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Story Circle | Spring Stories

By March 19, 2021July 23rd, 2021No Comments

The sessions celebrate the coming of spring through poems, memories and stories inspired by images of spring, new life and hope. We explore, notice and value the seeds of growth that have been scattered throughout our lives, making us who we are.

Lino Cut by Teresa Hoy


SOWING THE SEEDS by Maureen Thomas

I grew up in a small market town in Norfolk, countryside all around, not far from the coast. Most of my childhood was spent outside. In the garden, making mud pies or ‘perfume’ from rose petals, using whatever was available – leaves, stones, sticks, flowers to ‘cook’ imaginary food and share either with pretend guests, toys, or maybe my real friend from across the street. On the street, where any children who were out would join in games of hopscotch, skipping, jacks, hide and seek. We also spent a lot of time in the park as this was just across a road from the street where I lived, using the playground equipment or just being free to do what we wanted. Probably my favourite was den making. This could be improvised in the park or better in the field/meadow next to it. There were trees, bushes, brambles, grassy bits and we could find a hollow in the brambles, carefully make it big enough for a couple of children, take in anything needed to make it ours/comfortable – some dried grass to sit on, sticks to make a pretend fire, a torch, sometimes snacks. Although I had an older brother I don’t remember playing with him much outside, he had his own friends and games. I played with Eileen and Muriel, sisters who lived across the road, we all loved ‘pretend’ play. I am still in contact with them.
In the house we had a large hall/entrance room, with a sofa along one wall, with coat hooks above it. Also a space under the stairs. Both of these areas made excellent dens with the addition of a few blankets/cushions, soft toys and dolls, and lots of imagination. I spent many happy hours in the hall either with a friend or if on my own I had the toys to talk to and boss about!

The seeds of creativity, love of cooking, love of nature/outside, imagination were sown in my childhood. I still love nature, getting out in the countryside when possible. I enjoy cooking. I’ve continued these interests, both in my career and with my children and grandchildren. Having grown up in the city my children don’t have the same love of the countryside, but they all love food, and are all creative and imaginative in different ways. After a large delivery my (middle-aged) daughter could not resist getting inside the cardboard box! Whenever my granddaughter used to visit we usually made a den behind the chair, which could be the starting point for so many games.

Maureen Thomas aged 3 pushing her dolls pram

Childhood Outdoor Play by Alex Grott

It’s hard to realise that 63 years ago, when I was 10, there were few cars on the streets and no TV. Milk was delivered by horse and cart, with competition between neighbours for the garden manure. Quiet streets encouraged play outdoors, in fact you had to have a very good excuse to get past Mum and enter indoors. Soldiers, dinky tanks and jeeps were a favourite game in soil moulded into forts and roads. Neighbourhood boys had much better vehicles, so my brother and I enjoyed bombing their shiny vehicles with stones. Battles were given names from the current news such as Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam. In Southampton, where I lived as a boy, there were big bombed sites after the 2nd war. Branches from bushes and old cellars were used to make dens, cricket was played in an open patch and fires were erected for firework night. They had to be guarded as boys from other roads would light them early. Philip next door had a cowboy outfit and Jill his sister a headband with feather. They had a bought tepee tent and I was happy to be Jill’s Indian husband as I think she was the first girl I really liked. In those 1950 days, dogs were allowed to roam free. Ricky, our mongrel, used to come for walks with me without a lead. I’ve been to a shop over a mile away for my Mum and would see Ricky trot by, always purposefully.

Outdoor playing has given me a lifetime taste for the outdoor and early playing with friends had shown me how fine it is to be with others, doing things together. Making dens as boy immersed me in buildings and nature and I’m interested in both as an adult. It’s funny how life in early days rolls over into later days.

Childhood… My Best Days by Hilda Castillo

I am small, baby faced and pretty with lots of hair and so happy; I felt loved by my parents, especially my Papa and all my brothers and sisters. All that love as the last child of a family of 12. We live in a big 4 bedroomed house and 2 trap doors (td) with stairs to do down and up through the house. One td was from the kitchen and the other td was near the boys’ room. I loved playing with my toys and my imaginary friends which were bottles which I would line up to teach as I wished to be a teacher like my big sister, Norma Theresa. I loved cooking and used the petals of the hibiscus flowers as my food to cook in a pretend saucepan. I also had a pet kitten called puss, and one day I nearly killed him because of the piece of string that I had put around his neck. Puss wound himself on the clothes line. I was so scared and shocked but ran to my mum for help. I was frozen in fear and could not speak but dragged her by the hand to show her what had happened. Puss was saved by my mother cutting down the string very quickly and he bolted away and hid from me for days. I also liked to swing in Papa’s white hammock which was tied to the big beams under the house. I rocked until I felt dizzy, then would wind myself around and have a sleep until I hear Tanty calling, ‘time to eat children’.

We had pigs, cows, ducks, turkeys, dogs and cats – I loved ALL the animals but the male turkey was my favourite friend. My parents slaughtered some of the animals, like a pig and cow, for Christmas celebrations. My young brothers and sisters and I looked on from a far and cried when they were killed. But I enjoyed the meat, especially the black pudding my mum made and we ate with homemade bread. I loved bananas, and remember my Uncle Leo coming everyday on his bicycle to give me a treat. He would ring the bell and I would dash out, collect my gift then have a feast, sometimes sharing sometimes too greedy. I was 5 years old and then Uncle died in a flood, and I was very sad and scared to go to sleep but prayed for Uncle to come back one day if I behaved nicely.

I loved my multi coloured frilly dress which Tanty made on her singer sewing machine and decked out with my flip flops then later little cute pump shoes. I used to like to dress up for church but also enjoyed going to the beach for swimming with Papa and my siblings after Sunday mas. Then we would come home to a feast of Sunday special food prepared by Tanty and the older sisters. Everyone had siesta after that feast, then more eating before bedtime. At the back of our house was a river with a bridge which I crossed to go into the family estate with Papa, we picked all variety of fruits like mangoes, plums, oranges and kimmit which changed colour to a rich purple. My brother caught fishes in the steam but I was warned not to go near there in case I fell in. When I was 4 years old, I attended kindergarten school in another village called Los Charos, where I met Gloria, my first and best friend, later I met a boy called Carol who lived in our village. Gloria and I have remained friends for life – she lives in USA and I am here in UK.

My Island Homes by Daksheenie Abeywardene

They say home is where the heart is,
But can one split ones heart in two?
Serendipitous Sri Lanka,
Ceylon in the  days of yore,
My flight touches it’s ground
And I say to myself

The warm Indian ocean
Lapping gently on soft white sand,
Mountains, waterfalls and rivers,
Tea plantations and paddy fields,
Family friends and feasts.
My yearning is satisfied.

My mind flies ahead of me,
My own bed, I wonder how the garden fares,
The changing of the seasons,
The parks, the theatre and galleries,
Restaurants and café’s.
A very different life.
Its time to return.
My flight touches down on England’s soil,
And I say to myself

Daksheenie as a child

Baby Boomer by Liza Castellino

Born at the time of the second World War, I am the second of four siblings – my elder sister and twin brothers. The lads died within hours of their birth, when I was around 5 years of age and I’m told that upon my Mum’s return from hospital, distraught at being cheated of having younger brothers with whom to play, I beat my Mum and told her to return to the hospital to fetch the boys home. Mum and Dad had lived in two other rented places in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. Though just a babe at the second one which was opposite the railway station, I have since visited it and met the former neighbours. I learned from Mum, that while Dad was at work and she went shopping daily to purchase ingredients for meals, a mature couple used to keep an eye on me. Around the time I was eight months old and when the couple breakfasted, they would feed me morsels that I chewed on contentedly. On Mum’s return from the bazaar (that’s the market-place), she would offer me milk in the feeding bottle which I would sip and push away. The more she coaxed me to drink the lot, the more I resisted and would cry aloud. One day the neighbour came in to investigate the reason for my cries and when Mum related my tantrums to her, the lady explained that they were in the habit of feeding me solids and it could be that I was too full to finish the whole bottle of milk.

When I was a mere toddler we moved into the third rented place opposite the church behind which was the school my sister and I attended, a Hindu temple and mosque to the right, as well as the wet fish and fruit markets a little distance away. One incident of which I learned later was that living as we did in a rented one room tenement opposite the stairs on the first floor of a three storied building, my Dad had constructed a wooden barrier. They comprised of two equal widths and height placed one above the other and slotted between the sides of the door to keep me from wandering. One day when Dad was at work, Mum at the bazaar for the day’s food purchases, my sister set off for school.  She removed the top slat, hurdled over the lower one and presumably forgot to replace the top slat. She waved to me a few times, said goodbye and when she was out of sight I scrambled over the single slat, lowered myself down the stairs and out of the building. As I toddled about, the public on their way to work grew concerned at seeing me unaccompanied.  Someone took me to the nearest police station and it was decided to parade me in the area where I was discovered.  A coolie (porter) was hired on whose shoulders I sat and he walked up and down the pavement accompanied by a policeman. Meanwhile, not finding me home on her return home, Mum made exhaustive enquiries of the neighbours on our floor and upstairs in case somebody had noticed I was alone and had taken me to their home. One or two of the neighbours took it on themselves to look for me outside the building and a lady who was setting off to work recognized me. Approaching the policeman, she told him the room number where he would find my mother and relieved at seeing me back safe and sound, Mum listened absent-mindedly to the policeman lecturing her on children’s safety.

