Monthly Archives: January 2014

Penfriends – the modern way

How many of you had a penfriend as a child? How many of you still do?

Over the last thirty years I’ve had several. Some of them were “allocated” to me in school as I remember while others were sourced through various magazines over the years.

My first ever penfriend was a little girl from South Africa who lived on a farm and rode horses. We exchanged letters for a few years then as we moved into our teens the letters dried up, we both moved house and the new addresses were lost – the connection was broken. There was also a very scary boy from the Ivory Coast whose letters took a dark almost sinister turn and were ultimately returned “Not Known At This Address” to discourage him.  I was terrified he was going to turn up on the front doorstep!

I also connected with three others from across the world- from Sweden, India and Greece- and am still in regular contact with them. For more than twenty five years we’ve written freely to each other about our lives, exchanged photos and “grown up” together from across the miles. No thought was ever given to the amount of personal data that was being shared.

Now we seldom write the lengthy paper letters of the past apart from a short scribbled note inside a birthday or Christmas card. We’ve all moved on to social media- to Facebook. Is this the modern equivalent of having a penfriend? In one way it is.

Over the last few months I’ve “met” several new friends, of similar age, similar interests (Ladies you know who I mean!) and from across the world on Facebook. We share stories, jokes and photos and connect on a regular basis. Where’s the difference?

Now that we are all connected through Facebook I began to wonder what it would be like if my three original penfriends could all “meet” each other. I’ve started a group chat with them in an effort to find out. It should be an interesting conversation as they are three very diverse lovely people. I hope it works….time will tell.

When it comes to penfriends though my mum and her penfriend Gail win hands down. They started exchanging letters in 1949 and they are still in regular contact with each other. Both of them were only nine years old when this friendship began. Over the past few years they have progressed to email instead of the flimsy thin blue airmail paper and envelopes of yester year.  (I still find it amusing that my mum has her own pc.) They’ve also been fortunate enough to meet face to face several times over the last fifteen years or so, enjoying each other’s company as much in person as they have done for all these years on paper. It’s a very special friendship.

Who knows in time to come I may meet up with my three penfriends or with some of my newer Facebook friends but for now social media works just fine.

Like mother like daughter

A bit of an impromptu post but I hope you appreciate it.

I discovered this morning that Girl Child really is my daughter through and through.

As usual I wakened her before I headed off for my shower. It is like wakening the dead and you do take your life in your hands even attempting it – she’s never really been a morning person. Satisfied though that she was indeed awake I left her room confident that she would drag herself out of bed.

Now normally by the time I am out of the shower her “bat cave” is rattling to the delights on her iPod. Silence is never a good sign and usually implies she still in bed and that I have to dice with death a second time before my first coffee of the day.

This morning – total silence.

Still rather damp round the edges I charged in expecting to find her under the duvet but the bed was empty. Girl Child was sitting on the floor in her favourite spot in front of the radiator on the verge of tears. Tears of fanatic frustration.

Resisting the motherly urge to yell at her for still being in her pyjamas at 7.20am I calmly enquired “What’s the matter? Are you ok?”

“I can’t find the iTunes radio streaming of their new album!” came the wail followed by the tears.

Her favourite band’s new album should’ve been streaming online but her netbook had crashed, her iTunes account was playing up (not helped by our deathly slow internet speed) and her fragile teenage world was coming to an over dramatic end.

Common motherly sense told me to yell at her for wasting time when she should have been getting dressed for school. The rock fan mother in me took a deep breath.

I remembered my excitement late last September at getting a certain signed CD two days before its official release date and having to go out for three hours before I got the opportunity to play it. I understood only too well the irrational desire to hear the music right there and then.

I knew exactly how she felt.

“Let me get my laptop. We’ll try my iTunes,” I heard myself saying.

Within a few – to her endless – minutes I had logged on and found the album streaming. Result – on ecstatically happy Girl Child now getting ready for school.

