has a Deep End!


It wasn’t until I became a mother myself and the children were learning to swim that I made myself venture back into the water. It didn’t last. The children were soon fearless and there were too many rivers near where we lived, too much deep water. Years later – decades in truth – I started going to the local pool and discovered a real love for swimming. I’m not very good and I still don’t entirely trust deep water, but I’ve come a long way from that day when I was a little girl, tumbling from my daddy’s shoulder.

Memory

With my green-fingered mother in the garden of the house I grew up in. It’s full to overgrown perfection with flowers. A drooping rose and Mum’s pulling a stick from the undergrowth. ‘That’ll do it.’ The rose firmly staked. Weeks later, noticing the straggler has expired, but the steadying stick is beginning to throw off green shoots.
‘That’s magic,’ says my mother. ‘Gardening is magic. If you have a garden, you’ll always have a place to be peaceful.’

(My father photographed it. He rarely took photos of people which is why I have so few from my childhood.)

The rose eventually grew into a rambling, delicate pink wonder with a glorious scent. We never did identify it. Mum just called it her magic rose.

Over the years I’ve made several gardens. All of them magical, all of them with a pink rose of some sort or another. Now I am ‘reduced’ to a balcony, I’m looking for one that will work in a small space. A pink one, of course. In memory of that perfect place. And my mother.

Memory

My mother, quietly and with no drama, delivering my first, born-too-quickly-for-the-midwife, daughter.

One of Dad’s exceptions and one of my favourite photographs.


‘She’s got her eyes open already,’ says Mum. ‘That’s girls for you.’ She hands me the baby and yes, her eyes are wide open and I know she can see me.
Mum, smiling, nodding her head. ‘We’re a proper matriarchy now.’
And that’s when I became a ‘proper’ feminist.


Memory

I’m in my bedroom. Mine, at last, because Dad has given up his darkroom and decamped to the shed, so my sister and I can have our own rooms. I’m scribbling a story for ‘English Composition’ homework.
‘It’s rubbish,’ I say to my dusting, tidying mother.
She straightens the bookshelves. (She’s bought me most of the books.)
‘Read all the books,’ she says, ‘and you’ll write better stories
.’

She wasn’t wrong. Now, decades later, I find myself realising, although my mother didn’t live long enough to see me published, she is everywhere in my books. Not always obviously, but nonetheless there. I write about mothers and daughters a lot and it took me a while to understand how my own mother influenced some of the mothers I imagine. I like to think she would have approved.

So long as the stories come, I shall continue to write them, and both consciously and unconsciously place my mother at the centre of them.


* Hello, old lady
I know your face well

I’ll be sitting in your mirror…
Will you look into the future…?

One with the ocean and the woman unfurled
Holding all the love that waits for you here… 

I put this moment here…

© Kate Bush

Find Carol here:

Twitter: twitter.com/carollovekin

Website: carollovekinauthor.com/

Amazon: www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B01ADAWMPC



Places in our Memories: With Sally Cronin #MondayBlogs #Memories

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m so pleased to welcome Sally Cronin, who has agreed to share her memories with us.

Sally

Thank you Judith for inviting me to take part in this lovely series and I decided to go back as far as I could with my memories.

Scientists have more or less established humans can remember back to at least 3 years old, but it can be 6 months earlier for many.

I know I have very strong memories of Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka, where we lived from 1954 to 1956. I was 18 months old when we arrived, and the memories of those two years are a little bit like a kaleidoscope, creating colourful if slightly distorted patterns. They are also enhanced by the particular aromas, and the sounds associated with living in a land of spices, and on the edge of a jungle.

My father had been in based there in late 1944. Initially he was in a holding camp called Mayina in the jungle, until being transferred to HMS Woolwich in Trincomalee.

He had been based in Scotland prior to this so it must have been quite a change. There he had been part of repair team getting submarines back to sea following damage in the Atlantic. Now he was working on destroyers from the Pacific fleet using Sri Lanka as their home base.

The war in the Far East continued through 1945. Following VJ Day, my father continued working on destroyers needing to be refitted before sailing back to the UK.  He was in Trincomalee until June 1946 and then returned home to the family in Hampshire

He was honoured to receive a “Card for Good Service” presented by Lord Mountbatten the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command in November 1945, in recognition of his valuable service keeping his destroyers at sea.

Earl Mountbatten inspects my father’s base in Sri Lanka @Eric Coleman

Our return to Sri Lanka

My father was posted back to Trincomalee as base radio officer in 1954. After a few weeks he was ordered to take over the RN Transmitting Station Kotogoda, fifteen miles outside of Colombo on a temporary basis. There was a lovely house for the station commander so my father arranged for my mother and the three of us to join him from England.

After a few months my father was then transferred back to Trincomalee. Having been entertained frequently at my parent’s renowned curry lunches, useful contacts had been made amongst the RAF officers at the nearby air base. A DC- 3 was appropriated and they kindly flew the family, all our worldly goods, and wonderful family cook who insisted on coming with us, back to Trincomalee. It must have been so thrilling and I do wish I had been a little bit older to be able to recall the experience.