Chubby as I grew, with masses of dark, long hair, my Mum made ringlets and sometimes plaited my hair which were occasionally tied with a bow at the top of my head. I made a pretty brides-maid at two weddings – that of my Mum’s brother when his intended insisted I had my hair set because the other bridesmaid had short hair, and that of my Godfather when someone applied make-up to my face as well as lipstick. I was so afraid the lipstick would smudge, that I didn’t eat, drink, or speak that entire day. Apart from those bespoke dresses, Mum sewed all our clothes – even the school uniforms, but never with pockets; she opined that we would be inclined to fidget with them, the seams of the pockets would come undone and make work for her to mend them.

Among our few sticks of furniture was a deckchair on which Mum would sit bolt upright with a plate of food that she fed me at meal times until before I went to school. One fine evening when she vacated the deckchair to replenish the plate, I noticed a kind of rolling pin protruding from the top of the deckchair which I reached and pulled out. When Mum returned with a full plate and sat on the deckchair her legs flew up in the air, her head hit the floor, the plate fell out of her hands, the food scattered everywhere and I roared with laughter. When she had picked herself up, she smacked me a couple of times, grumbled about waste of good food and how she laboured to prepare it, replaced the bolt and tidied up the place.

Delicate Ixida, living next door, was the only child of around my age on our floor with whom I could play. Her Mum regarded me as a tomboy – rough and ready to go to any lengths, so Ixida would be let out only if I promised to be gentle with her. When Ixida was admitted to the school opposite us at the age of five, an elderly neighbour approached Mum to make her aware and told her to get me admitted as well. Mum remonstrated saying I was just four years old, didn’t know the alphabet, nor numbers, and she would apply for my admission the following year. The old dear was insistent until Mum gave way, lied about my age to the clerk dealing with admissions and got me in. I’m told, returning home at the close of my first day at school, I rattled off the alphabet and numbers and went on to be first in class year on year, completing my secondary education at the age of 15.

A typical school day started at 9.30am with assembly in front of the closed church doors with announcements from the Principal followed by the assembled girls singing ‘Father We Thank Thee for The Night’.  Then each class would file the length of the church compound to get to the school building and make our way to our respective classrooms. There would be three sessions in the morning each terminating at the ring of the bell when the teacher left and the next one entered. We broke up at 12.30 pm for lunch and returned at 2 pm for another three sessions finishing for the day at 4.30 pm. The subjects we learned were Religious education for the Christians and Moral Science for pupils of other faiths; English Literature; Indian History; World Geography; Science which comprised Hygiene and Physiology; Drawing and Painting; Drill and Games.  Thursdays were holidays.  On Sundays Catholic school children were encouraged to assemble in the school hall for the 10am Mass.  At 4.30pm we attended an hour’s Catechism class and then filed into church at 5.30pm to recite the rosary before benediction. After that friends would decide to either stand around in groups and talk until they were ready to return home, or if they fancied walking there were two choices: either walk up the bridge to Clare Road and back, or walk to Victoria Gardens where there was free entry through turnstiles.  There were caged animals, birds and fish to see, camel and elephant rides, the latter on a howdah sitting cheek by jowl with others; admire nature as they walked the length and breadth of the gardens before closing time.

From the very start of our school days, Mum got my sister and me into the habit of changing out of our school uniforms on our return home. We would get into our play gear before tucking into the sweet she always prepared for us, wash it down with a glass of milk and sit with our school homework. That done, we would go out to play and as most of my classmates lived locally, we would plan to meet in the church compound where we would play hopscotch and hide and seek, spin tops, fly kites and skip until Angelus time towards 6.30pm.  If I wasn’t home by then, Mum would yell my name from across the street and I’d race home not thinking to say goodbye to my friends. Then I’d have a quick shower, change for bed, eat my dinner and visit one of two neighbours.

Only one family on our floor owned a radio and in the early 1950s Radio Ceylon presented English pop music called Binaca Hit Parade on a certain weekday. That’s when the youngsters from all households congregated to listen at 8pm.  SKOKIAN, written by a Zimbabwean musician in the late 1940s that the likes of Louis Armstrong, Bill Hayley and others made popular within a year of its release in 1954 in South Africa, was my favourite song. I sang it incessantly and maybe it was the talisman that led me to Africa on marriage. On other days I would go to a different neighbour where four retired men played cards and when one of them was unavailable, I took his place.  I learned to play poker, rummy and seven hands also known as whist.

Except for one Muslim family on the second floor, the rest were Catholic and it was decided to have an altar erected to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour who is venerated among several cultures. Weekly novenas to her continue to be held on Wednesdays in the part of Mumbai from which I originate and several miracles are reported almost daily. Blessed by the church Vicar, the framed picture was installed with great pomp and every day all the households would gather on the first floor at 8.30pm to recite the rosary.  Each family took it in turns to lead the recitation on a monthly basis, concluding with a different hymn. That would be done in 20 minutes or so and by 9pm my sister and I would roll out the mat, take a pillow and sheet each for covering and be fast asleep.

The next morning Dad would wake us up by 5.30 and after putting away the bedclothes and replacing the mat in its rightful place, we would have a quick wash and change of clothes, attend the 6 o’clock Mass, be home by 6.30 when Mum would have chappatis ready to dip into our tea. My sister and I would share the housework: washing the crockery, cutlery drying and putting them away, sweeping the floor, dusting the furniture, packing the day’s school books in our respective satchels, then change into our uniforms by which time Mum would have the porridge ready. When we had eaten that we could leave for school taking care to cross the busy road along which plied double decker trams, buses. lorries, cars, cyclists that honked interminably to warn pedestrians to get out of the way, besides horse drawn carriages that we called garries.  One incident I can remember full well to this day, is when I crossed that road by myself at the age of perhaps five. Ixida, from next door insisted on crossing with a senior girl from the building who was late descending the stairs this particular morning; so I invited Ixida to cross with me instead. When she declined, I stepped into the road looking neither right nor left and I was soon kissing the horse that the carriage driver had reined in to an abrupt halt. The driver ranted on a bit but that didn’t put me off crossing the road by myself – I had learned a lesson and was cautious thereafter. On another occasion my sister returned from school saying her teacher had said we ought to drink eight glasses of water daily.  So after breakfast the next morning she drank eight glasses of water. Mum was present and tried to stop her saying the teacher meant eight glasses a day, not at one time; but my sister wouldn’t listen. When she had drunk the final glass she vomited violently and out came the porridge she had eaten, too.

