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.


 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.

What Did Come Next

For those of you good enough to read and comment on my last post about my mother: http://www.judithbarrow.co.uk/memories-and-what-comes-next/, I’d liked to let you know what did come next.

We found a lovely care home for her.



From the moment we opened the doors to Stoneleigh House in Springhead near Oldhan, we knew this would be her next home. The manager and staff were so welcoming:. we watched how they looked after the residents, we were allowed, even encouraged, to wander where we liked (and we’d called unannounced, probably at the worst time – lunchtime!), we saw the room she could sleep in.

Stoneleigh House was one of many that we visited. It’s an old ex-mill owners home. We felt it fitting that  Mum should live here; my mother was a winder in a cotton mill, in Oldham and, after the second world war, lived in Springhead.

When she worked in a mill in Saddleworth, and well before the days of Health and Safety, I would go to wait for her to finish work on my way home from school. I remember the muffled boom and then the sudden clatter of so many different machines as I stepped through the small door, the sound of women singing and shouting above the noise, the colours of the threads and cloth – so bright and intricate. Above all I remember the smell: of oil, grease – and in the storage area – the lovely smell of the new material stored in bales.




We went for a visit this week. A  ten hour round trip for three hours – but so worth it.

Mum is walking; something she hasn’t done without help for the last two years, And she chatted to us; rather than the  monosyllabic answers we used to get. Best of all she is enjoying the company of the people around her  (we  ignored the rude comments – at least she’s recovered her sense of humour – and at ninety three she’s allowed  a bit of rudeness).




I’d gathered together as many photographs as i could and made a collage of her life. Right at the left hand side at the bottom is a baby photograph of Mum and her sister Olive. Love the ‘pudding basin’ haircuts! In the middle is Mum as a young woman and next to her my father who died some twenty years ago.

mum stoneleigh2

Auntie Olive lived with us as part of the family for many years, here in Pembrokeshire.  After she was diagnosed with dementia at the age of eighty, and it all became obvious she needed better care than we could give, she went into a lovely care home, nearby; first for respite care, and then permanently.

I sat with Auntie Olive many times; both when she could carry out a conversation, and later, when she couldn’t, we sat together holding hands and watching what was going on around us. The poem below was one I wrote then after a particular incident – you’ll soon see why. ( Obviously it’s mostly a collection of snippets over many visits. And I wrote it from a first person point of view for empathy.)

Waiting for Alf











I ask her – ‘what time is Alf coming?’

She answers, ‘soon, Alice, soon.’


I try to stand, to check my hair in the mirror – but fail.

My frailness surprises me – but holds no terror.

Across the table Lily’s still picking her nose.  ‘Your face’ll cave in,’ I tell her.

Then see that the new feller has pissed himself. Again!

I shout for the woman. ‘When are you going to see to this one?

And what time will Alf get here?’


She ignores me.


Olga’s crying: not really a cry – a drone; a painful keening under her breath;

Mourning death; her own?


Gets on my nerves!


She’s serving tea.

I grab her arm. ‘What time is Alf coming?’

‘Soon, Alice, soon.’

I snort – she’s lying, you know: she thinks I’m daft,

But if I say his name he’s still here and the shaft of pain is easier to bear – just.


I must stand up!


Ivy’s muttering,

Sylvia sings; brings memories to life.

The new chap, now dry, nods and snores.


The noise!


‘Time to move.’ I shove back the chair – push on the table,

Wait until I’m stable.

Then, poised, look down: my slippers are tight –  are they on the wrong feet?

I shout for the woman – she says, ‘no, they’re right’,


I ask again, ‘when will Alf arrive?’


She doesn’t answer, so I pinch her. ‘When will he arrive?’

And she replies, ‘soon, Alice, soon.’


Silly cow!

 I should say that as the lady in this particular incident said the last two words of this poem, she winked at me and laughed. ‘Who’s the daft one here, then?’ she said.