Normality had resumed. The “bat cave” began to vibrate to the God awful noise!




The Domestication of the Human is Complete

I like to think I’m quite a free-thinking independent human being so I am struggling a bit to work out how it has come about that I have been domesticated by the cat- or in my case four of them.

If any of you are cat owners- and I use the term loosely as I now firmly believe they own us- you will understand where this is headed.

It has been going on for some considerable time. Ten years ago we were a cat free household then the munchkins and I spent two weeks visiting relatives in a cat filled house in the USA. When we returned home Boy Child was so miserable about leaving the cats behind that we decided to adopt a rescue cat.  (Conspiracy theory here- the cats are all in cahoots!)

Enter Dixie into our lives. The flood gates may as well have opened! Long story cut short- Dixie was an old lady, hated boys, suffered ill health and was only ruling the roost for eight short months. In that brief space of time however we became the adoptive humans of a black fluffy, half Siamese, half Persian male kitten called Sioux. When Dixie passed away Sioux was lonely- enter Gandalf, another rescue cat (I could and probably will fill a whole blog at a later date on him alone) All too soon Sioux and Gandalf had us well trained as to when and what they wanted to eat, when they wanted in and when they wanted out and as to how much of the bed they intended to occupy each night.

A few years down the line the munchkins (obviously brain washed by their feline masters) convinced the Big Green Gummi Bear and I that we needed to adopt a third feline member of the household. Enter Pythagoras who had repeatedly featured in the local paper as the pet of the week in need of a good home. Cue a whole new set of household rules as the three male cats learned to live together and to live with us. It took a while – and the arrival of a fourth feline- before Gandalf and Pythagoras could tolerate being in the same room as each other.

Two years ago the fourth- and final (for now) – feline joined this motley crew. Frankenstein, yet another rescue kitty, came to stay. My domestication was almost complete. Poor Frankenstein, through no obvious fault of his own, had had four homes in two years. As soon as I saw his big blue eyes and heard that charismatic purr …well the rest is history.

Now we live by a strict set of felines dictates-

*Gandalf only enters and leaves via the front door.

Pythagoras prefer to come and go via the first floor windows, having climbed over the garage roof to get there.

Sioux and Frankenstein require cold meat prior to any human resident being served breakfast

In the middle of the night if the scratching is at the carpet at the door of the bedroom- Pythagoras wants out.

In the middle of the night if the scratching is at the chest of drawers- Sioux wants out.

In the middle of the night if the scratching is at the side of the bed- Gandalf wants out

If in the middle of the night a cat is clambering over your head purring incessantly- Frankenstein wants out.

If a cat- any cat- is sitting in front of the narrow cupboard in my kitchen- it wants fed.

If after dishing up a tasty meal it returns to the cupboard- it wants a different flavoured dinner.

If the cat was on the seat first don’t waste your time moving it- it will only return to sit on you.

If the cat’s in the bed first- sleep elsewhere!


The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats as Gods. Mine have never forgotten this fact.







Time to come clean- I’m an addict

My name is Coral and I’m a photo-holic. There I’ve confessed!

I never leave the house without a camera of some sort, invariably my phone. If I go for a walk I usually take at least two cameras. I can’t go for a walk – or anywhere for that matter- without constantly looking for that special photographic opportunity. It drives my family insane!

I love photographs both taking them and browsing leisurely through them. My personal 2013 creative challenge was to produce a Facebook photo album – 365 Days of 2013- featuring a different photo taken each day of the year using the camera on my phone for convenience. I was proud to complete it- first New Year’s resolution I’ve ever stuck to. As the  year wore on I feel that the standard improved and I learned to look at the world around me  in a different light. Now less than two weeks into January 2014 I’m missing taking my “photo of the day”.

It was only recently I discovered the true extent of my photo habit. I was fortunate enough to be given a new laptop for Christmas ( thank you Big Green Gummi Bear) and spent quite some considerable time transferring across nine years worth of digital images from my dying netbook.