For our biannual holiday we went to my Gran’s place in Goa because Dad got free rail passes for the family as a perk of his job with the Great India Peninsular Railway. Aware mangoes are my favourite fruit, Gran had a store of them packed in straw, nestled in a vast bin but as a child, I didn’t realise they were available only in the months of April, May and June. Naturally, when we returned to Goa in the months of October or November there were none to be had and I would chastise my Gran who would placate me with other food items. I was always excited to stay at Gran’s. Each morning the breadman would cycle past calling out his wares and I would rush to the boundary fence for the fresh hot dog shaped buns. Mum would follow to buy the household’s requirements and pay for them all.  Mum’s sister who kept house for Gran would break a fresh coconut saving me the delicious water to drink and scrape half the coconut for my sister and me. We sweetened the shredded coconut with sugar before stuffing it into the buns and I devoured mine with gusto. Towards 10 o’clock my sister and I would each take a towel, a change of clothes and climb the hill behind Gran’s house to the place where there was a steady stream of water that gushed down the rocks.  The temperature of the water used to be just right at that time and after towelling ourselves dry and getting into dry clothes, we would go beyond looking for cashews.  I liked eating cashews too and removing the seed, that grows on the outside of the fruit, I would wipe the fruit to my clothes before biting into the flesh. By the end of our holiday there would be a collection of seeds to which either Gran or Mum would set fire, blackening the outside. When they had cooled down my sister and I would peel off the shell and eat the nut as we know it. We recited the rosary daily in Goa as well but with all the doors and windows shut and bolted, no electricity, we lit our way through the rooms with lamps that stayed alight with paraffin in the holder. I would invariably fall asleep and Gran would nudge me awake to recite a decade, promising to give me a tot of feni (the local brew that comes in two types: cashew, and toddy palm) once we finished the rosary. True to her word, she would ceremoniously pour into my special wineglass a teaspoonful of the liquor that I drank and retired to bed a happy bunny. I got into the habit of having a soft-boiled egg each morning for breakfast because Gran kept chickens. So one holiday I asked Gran if she would let me have a chicken to take back home. She consented and on the day of our departure I lined Mum’s solar topee with straw, placed the chicken there with some grain, covered it with my straw hat and was ever so careful with the package. On arriving at Castle Rock everyone was obliged to alight, luggage needed to be hauled out of the compartment for the Customs Officer to look for smuggled goods, passengers were searched and an Officer even climbed into the carriage to check that no contraband was secreted away.  When I was asked to show the Officer the contents of the hats I declined steadily but she had her way and on seeing the chicken she laughed, replaced the straw hat and rumpled my hair. Dad built a cage for the chicken and for lack of space around the room, the cage sat on the window sill. Each morning on returning from Mass, I’d unlock the gate and the chicken would hop down to the floor, eat the grain and drink the water put out for her.  When she left a deposit on the floor, we would sprinkle it with sawdust and sweep it up with the broom. She grew into a lovely speckled hen and in a few months she started to lay an egg daily. Mum got me into the practice of placing the egg in a cup of cold water each night and the following morning I had it raw for breakfast and enjoyed having it slide down my throat.  When the hen took a break after a three-week laying period, Mum bought a couple of eggs from the market for the hen to hatch. Twenty-one days later I was tickled to see two little chicks. As they grew bigger, it was evident that the cage was too small for the trio and the mother hen was slaughtered for the next big festival. The chickens used to occasionally spread their wings and attempt to fly which I found very amusing.  Sometimes one or other would fly to the top of the cage and a family member would entice her down again with grain. But one fine day when nobody was paying attention, it flew away and we were left with just one.  I mourned her loss and was more vigilant with the other.  In time the chicken, now a full-grown hen, laid eggs and I could have a raw egg each morning.  She too was slaughtered for an occasion and the cage was cast away.

Life in the years I grew up was difficult because of the scarcity of food in the aftermath of the second world war, which led to rationing. The public formed long queues in the tropical sun and the heavy monsoons for grain, sugar, milk powder and paraffin. Often, on reaching the point where we expected to be served we would learn stocks had depleted and we were to return another day.  Mum cooked meals on a paraffin stove that needed a wick which needed to come in contact with the paraffin before it would light.  It was a laborious job inserting the wick and Mum’s persistence invariably paid off.

THEN AND NOW by Sue Evangelou
THEN – I lie in a moss lined dell watching the red squirrels leaping from branch to branch of the tall pine trees as they search for pine nuts and scatter emptied cones around me. Ferns tickle my nose and I pluck a pink freckled flower from a nearby foxglove and pop it in the palm of my hand. I like the sound it makes.

NOW – I sit on the director’s chair. I rescued this chair when it had been dumped in a road nearby. It’s a sunny day.  The grey squirrels have been out causing havoc earlier but now it is peaceful. There is persistent humming sound.  I look up and in the branches of the arbutus tree I can see bumble bees of all shapes and sizes feasting on the nectar of the small white flowers. Ferns grow in the garden and foxgloves. There is even some moss in shady corners.

THEN – Teddy was already old when he was given to me. Teddy with his round black button eyes and threadbare nose. I tell Teddy stories to keep him amused.  He doesn’t always talk to me because sometimes his growler doesn’t work no matter how I hold him.

NOW – Now Teddy and I are both old. We like to think we have aged gracefully.  Maybe the ladies at the Repair Shop could renovate Teddy but really I like him just the way he is.  I do worry about what will happen to him when I am gone. Now instead of telling stories to Teddy, I type them out. They are mostly family stories. Memories to leave behind.

THEN – I make my way to the oak tree. It is very big. I can climb a little way up  but I am too scared to go higher. My brother goes much further. He’s bigger than me. Dodo and Deedee are here. They have white powered hair. Dodo wears a satin jacket, an embroidered waistcoat with shiny buttons and knee breeches. Deedee wears a long side hooped silk dress and has a patch beauty spot on her cheek.  They have leapt out of my book about Cinderella to come to live in the oak tree.

NOW – Now it is me that has white hair. I can go to the V & A Museum to look at the 18th century costumes there. I can go upstairs and pull out the drawers to see all sorts of fabrics from every age. I can meet my friends for a trip to the Textile Museum to see a Jazz Age clothes exhibition and study the fabrics used.   I can watch historical dramas on TV and of course Poirot.

THEN – The oak tree provides me with acorn cups to use in the house I share with Mr. Rarrey. Whilst he is out driving his jewel laden lorry I am busy cleaning the sand stone floor with a rhododendron twig.  I make his mud pie dinner and serve it on leaf plates. Sometimes I give him shiny red rowan berries for his pudding.

NOW –  I have cups of all shapes and sizes. I love pottery especially from Charity shops and Ebay. Maybe it is because I lived near the Potteries when young.  I try to keep the house as clean as I did for Mr. Rarrey but I am not as thorough as I ought to be.  My husband is retired.  He didn’t drive a lorry full of jewels but he did work in a bank in the City and I do prepare him delicious meals that aren’t mud pies.

THEN – Mrs. Gray lives with her family in the dolls house that my Grandad made for my mother. Mrs. Gray wears 1870’s clothes that I have found pictures of in a book.  I make her clothes from 6 penny bundles of remnants that are sold on Market Day in the small town a bus ride away.

NOW – I still have two of the outfits I made for Mrs. Gray – only because my mother thought to save them. I am amazed at what I achieved at such a young age – all hand sewn.  Now of course I use a sewing machine.  I wanted to be a dress designer at one stage and filled notebooks with my ideas.  Throughout my life I have made clothes, curtains, patchwork quilts.  I have a stash of fabrics that needs to be culled.  Will that happen? We shall see.

THEN – Near the back door there is a rounded indentation in the sandstone bank. I can squeeze in there.  It is my magic cave. I can put my treasures in its niches – a tiny blue feather from a Jay’s wing, a shell from a seaside visit, a shiny smooth stone, a pinecone, a brightly coloured marble.

NOW – I still collect treasures.  They are dotted around our home.  Some are boot sale or charity shop finds, others are mementoes of dear friends and family.  I  have found blue Jay feather or two in our garden and still admire their beauty.   Visits to Cyprus always involve beach walks to search for sea glass.  Someday soon I am going to have to sort out my treasures as well as my fabrics.

THEN – I found Sammy on the ground.  A pink skinned little heap.  I looked up but I could not see where he had come from. I very carefully lifted him and took him to show my Mum.  She found an old shoe box which we lined with cotton wool.  We fed him on Farex (a baby food that I still liked to eat even though I wasn’t a baby anymore) with a tiny dolls spoon.  Sammy liked Farex as well.  As he grew his feathers we found from the Observers Book of Birds that he was a Song Thrush.  He grew bigger and got fidgety so I took him outside. I gently nestled him in my open palms and encouraged him to fly.  He managed it.  Eventually he stayed outside but each morning when I went out and called to him he flew down to sit on my shoulder to say hello.  Then came the day when he didn’t fly down to my shoulder. Mum said he was living a happy life with the other birds. I hoped she was right.

NOW – I still love the birds I see in the garden.  We don’t have any Song Thrushes but there are Robins, Blackbirds, Blue tits, Coal tits, Long tailed tits, Jays, Magpies, Wood Pigeons (who are sometimes in disgrace because they think the vegetables we are growing are for them) and my top favourites, Wrens.  One year wrens nested in the bird cage we have hanging from a branch of the Arbutus tree.  They could fly in and out between the bars of the cage.  Hopefully they will come again.

THEN – Mum gave me some Nasturtium seeds to plant and they grew.  I was so pleased.  Mum takes us on nature walks where we look for wild flowers.  John runs ahead so he can have a rest whilst Lizzie, Mum and I catch up.  One time we found some Scarlet Pimpernels.  They are hard to spot. We only take one stem of any flower as Mum tells us it wasn’t right to pull the plants up.  When we get home we press our wild flowers between blotting paper and put them in heavy books.

NOW – I still remember the names of the wild flowers and names of the different parts of a flower. I enjoy spotting wild flowers wherever we go.  I also enjoy growing our own flowers, shrubs and trees in the garden.  When I was in my 50s I very narrowly missed getting a job at the Natural History Museum.  This was looking after the pressed flowers there, pressing new flower exhibits and showing the pressed flowers to school children when they came to visit the Museum.   It would have been fun but at the time the policy was you had to leave there at 60 so I think that tipped the balance against me.