Photograph

The Coleman family 1955

We settled in a house my father rented near the base. In addition to our cook, we had a house boy to work in the garden and an amah was employed to look after me. I was clearly getting to the active toddler stage and needed watching all the time. Being on the edge of a jungle meant that there was plenty of slithering and snarling wildlife that was fascinating for a child…she had her work cut out for her I am afraid! 

We moved a couple of times more until we eventually occupied the lower half of a large house which had been the WRNS Officers mess during the war. The garden was on the edge of the water this time and it is where my first memories really kick in.

Three sisters Sonia, Diana and Sally

I have two older sisters and whilst during the day I was in the constant care of my amah, when my sisters came home from school, I followed them everywhere, and this included into the water. They were already amazing swimmers and divers and I would be in my rubber ring desperately trying to keep up.

Things I remember vividly.

Our house came with trees and monkeys, small ones who were fascinated by glittering things and food. Their constant chittering filled the days and if a door was left open, they were in the house in a flash. Food was clearly the first priority, especially with our cook’s curries filling the air with tantalising aromas.

However, they discovered a treasure in my parent’s bedroom where the dressing table was adorned with beads, earrings and other trinkets. One night my parents came home from a party to find a troop of small thieves dressing up and admiring themselves in the mirror.

Sonia, Sally and her amah

On the subject of monkeys, a very large one found its way on to our wrap around balcony and discovered a cigarette box. He was not in a great mood and ate all the cigarettes, threatening anyone who approached. They are very dangerous, and I do remember clearly being dragged upstairs to our neighbours by my amah out of harm’s way. Probably wise as I had a tendency to be consider creatures great and small as potential pets.   

I remember getting measles when I was 3years old. I had been too young to be vaccinated before we left the UK and a wave of measles hit the island and I caught it.  The only treatment was to be kept isolated in a darkened room to prevent eye damage and kept cool and hydrated. I remember being in my cot with a fan above me in the dark for what seemed endless days, with my mother and amah applying cool flannels and chamomile lotion.

Sally aged 3 years old in smocked dress

I was soon back to mischief and particularly at my parent’s weekly Sunday Curry parties. It was open house for fellow officers and their wives, and also those on ships in the harbour at the time.

 I do recall the laughter and the attention I used to get as I was passed from guest to guest. My eldest sister was, and still is an accomplished needlewoman, and made me smocked dresses which were always much admired. She also made me underpinnings from the same material. I developed the rather indelicate habit when complimented on the dress, of lifting it waist high and announcing ‘and I have knickers to match’.  Thankfully something I grew out of sometime in my 30s.

I was rarely out of the water, but the one activity I couldn’t share with my sisters was their high board diving. One day my eldest sister was competing in a school event and completed a stunning manoeuvre off the highest board. She surfaced to what she hoped was a good score and lots of applause. Instead there was silence except from an audible gasp from the crowd.

I had followed her up the ladder and toddled down the diving board and jumped in after her. Apparently I bobbed up and shouted ‘Again’.

We were due to return to the UK in July 1956 and were leaving on a troop ship on the 30th. However on the 23rd of July, during my parent’s farewell party, his Captain arrived with the news that my grandmother and aunt had been tragically killed in a car crash in England.

My father was flown home immediately whilst my mother and the three of us left by ship on the 30th as planned. I was too young to understand the enormity of this family loss, and being one of the few children on board, was spoilt rotten. I do remember one instance in particular during a fancy dress party organised to keep us amused.

My sister Sonia made me a beautiful Little Po Peep outfit from crepe paper in lovely colours. I am sure there were knickers to match, but unfortunately it became rather too exciting and things got a little damp… Let’s just say crepe paper is rather unforgiving and absorbent….

The voyage was even longer than anticipated, as two days out of Colombo, it was announced the ship would be going via the Cape as the Suez was closed due to the war in the Middle East. This added another week to the passage and my mother became unwell.

Nothing serious as we were to discover after a couple of months as it turned out she was pregnant with my younger brother at the age of nearly 40. The village doctor initially put her symptoms down to dyspepsia but on a follow up visit she informed him that dyspepsia had just kicked her!

Today the smell of a spicy homemade curry, chamomile lotion, reminiscing with my sisters and spending time with these photographs brings back those long lost memories. We would live in Malta and South Africa over the next ten years, and those memories are obviously more clearly defined, but those earlier years are the most precious to me.

About Sally Cronin

Sally Cronin is the author of fifteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another fourteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry.

Her latest release, Life is Like a Mosaic: Random fragments in harmony is a collection of 50 + images and poems on life, nature, love and a touch of humour.

As an author she understands how important it is to have support in marketing books and offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities in the Café and Bookstore on her blog and across her social media.

Her podcast shares book reviews and short stories Soundcloud Sally Cronin

After leading a nomadic existence exploring the world, she now lives with her husband on the coast of Southern Ireland enjoying the seasonal fluctuations in the temperature of the rain.

Links

Blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58