Before the digital photography age I still shot more than my fair share of photographs. I must have spent a small fortune over the years on developing costs and photo albums. Do you remember the Doubleprint envelopes that fell out of Sunday supplements and were found on stands in airports? Truprint? Bonusprint? Yes- I’ve made good use of them all in my time. I loved the Doubleprint ones – a 6×4 image plus a wallet sized copy.

I have a tendency to be OCD about my photo albums too and have religiously chronicled my trips to the USA over the last ten years. When the munchkins were little I shot at least one roll of film a month- frequently more- and have memories their formative years stored in album after album. I’ve even wallet sized albums for the wallet sized copies from Doubleprint.

It was discovering one of these tiny albums of precious memories that inspired the poem below. (It was was also my first poem to make it into print)

Passing Childhood

Photos found at the back of the drawer.

What was I actually looking for?

A smiling toddler with white blonde hair

Fond memories swirl round in the air.

All the long years have now flown by

My white blonde boy no longer shy.

A smart young man who excels at school

Now facing a world that is his to rule.

And just how many digital images found their way onto my new pc?-   32356 to be exact and I treasure every last one.

Now where did I put my camera……

Do you remember when…… fond memories

Choosing where to start this journey has been pre-occupying my thoughts over the last few days. I’ve kept returning to the same starting point and repeatedly dismissed it as too personal but then again…..

People pass through our lives on a daily basis. Some slip by unnoticed while others leave a huge footprint in our hearts. One tiny little lady who left a huge indelible mark on me and on many others was my Wee Gran. I could ramble on for hours reminiscing about her but won’t ( I may share more tales at a later date – we’ll see)

One thing that always struck me was the amount of change and progress she had seen in the world she lived in. Born in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in 1902 she saw two World Wars,  lived through the reigns of four kings and a queen, saw man land on the moon and saw technology that we take for granted evolve beyond belief. Simple things that we wouldn’t give a second thought to created memories that lived with her forever. I remember we asked her once  when did she see her first car. She thought for  a moment  or two before replying ” I don’t know what year it was but it was a Tuesday.”

“A Tuesday?” we echoed.

“Yes I was on my way to the prayer meeting.”

Do you remember the first car you saw?  I don’t.

There’s a myriad of similar tales. A lifetime of memories left behind by this little lady. And to those who had the good fortune to know her – who will ever forget the taste of her pancakes?

One of  the most heart breaking moments of my life was the day I walked into her house to visit as usual and she didn’t know who I was. Even now over nine years later  there are tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat  as I remember the scene. Old age had finally caught up and stolen away the Wee Gran I knew and love, leaving behind a frail,  scared, old lady. I only saw her another twice after that day (it was too hard- and selfishly I wanted to keep my wonderful memories of her intact). She passed away a few months later a month shy of her 103rd birthday.

The poem below was written a very long time ago. I don’t often write about those dear to me for fear of offending or embarrassing them. I feel though that this captures my memories of  this very special lady –

My Wee Gran

She sits in her big red armchair, hand touching her left ear

Eyes alert. Swift look at the clock-

It’s not lunchtime- yet.

Up since dawn she stifles a yawn

Ankles crossed- feet twitching slightly

Two clocks tick- only one is wound nightly.

The wireless is on- it’s McGregor again

A daily ritual in number nineteen

Memories flicker into conversation as a man tells of the death of a generation.

She dresses plain- no jewellry to be seen- only her slim wedding band.

She starts to talk using her hand.

Jumper and pinafore- uniform- regulation blue cardigan- well worn

A smile leaps to her lips- more memories into conversation

Two clocks still tick.

Now it’s lunchtime- the ritual is at an end.

Up she gets- wireless switched off- McGregor is finished for today.

It will be on again next day.

The big red armchair stands empty

Into the kitchen my wee gran’s away