Sue Evangelou aged 6

A Message to Me by Sue Farr

You were such a nice little girl

Pretty, happy, loved
You were the first born to lovely parents, the first child for the family
You were very special and made to feel special and loved
Learning to be kind and caring
You were a lucky little girl
Experiencing nice places
Learning to behave socially
To grow in confidence
And using so much of that learning
Towards becoming the Big Girl
Keep being kind and caring
Not so caring that you don’t find time for yourself
Keep a sese of fun
It’s ok to be childish at times
Keep that sense of wonder
See things differently – anew
Like your child rediscovering
Laugh a lot
Don’t be weary
Don’t be scared of the future
Always wonder at the beauty around us
Take more time to focus on beauty
Its ok to reflect but take the best
Bits for not and share them.
Give thanks for all the people who have shaped your life
Support you, cared for you, loved you
Taught you and with you on this journey
Don’t waste it
Care for other people
Care for yourself
Care for this world
Take nothing for granted
Wonder in it
You have been a special part of something very special
You still are
Don’t waste it.


Rules and Risk as a Boy of 15 in ‘62 by Alex Grott

In house I didn’t have rules, but then didn’t upset the cart,
being happy at home, parents are held in your heart.
There were some jobs that had to get done,
and yes they were not always great fun.
My special task was chopping wood for the fire,
doing dishes with my brothers created not too much ire.
Scrumping apples and pears from gardens could be risky,
to get over the fence you had to be frisky.
Riding bikes was daring when fast downhill,
sometimes you just felt the need for a thrill.
“Had your eyeful,” boys would call as you were walking along,
I glared back with a reply, pretending to be strong.
In the sixties you were always out of the house,
there was risk but few rules, like the life of a mouse.

My Teenage Days by Diana Wee
I belonged to an old fashioned Buddhist family. We were almost like vegetarians,  completely no red meat. On festival days there would be a chicken on the dinner table or a big fried fish and that was so luxurious.  My grandmother ruled the house and everyone obeyed. We lived in a big house together with my father’s two other married  brothers and their children. My parents were very laid back and concentrated on looking after the family business, we had a ‘Tin Mining’ business and let my grandmother get on with the household things.
When I was a little girl, about 7 or 8 years, I never had any toys or dolls to play with. I enjoyed playing with all my three brothers and two boy cousins climbing trees, learning to ride a bicycle, on those big man’s bicycle and kept falling and bruised my knees and arms, or go catching little fishes in small streams and also bought fighting fishes, put two fishes together in a jar and watched them fight. As we were growing up, my grandmother taught us to play chess, ‘Chinese chess’.  There were two chess boards, one for advanced players and another for beginners and we were engrossed with the game all day long. As I got older, I learnt singing in school and to this day still love singing.  After school I would follow a school friend home to sing all the radio songs. I used to buy song books every month to join friends to sing after school and that upset my parents because my school report was poor.  Never had lovely clothes like girls of today. All I wore were baggy blouses and trousers, every  year my aunt sent me three dresses and that had to last for the whole year. So I made up my mind to make my own dresses, learnt simple dress making at school and when I started work,  joined a dressmaking class and made my own dresses.
During my growing up days I also had some neighbouring girl friends who taught me a lot of girlie things which helped and gave me confidence to behave like a girl among all my brothers and cousins. At this period my grandmother noticed I was growing up and secretly learning to dance, so she forbade me from going dancing, no late nights, have to be home by 10pm, and absolutely no boyfriends. But there was always a way! My grandmother owned a hair dressing salon for ladies, the girls go dancing after work, I went with them saying we are visiting friends, and stayed the night with them. One day grandmother checked with her friends and found out I had been going dancing. So staying the night with the girls was completely cancelled. One night, I went dancing again and got home past midnight, crept quietly indoors, and there was my Dad sitting in the dark waiting for me, that shocked me a bit. I longed to be free and enjoy life like my friends, have some freedom, go to parties and enjoy without worrying having to answer questions when I get home, had thought about leaving home but did not have the guts to leave. Those were my restricted teenage days.


My teens – an upheaval by Hilda Castillo
I was slim with a big plait of hair, big brown eyes and beautiful skin. I did not have much clothes and wore hand-me-downs from my cousins, older sister and some bought by my eldest sister. I loved shorts and tops in bright colours. I remembered having only two dresses, one for every day and the other for going to church. I lived in a village called Rancho and it seemed like every family had twelve children so there were lots of children about. I used to spend days and sometimes nights at the Sanchez family who lived near by, and they would sleep over at mine. We used to ride our bicycles in the moon-light while the grownups will tell stories and chat from their door steps. We had treats like homemade ice cream and ground parched corn with brown sugar called ‘chilly bibby’. On Saturday afternoon, I would go with some of my friends to the movies and we sat in the ‘pits’ because it was the cheapest tickets and had enough to by peanuts and a cream soda drink. I liked pitching marbles in the street with my brothers and their friends because I was a tom boy.

I was very sad because at ten years, I went to Belmont which is in the city to live with my eldest sister for about three years. I was homesick and saw my family from time to time. I remember having more clothes and going on short day trips to visit my cousins. By thirteen years, I was back in Rancho and very happy to be home with my parents and old friends. I started to listen to Top of the Pops, and remembered the song ‘Leaving on a jet plane’ which was so canny because at 20 years, I did leave on a jet plane bound to UK.
At fourteen years, I left Rancho to board in another part of Belmont to attend a private Catholic Girls High School. My first private boarding accommodation was a nightmare, the elderly lady was cruel and treated me as a servant girl so I wrote to Tanty to ask her to come and take me home. By good fortune, the school mistress, Millina and her husband Eric, offered my parents to allow me to board at their house with no extra cost. This was a turning point in my life as I was very happy and lived with this family until I was eighteen years. I was blissfully happy as there were three nieces and one stepson who all spoiled me rotten. I had my own bedroom and slept in a four poster bed – how surreal fora poor county lass!! The family had a cook, gardener, dress maker and many friends in the political world so I thanked God for his blessings. I even thought about dedicating my live to be a nun, but my eldest brother soon talk me out of that, I was scouted to be a teacher like my eldest sister.
I was allowed to go to Carnival with the older girls. I did fairly well at school, voted as a prefect and played rounders and basketball for the school and was also a ranger. I also had some beautiful handmade dresses and my blue graduation dress was my favourite. Some of friends and Captain came to Rancho on camp, stayed at my Papa’s house. We had a ball and got up to all sorts of mischief like smoking on the way home from a village wake. I attended private Spanish classes and had my first love crush at 17 years and first date at 18 years. That was then – in the 60s and 70s but I still hold the memories of the twists and turns in my live. I always tell my children that my childhood experience had prepared me for leaving home and making the transition to live in another country as my second home.


Saturday Nights – North Staffordshire v North Wales by Sue Evangelou.

Jan and I spent a long time getting ready for Saturday night. It was the high spot of our week. We coaxed our hair into enormous rollers and then when dry, backcombed it into a cottage loaf style glued fast with lacquer bought by the bottle from a chemist’s shop in Market Drayton, a bus ride away.  Jan lived in the house next door. We wore cardigans the wrong way round with homemade gathered skirts and a wide tight belt.  I had a pair of kitten heeled shoes with a

T-bar. Underneath our skirts we wore our net petticoats that were constantly added to when we were able to get to Market Drayton market to select a yard of pink, white or mauve net. We soaked our petticoats in a mix sugar and water.  This made them stiff – the bigger the better was our motto. In bad weather we would have to wear wellingtons or boots to walk down to the Village Hall. A nylon chiffon scarf would protect our hair and we would carry our dance shoes in a bag. A dash across the dance floor lined with inquisitive eyes after we had paid for our ticket and into the ladies to put on our shoes and add yet more mascara, pan stick and Tangee lipstick. Then we were ready.
Here were old friends from the village school and new friends. We danced to the rock band. We drank watered down orange juice – never a cup of tea that was not cool or hip. The boys arrived later, having felt it was necessary to gain Dutch courage at the pub. We didn’t mind because we could really dance better with each other, although Pete made a good job of jiving with us both, one on each arm. As the night wore on and we grew hotter our stiffened petticoats became droopy and limp. After walking home, the finale of our Saturday nights was spent in the Glass house (as we called it) a conservatory that adjoined the kitchen. Here John, my brother, Pete, Jan and I feasted on pickled onions, cheese and Tuc biscuits. Pete made a habit of making me laugh as soon as I had a mouth full. I suspect he did this on purpose.  We listened to music on a transistor radio turned down low.

Then life changed. Dad was ill and had to give up work. When I was 17 I moved from North Staffordshire with Mum and Dad to a small cottage in a Welsh speaking village in North Wales. We arrived just in time for the winter of 1962/1963 and soon the water pipes to the village were frozen and we had no running water for three months. My main mission was to climb over snow drifts to fetch water each day from the spring that Mrs. Roberts up the lane had told us about. Saturday nights at first were spent braving the cold and walking round to the lean-to at the back of the cottage where I could play the Roberts radio as loud as I liked and listen to the latest hits. No sound would seep through the two foot thick stone walls.  I danced with the back of a chair – a good partner but untalkative and a bit wooden. Later when the snow had melted and I had got my first job in Llanrwst, Dilys, one of my workmates had taken me under her wing. She taught me some Welsh and organised that we met up in Llanrwst on a Saturday night where we then got a lift to Denbigh Town Hall with one of the many farmers’ sons she knew. Here there was a Folk Dance.  It was a good job I had learnt the Gay Gordons, the Barn Dance and more at school.  There was no jiving at Denbigh Town Hall. I didn’t fit in with my beehive, stiletto shoes and makeup but no-one was unkind and I was just treated with gentle curiosity – an unusual exhibit.  By now my signature homemade outfit was a slim fitting dress with a frill down the front and fabric covered buttons and belt (a wonderful service offered by the drapers shop in Llanrwst). When the dance had finished Dilys once more arranged for any farmer’s son who lived near to Cefn Brith to give me a lift home. At home Mum was waiting and on her night shift. She would sleep in the chair during the evening and then wake fresh and ready to do jobs until the early hours.  The ironing would be neglected and she would make me a delicious cup of Horlicks and I would tell her about my evening. Then it was up to my tiny bedroom with a hot water bottle and drawing the curtains on the dark sky littered with sparkling stars.

Sue Evangelou collecting water from the spring in Wales aged 17

Jilted Lover by Liza Castellino

Tall, of a slim build, I wore flared skirts and three-quarter sleeved blouses that Mum continued to sew for me, besides my sister’s hand-me-downs. My aunt had taken a hair dressing course and trimmed my hair every six weeks. On the one occasion when I asked for a perm, the result was not at all what I expected and I brushed my hair vigorously every day to be rid of the tight curls. The two classmates with whom I kept in touch were Artemise who was very creative. She taught me to make paper flowers and helped me weave a two-tone shopping basket with pale green and cream plastic straws that I treasured for many years.  The other was Joyce who had a boyfriend of whom her parents disapproved. She would lie to her parents that she was visiting me and see the boyfriend instead.  When Mum’s younger brother, Tony, arrived from Goa on completing his secondary education, he lived with us initially and gained admission into college.  Having secured his Bachelor of Arts degree, he applied successfully for a posting in Dar-es-salaam, Tanganyika, East Africa. Hearing me sing SKOKIAN with the phrase ‘far away in Africa’ at every opportunity, his letters to Mum kept mentioning that if I was keen to be in Africa there was a great demand for teachers and stenographers. Considering a teaching career was preferrable to that of a stenographer, I approached the Principal of the school where I had studied to employ me as an assistant to the teacher of the infants. Dad’s earnings just about got us on the breadline and as he had retired whilst my elder sister and I were still at school, Mum had been drawing money from his meagre lump sum gratuity. My sister worked as a secretary and I being the only one needing to secure a teaching degree had to meet the college fees myself. When the Principal learned of my reason, she created the position for me to assist the teacher but I had no patience with the tykes and I left after the first term. Meanwhile, I had taken up Pitmans shorthand and typing and having attained a speed of 80 words per minute in typing, my godfather who was an insurance agent got me a job with one of his clients – a one man firm. My days were crammed: college hours were between7.30 and 10 am; then hurry to the office and work from 10.30 to 5pm with an hour for lunch and be home by 6pm to prepare college homework for the following day before my shower, meal and so forth. I made many friends at college and I invariably accept invitations to go to a dance, picnic, or pay a visit to their homes at weekends. That’s how I met a lad’s parents and sister with all of whom I was reunited at my nephew’s wedding, on my return to India on holiday from Africa several years later. A gentleman who worked in a nearby office and rode a motorbike visited an upstairs neighbour each week and somehow got to know us as well. He would occasionally invite me to ride pillion with him and on a couple of occasions took me to the grounds of his office where cherry trees grew in abundance. I invariably brought home a container full of pink, semi-sweet cherries – not  at all like the ones I’ve had here and in other countries. Mum noticed that when I married he never returned to the building which leads me to think he may have had a soft corner for me.
Six months into my first job in Mumbai, I applied and was successful securing a secretarial position with a leading confectionery firm. Everyone was very friendly and once the monsoons were over there would be picnics to attend and invitations to visit hill stations. At one such picnic to which friends of colleagues were welcome, one of the two male childhood friends wanting to know me better got his three sisters to join in the conversation. His name was Tommy. Torres was the other. It transpired that Tommy was in the Indian air force, got transferred to various locations within the country, was stationed in Bangalore at the time we met and was back home on vacation. Torres was an outstanding photographer and graphic designer with a leading firm in Mumbai. Tommy was a regular visitor taking me to the cinema and dances sometimes with his sisters and we got serious. Getting to know my parents, he asked if we would consider storing a piano for his pianist dad who taught the instrument. With their consent, the piano was duly delivered accompanied by his dad, who got me interested in playing it. Tommy played several popular songs for us and his dad would come along once weekly to give me a lesson. As his departure for Bangalore dawned, we promised to write to each other and aerogrammes flew between us. He requested Torres to take me out from time to time and Torres duly made me aware of events as they unfolded. Tommy’s next posting was Kashmir and we continued to exchange letters. Fifteen months later a family friend, who had once said I was not to be too serious with the guys he had seen me with, brought over his cousin whose ship from Africa had docked in Mumbai harbour on Boxing Day. The young man said he was Tony Castellino, a steam locomotive driver with Nyasaland Railways, who had returned home after a five-year renewable contract. Though both my parents were at home that Sunday morning, I was at church. Realizing my Dad was deaf mute, Tony began to ‘sign’ to him including him in the ensuing conversation, so you can guess my Dad’s delight with him. Mum was always a matchmaker and thought with his personality and good looks, Tony would be a good catch for marriageable girls.  She lost no time contacting the respective parents to make them aware of the handsome suitor. Tony returned a couple of days later with his priest brother, Conrad, and this time I was home. Among other things, he mentioned that although his home town was Ajmer in Rajasthan, his father had come to Mumbai with Fr Conrad, Principal of a boys’ school in Udaipur, to welcome Tony home.  The three-week voyage had been very enjoyable at which he had dined at the Captain’s table and danced with an English lady of rank, whose toes he had stamped several times, so he had bought a copy of Victor Silvester’s Sequence Dancing and planned to improve.
As was customary, Mum and I went visiting relatives on New Year’s Day. Tony and his brother were at the head of the queue and we acknowledged their presence.  Tony came up to me saying they were on their way to see Holiday on Ice and his father being unwell, I was welcome to join them so the ticket was not wasted. I thanked him for the offer but declined saying I had been saving desperately for several months to cover the expense not just of the tickets, but for warm clothing for my parents and me to wear at the event, as well as for the return taxi fares when the show concluded at night. Mum had never wanted to see Holiday on Ice saying she and Dad were too old to be out late at night, they were not accustomed to the cold and would probably fall asleep being used to early nights in bed, it would be a waste of hard-earned money.  hen we boarded the bus Tony and his brother sat in the front seats of the double decker being unfamiliar with Mumbai, while Mum and I sat at the rear, where Mum persisted I approach Tony to agree to go to the show.  She went on to say I could rest assured there would be no hanky-panky as Tony’s priest brother would play ‘gooseberry’. Realizing resistance was futile, I relented and doing as she bade me went up to the guys and consented to accompany them. There, I met their uncle and aunt who had travelled down from Ajmer, as well as aunt’s brother and his recently-acquired wife, both of whom Tony and his brother met for the first time. At the interval, Tony bought us all drinks and snacks and in the conversation that followed I revealed among other things, the firm at which I worked in Fort area as a secretary and the college degree for which I was studying. Lo and behold the next evening the Company Receptionist phoned me 15 minutes before closing time to say I had a visitor. Tony was that visitor and he wondered if we might visit the nearby Cowasji Jehangir Hall – a museum of modern art – before returning home.  There was no way of letting Mum know I’d be home late, but sure she would understand there was a reason, I agreed. On the way home Tony invited me to the function taking place the following night on the terrace of the hotel where he was staying in Clare Road, just walking distance from my home, which I accepted with alacrity. The evening was mild, the terrace suitably festooned with flashing, coloured lights, balloons and streamers with newcomers putting in an appearance non-stop. The evening was packed with games and I admired Tony’s get-up-and-go attitude, he seemed to enjoy every aspect of the frivolity while I sat in one place like a wallflower.  When he beckoned to me and even neared me to coax me into participating, I declined and just enjoyed watching folk make asses of them-selves. Despite that, Tony continued to meet me at the office to go to the cinema, or a gallery, or simply walk along Back Bay, which is similar to the seaside promenade here, but built up so one can sit on the bank comfortably when the sea spray doesn’t wet it, instead of on benches.  Folk sit there and pass the time consuming Bombay mix, savouring slices of watermelon, or quaffing the cool, sweet water of a tender coconut and scooping the luscious, jelly-like kernel inside. Tony didn’t propose marriage, it was just a mutual understanding that we would marry. It dawned on me that the days had sped by and I hadn’t responded to Tommy’s weekly aerogrammes, nor had I slit them open to read the contents.  I did tell Tony of my relationship and the exchange of correspondence and he would tease me about it occasionally. When I told Mum one morning on her return from the bazaar that she was to stop telling her cronies of the handsome bachelor because I was interested in him that way, she was shocked to the core. My 18th birthday was a week away and she hadn’t expected me to marry that early, let alone leave for Africa. Unable to talk the situation over with Dad because she didn’t know to ‘sign’ and would have to write her concerns for him to read and vice versa, as soon as she had cooked and packed the tiffin box for the tiffin carrier to take to my office, she left home to consult Dad’s married sister in Lower Parel. Luck was in her favour. Aunty said she knew a good friend in Bandra, who was expecting guests arriving from Africa around the time Tony’s ship had docked and maybe they would be able to shed light on his integrity. They left immediately for Bandra and it transpired the couple had indeed sailed on the same ship and knew Tony very well. They mentioned he put in an appearance at the Goan Social Club whenever his duties allowed and they spoke of his being a sought-after Master of Ceremonies on special occasions. The husband, who worked for Nyasaland Railways as an accountant, was even able to reassure Mum that Tony earned good money, that he would qualify for married quarters and that she could rest assured I would be treated handsomely. Her mind calm, Mum went full steam ahead and the next few days were spent shopping for material for a bespoke trousseau, wedding dress, veil, artificial bouquet and a few pairs of shoes for myself, as well as for the bridesmaid, who was to be Aunty’s eldest daughter, Josephine.  Tony’s younger brother, Boni would be best man and we arranged to get wedding rings from the jewellers. Mum’s elder brother, whose bridesmaid I had been, wrote to his brother in Dar-es-salaam telling him the saga and he in turn replied saying their married first cousin lived in Nyasaland and that her husband also worked with Nyasaland Railways. That gave him the opportunity to enquire with them about Tony’s rectitude and back came a positive response that he relayed to Mum.  Tony and I were engaged on my 18th birthday. Thereafter, Tony and I went round each evening after I finished work, inviting family and close friends to the nuptials, followed by tea and cake at the house. The three banns were read in church on three consecutive Sundays and Artemise rushed over after Mass the first Sunday to enquire if she had heard right; she just couldn’t believe the news.  The wedding was held on Shrove Tuesday because Ash Wednesday heralds Lent, when no marriages are permitted. My two bosses attended as well but rushed off to the office immediately. The aunt who used to trim my hair was also the needlework mistress at the school where I studied and came over at lunch time to say the convent sisters were expecting Tony and me to tea at 4 o’clock.  Apparently from their window they had seen us emerge from the church posing for photographs and knowing aunt was related to me, they verified it was indeed I because they doubted it could, being still a teenager. At the tea party Tony and I were pleasantly surprised to be served succulent, pastel shade pancakes with a sweet shredded coconut filling. It was only then that we realized it was Pancake Tuesday and observed it thenceforth. It being a moveable feast, we celebrated twice annually on our wedding anniversary, as well as on Pancake Tuesday itself. After dinner that evening we took the train to Calcutta (now Kolkata) on the east coast and stayed with an aunt and uncle whose grown-up sons took us around the city to places of interest. On our journey back, Tony’s wallet with cash and train tickets was picked. Realizing we would be fined on arrival in Mumbai, we broke journey in Nagpur where a good family friend was station master and who happened to be on duty. He took us to his home and we were reunited with his family who insisted we stay a few days before returning home.  They bought our tickets to Mumbai, saying it was their wedding present to us and then followed another two visits to north India, to meet my parents-in-law in Ajmer, Rajasthan and see for ourselves the lavish royal palaces constructed in the middle of artificial lakes in Udaipur, where Fr Conrad was stationed.
Tony had told me on our journey to Calcutta that his Dad had lined up a bevy of girls as possible soul mates for Tony to meet and whom he had duly visited to keep Dad happy. I turned out to be his own choice which gladdened me. The imminent meeting for which I braced myself couldn’t have been better. There was a warm welcome and Dad said he had engaged a khansamah (a male cook) in order to be available with mother, to show me around the neighbourhood. Tony and his friends took me to visit their past haunts and to show me places of interest but it was all done on bikes. As I had never ridden one, I sat side saddle with Tony and the terrain being hilly, our hired bike laboured a lot with Tony making light of my weight. Father-in-law held a party for the neighbours at which the khansamah did us proud with the food he prepared for the occasion. Booze flowed, songs were sung and I gave a solo – the theme song from the film AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER that I had sung to our wedding guests. Boni was present for both performances as he had accompanied us on the Ajmer trip for a few days’ vacation. After Sunday Mass I was reunited with the aunt and uncle (who was Father-in-law’s younger brother) I had met in Mumbai and their three school-going children. They had previously arranged with Father to have Tony and me lunch with them and we all repaired to their home. Lunch there reminded me of Mum’s cooking – Goan food, not the khansamah’s preparation of north Indian dishes whose names I didn’t know and had never tasted, but to which I invariably did justice because of my adventurous palate and love of food.  I made the grave mistake of saying at the table how much I enjoyed the Goan meal, not meaning to be derogatory of the meals served at Tony’s place.
After a week in Ajmer we headed to Udaipur where I was astounded to see stunning sumptuous palaces constructed in the lake. On our visit to a nearby park Tony and I sat astride the statue of an elephant and then wandered into a secluded garden where students were reading on benches – perhaps in preparation for an exam – in the centre of which was a four-foot deep circular well with marble surround. I decided to walk along that in my heeled shoes and to my embarrassment slipped and fell into the water. Tony hauled me out and as we hastened out of the garden to get me out of my wet clothes and shoes, thunderous laughter broke out. It could have been the Ajmer aunt who mentioned my remark regarding food to the in-laws and when I returned to Mum’s in Mumbai, she lectured me on my ingratitude. It transpired Father-in-law had written her a letter to say I didn’t appreciate the expense to which he went to make my stay a happy one – so I didn’t make a good impression at all.
Now began a round of interviews for the Indian passport I needed to sail with Tony to Africa.  The bureaucracy was heart wrenching and we would return home exhausted each evening but successful after a two-month gruelling battle, we made time to visit relatives in Igatpuri, Nashik, the landlady in Bhusawal with whom Tony used to stay when he was on duty as a fireman, and accepted an office friend’s invitation to visit her in Poona (now Pune). My uncles and family friends in each of these places having been railwaymen, Tony recognized them from when his path crossed theirs during his fireman days and the few years he drove in India before applying for a position in Nyasaland and it was all ‘hail-fellow-well-met’, with outings arranged to meet their respective families and reminisce on the good old days.
On our return to Mumbai I finally made time to write Tommy a letter to let him know I had married, the various places in India I had visited and the hoops through which I went to secure a passport prior to leave the Indian sub-continent for Africa. I learned much later that Tommy took the news to heart and was sent home to Mumbai to recover.
Mum, Dad and my brother-in-law (sister’s husband, Elly) saw Tony and me off on the ss Karanja from Mumbai docks on 12th May 1959. It was an eventful voyage because although occupying cabins on the ship’s middle deck, we were permitted to mingle with passengers on the deck below comprising mostly Goans. They made a fuss of me on learning Tony and I were newlyweds and had been invited to dine with the Captain, or that we were attending the bi-weekly dances and they dolled me up for the occasions so that from then on Tony invariably called me ‘Doll’ when we were on our own.


Breaking the rules as a teenagerHilda Castillo

A TOM BOY: I used to love to tag along with my brothers and their friends when they went hunting for birds, squirrel and an Iguana. They would have a cook up in the bushes and I thought it was fun.
DANCING: I was a bit shy and not keen to dance. I can honestly say, I had 2 left feet and did not find it lady like to gyrate in front of people.
SWIMMING: I loved the beach limes and was a good swimmer. I loved the taste of mangoes after a swim and playing in the hot sand.
RISK TAKER: My mum once told me to take care of strangers as I will invite some strangers home to share out citrus fruits.
SMOKING: When I lived at my maternal grandmother house, my cousins and I will go outside at night to smoke rolled-up tobacco leaves and dry pea stalks. There was always a lookout person and we will pretend we were queuing up to use the outside toilet/latrine. We used handmade lanterns/flambo with a bottle filled with petrol and a wick. Sometimes we will throw them to start a ‘bomb’—dangerous but fun!!
LYING: Once, I went to a church fete in the country and could not get transport home. I stay at a school friend’s house; the boy’s mother was really helpful, with food, night clothes and sleeping alone. But I told a ‘big fib’ to my sister telling her that I had stay at my best friend Gloria’s house. Many years later, I could tell her the truth that nothing happened that night but there were no phones to make a call.
A HAIR CUT: I had a trim at 17 years and cut off my beautiful long plaits. Once it was done and I saw my locks on the floor, I cried like a baby.
NAUGHTY: One Christmas Eve after midnight mass and liming with my friends the door was locked when my brother and I got home. Anyway, we were able to climb through a window and dropped into the sitting room; the devil had entered our minds; there was the Christmas three will all the decorations and presents. We decide to have a quick peep, so we opened his and mines. I got my first wrist Timex watch with a beautiful brown leather straps—I very pleased because it was what I had requested. Eddy got new clothes and a new sling shot. We then re-wrapped the gifts and off to bed before raiding the kitchen for a snack of roasted homemade salted ham with pickle and sorrel drink. Next morning, my eldest sister suspected that the presents had been tampered but my brother and I kept smug as this was sure to earn us a beating and spoil our Christmas celebrations.
AN ADVENTURE: I once had my Secondary School friends from my rangers group to camp at my family home. I will write more details about this story in another episode.  MY LIFE WAS NEVER BORING!


My early 20s by Maureen Thomas
After training I came to work in London, at a residential children’s nursery in St John’s Wood. I was a Nursery Nurse, responsible for a group of children, alongside others, we worked shifts as it was 24 hour care. The big changes/branching out came in off duty time. I met Pat (still friends), who introduced me to Olga who already had her own flat, and the 3 of us, or just Olga and I, if Pat was on a different shift, would go out to nightclubs. Some of these were in the West End, some reggae clubs more local in Kilburn or Cricklewood. A completely new experience for me. I loved the music, meeting different people, different cultures and foods. We used to return in the early hours or later, in time to grab a couple of hours sleep before starting shift at 7am. We’d work until 10.30/11am then return to bed for another couple of hours before getting up for lunch & afternoon shift.
I also explored different areas of London. I lived quite near Regent’s Park where we would take the children occasionally, and round the corner from Abbey Road and the zebra crossing made famous by the Beatles. I paraded down Carnaby Street in my mini skirt and high boots, or hot pants or later maxi skirts. I met my husband-to -be in a west end nightclub, and he took me to other areas of London/ live shows. I also socialised with friends I’d met at college as well as work. Altogether a very different, exciting and sometimes scary phase of my life.
Did I have a sense of ‘becoming’? Not yet. I was still exploring, work, social life, marriage. Looking back I think I was rebelling from the ‘seeds’ of childhood. I was quite a ‘goody goody’ in my early teens, maybe up to 18, so I guess it had to come sometime! However the core values, and my favourite things from childhood were always there, and have continued to be evident throughout my life.


I thank God for the journey by Hilda Castillo
Down in Trinidad and Tobago, I ate callaloo, crab and dumplings.

Later I drank coconut water by the sea after swimming in the warm sea.
In the UK, I learnt the stiff upper lip and developed a taste for fish and chips.
My husband and children helped to keep me grounded and curbed that fiery
Spanish blood and the Scorpio sting.
Nursing was good for learning, caring and making many friends.
Diversity and Equality was abound but I stuck to the plan and retired in one piece.
My zest for traveling took me to many interesting, beautiful places
where, I enjoyed the rich architecture, cultural norms, different languages, currency and the cuisine to die for –
food glorious food and people makes the world a better place.
All my hobbies have helped me to relax, such as the painting, writing, cooking,
Reading and gardening, ‘me time’ with a BUZZ!!
My faith has been my rock,
through the ups and downs, heartache, bereavement and celebrations.
I thank God for the journey, so I say enjoy,
stay happy and FREE…..

Home, home on the range by Sue Evangelou
Barbara and I climbed the steps to the Post Office situated on the wide main street of the small ranching town. I needed to send a letter home. As we reached the door, it swung open and was held for us by a tall, cowboy booted, silver buckled, blue denim clad and Stetson topped man. Said Stetson being tipped in our direction with his free hand as we passed through, thanking him. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. All those early years of watching black and white cowboy films made inconsequential by the vision I had just beheld. Roy Rogers and Trigger eat your heart out – this was the real thing. Now I knew everything was going to be okay. I was 23, a greenhorn, newly arrived in Kamloops, a name that was derived from the Shuswap word for meeting of the waters, for it was here that the North Thompson and the South Thompson rivers converged. Courtesy of Air Canada, I had made my way to British Columbia accompanied by my brand new charcoal grey Revelation suitcases, small, medium and large.  I was Goldilocks, trying out my new home, except my hair was chestnut brown and, of course, the local bears were best given a wide berth.

First I stayed with Barbara, a war bride and childhood friend of my Mum’s and Syd, her Canadian husband. Over the years Barbara had sent our family brightly coloured postcards featuring photos of cowboys and many feathered native Canadians. She had said ‘Wish you were here’ and now that was precisely where I was – here. Here, in semi desert of Kamloops, situated in a wide valley surrounded by dusty velvet hills sprinkled with scatterings of conifers. On the north side of the river was the reservation where the Kamloops Band of indigenous people lived. Here, too, at this time in the 1960s was the Catholic run residential school, the horrors of which were to unfold in later years. Getting a job had proved a challenge – Manpower had nothing to offer, but the result of me circulating my CV to any likely looking office, gleaned from addresses I found in the phone book, bore fruit and I started working for a firm of lawyers. Now I could earn my keep.  Luckily it was dictaphone work rather than shorthand dictation (never my strong point). On the other hand, unluckily, at first I found I could hardly understand the dictation of the lawyer I worked for, but, I had to learn fast as I was hardly in a position to complain.  I was the stranger in town. I also learned that first winter, for I had arrived in the Fall, that Curling and I didn’t suit each other. Why I ever signed up for a sport that involved ice when I could never master the icy slides in the school playground, is a mystery. Perhaps the spirit of adventure in a new world got the better of me. Why did I think Canadian ice would be less tricky than British? Another lesson was that I never could get the hang of learning how to stop when I had donned a pair of skis.  Another sport to cross off the list before I injured myself and ended up in the Royal Inland Hospital. However, I joined the Outdoor Club and loved snowshoeing across a frozen lake, thrilled by the idea that far below me was running water. The silence was palpable as we trudged along skimming the snow. Eagles wheeled their way in the sky above us as we walked. Different, but equally enjoyable, was a trip to a motel on the edge of town, where we sat in the sauna and then ran barefoot through the snow for a dip in the outdoor pool, which was thankfully heated. On the minus side, there was the trip on a horse drawn sleigh on my birthday in February which sounded a lovely idea but, in fact, chilled me to the bone. One time whilst out of the office at lunchtime I had to be warned by a local to cover my nose and ears because of the danger of frostbite.  
Spring and summer brought more trips. Mountain hikes surrounded by alpine flowers, the Sound of Music personified, though I was not tempted to ruin the moment by singing.  Driving to Lake Shuswap to bathe in the waters and relax beneath the surrounding trees, the sun seeping into our bodies, relieving winter’s aches and pains. There were picnics, iridescent feathered hummingbirds to wonder at, camping trips, rodeos to attend, barbecues and even swimming lessons in the outdoor pool of Riverside Park at 10.00 pm, for which the mosquitoes were indeed truly grateful. I will never regret branching out into the unknown. I even got used to the smell of the pulp mill when the wind was in the wrong direction. My years in Canada were wonderful and the basis of my love of visiting new places and seeing how other people lived. It’s always good to come home, but, it is great to climb up into the saddle, grab the reins and head off towards a new experience.

Sue Evangelou in the mountains of Austria in her 30s


My working Life by Hilda Castillo

After I left high school and returned to Rancho, I could not secure any paid work because of the economic climate in the late 1960s, most women were home makers. I decided to offer private tuition for children in the village preparing them for their eleven plus exams. I recruited 3 young boys and taught them Maths and English once a week. I was paid $5.00, TT dollars per child and did this for six months. It was very rewarding for me to earn some pocket money but my students all went on to pass their exams and move on to secondary school. Another unpaid job was helping my Papa in the family estate to harvest the crops of coffee and cocoa, prepare it for selling by drying it in these cocoa/sweat houses. I used to like turning the beans by walking up and down in bare feet. Once the beans were dried, he showed me how to use a specially prepared mixture which helps to give them a health shinny look. Later, most of the beans were bagged up in crocus bags and taken to another village called Siparia where it was sold to traders who then sold them for export. I enjoyed this job because I got money for transport and small treats and gained experience in travelling alone on public transport. This also sowed seed for my agricultural interest in later life. Another project was to form a youth group in the village to raise funds to help the elderly and needy people in the village We gave them food parcels and did light house cleaning for the neighbours.
By this time I also had a side kick cleaning my brother Vincent’s flat and earning some more pocket money. Whilst at Vincent’s place I take time to read some of his books; he was a real book worm but was a good role model to achieving ones dreams. I still enjoying reading. I also helped to teach Sunday school in the village of children preparing for the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Vincent was heavily involved in the ministry so I tagged along and loved to ride in his yellow Triumph car. As a youngster, I felt the bee’s whiskers. Our group comprised of a full committee and I was the chair person. This idea was born from the adult group where my mum was an active member and also a way of keep us young stars out of trouble. We organised fund raising events like cricket and pitching marble matches. We even had a disco dance and had lots of fun with support from the adult group preparing the food to sell to make more money.
At age nineteen years, I left Rancho to live with another sister, Flora in the sub-capital, called San Fernando. While here, I resat some of my GCSE exams and embarked on a commercial course doing typing and book keeping to skill myself for better employment. My dreams of becoming a teacher seemed far away but I was determined to make a difference. I helped my sister with babysitting her three children, doing ironing, washing and general house work. This was a wonderful experience because I was allowed some adult freedom like having my friends visit, dating and going out socially. However, I was hungry for my independence and to secure a meaningful job. It was then I joined a small company that was hoping to set up a water taxi business from the sub capital to the city similar to the hovercraft service via Dover to Calais. We were a group of mostly 6 young girls selling shares into this company. Here I met up with an old primary school friend Lynette and was getting into the grove of the business.

Anyway, soon we all realise that this was a BIG SCAM as the boss was not paying us. There were also rumours that he was getting ‘fresh’ and wanting to have private meetings. We ALL left as fast as we could. I do not remember if he was ever reported but it was not a very good experience in my working journey.
It is interesting, that there is now an established boat service in Trinidad and it is a wonderful experience and a quicker way to commute into the city.
I remembered going back to my parents for Christmas and staying as another idea had entered my head. This was influenced by my friend Mary who was going to England to study nursing so I decided to get myself some experience to prepare myself for this adventure when the time was right. I then joined the local St. John’s Ambulance, Siparia branch and was learning first aid on Nellie.
I loved the parades during local events and the one to one with ill people and emergency work. I was NOT afraid of the sight of blood and the adrenalin rush gave me a buzz. I loved and felt the team spirit working together to save lives. So, I was now a first aider and my ranger experience helped with the discipline and time keeping. By age twenty, I evaluated my future employment and the prospects of ever becoming a teacher but there was a bigger plan in store for me. As I was enjoying the first aid and coaching from Mary, I started a correspondence course in nursing. I also started getting my medical papers for going abroad. My uncle Joey who had studied Law in UK and also Millina from school had lived in UK while Erica was doing his engineering training. My Papa also like the idea of me going to the UK instead of USA as according to Joey, ‘it will be safer for a nice young lady’. Well, with their blessing and also I had my eldest sister, Theodora and her husband Archie (my god) and my eldest brother Sonny already established in England. Tanty also approved because there was a ‘bad boy’ in the village determined to lead me astray…He. He.. Help !! So after several applications to do nursing in UK, one day I got this letter saying, ‘Yes, successful, we will love to have you joined the Hasting School of Nursing in April 1971. Suddenly, there was all excitement, at last, the baby was going to fly the nest but so far away. I got all my vaccinations, police checks, references and a whole list of other things to do. I enjoyed the shopping for some nice clothes, what were my important things to take, saying goodbye to family and friends.
So on a bright sunny day on 1th April 1971. I left Trinidad via Barbados where I spent 2 wonderful nights before catching my flight to England. I so was excited but sad too to leave my family, my parents and my best friend, Gloria, the family pets, Rip, the dog and Tommy the cat. I had 2 small suitcases, my bible and rosary, a brown piggy bank and a plastic mouse. I still have those treasures. I was also sad because on the same day, my childhood sweetheart Ben was bound for a flight to USA to peruse his career in music. We pledge our love and promised to write letters and visit each other in the future. It was a bitter sweet departure but I was full of hope to see Mary, make new friends, the freedom of ‘doing my own thing’ and making a difference to myself and others but also the hope of making my parents and siblings proud of me.
On reflection, I can honestly say that my earlier paid and unpaid work experiences prepared me for the next chapter in life, watch this space for more Hilda, the NHS Nurse, a care giver of people with NO regrets.


Countries I visited in the summer of 1971 by Liza Castellino

Our nine year old daughter had been in Littlehampton boarding school since 1969 and the first occasion her Dad and I were able to visit was in the summer of 1971. After a tour of the school, she led us to the nearby beach that we were aghast to see was pebbly, rather than sandy as beaches in India from where we originate. When we retired to bed in the B&B we had rented, we were amazed to see the sun didn’t set until nearing midnight.

I took the opportunity to visit a Muslim friend from Malawi who had settled in Dundee, Scotland and together, we visited Discovery Quay to see Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition ship RRS Discovery, as well as HM Frigate Unicorn.

Living in Blantyre, Malawi where we shopped at Kirkcaldy, and aware the two names were of Scottish origin, my husband and I made a point of staying in Edinburgh (where we were amused to see sheep grazing in Princess Street).  Imposing Edinburgh Castle, as well as Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park, were two of the many attractions and we visited Blantyre and Kirkcaldy too. Glasgow was a total contrast appearing to be grey and industrialised.

Visiting France, we were drawn to the customary attractions in Paris, viz the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, the River Seine, Moulin Rouge and others.

Carrying on to Amsterdam, Netherlands we visited the Rijksmuseum that told of Dutch slavery and great Dutch masters like Rembrandt. Anne Franks House located on canal Prinsengracht, is dedicated to the Jewish child of that name who kept a diary of the times in which she lived.

Our next stop was Frankfurt, Germany where we ate frankfurters with German mustard on our way to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof – an impressive rail station.  We also dined on our very first pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven.

Rome, in Italy was our next destination where we visited St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, besides the Catacombs, Colosseum, Spanish Steps and numerous churches.  Having watched the film Three Coins in the Fountain on screen, we too threw coins in Trevi Fountain that seemed to have several layers of coins thrown in over the years.

In Naples we saw Mount Vesuvius, besides the city’s cathedral, before taking our flight to Nairobi, Kenya. A family friend met our plane at Jomo-Kenyatta Airport, Nairobi and drove us around the city where we saw the Kenya International Conference Centre, among other buildings to which he drew our attention. In the distance we sighted Mount Kenya as well as Mount Kilimanjaro, which made splendid backdrops. Returning to Malawi’s Chileka Airport, we discovered the suitcase in which our house keys were packed, had not been transferred to the connecting flight.  Luckily we were home by lunch time, and living in railway quarters, it was a matter of making head office aware of our plight.  A locksmith was dispatched to the house to let us in and the missing suitcase was delivered two days later.


A Piece of My Adult Life By Sue Farr

Independent and free
Successful career
Carefree relationships
Falling in love
REALLY in love
Getting married
Becoming a mum
Was my longed for baby girl
A gift to compensate
For a then sick, young, dying husband
So little time to be a family
So little time for real joy
Blessed to have had them both and then – the pain of the loss
Learning to be the best parent through my grief
A single parent – not my choice
The roller coaster
– Single woman
– Wife
– Mother
– Widow
– Single Parent
Such pain and yet such joy
We made it together
So proud of our baby
The beautiful young woman
My special friend.


The Harvest Sue Evangelou.

My roots hold me steadfast, solid, strong, deep down in the earth.

My shoots speared their way to the light to brave the life to come.
My branches have stretched out far and wide guiding me on my journey
and now it’s time to reap the harvest from the storehouse of my mind.
A rich crop of memories jostle forth to be recalled and pulled out.
A time to reflect on the life I have lived.
I cast my net wide and have been blessed with a shoal of dear friends.
Fair winds have aided my passage although there were some gales.
I have spread out my wings and travelled all around the world.
When I lost dear ones or things were not that easy,
the earth kept me grounded and rewarded me with fragrant flowers.
Through long sleepless nights and sunny days, books transported me.
Art through brush and needle has raised my mood from low to high.
An early morning bird song has been the cure for all ills.
The sea has ebbed and flowed as it reaches out to greet me.
A pen has filled blank pages with my thoughts and dreams.
Mountains and wide vistas have filled my soul with awe.
Family past and present – a circle of strength in times of strife.
I’ve hoarded treasures and people and hold them all so dear,
I’ve been lucky with my lot in life, the harvest has made that so clear.

Sue Evangelou drinking coffee in Cyprus in her 70s

Letters from primary school child to adult self and vice-versa
by Alex Grott

Sometimes the past influences the choice of names. My paternal grandfather was called Alexander, or Aleksander in Polish. I never met him because he was gassed in the last war. My maternal grandmother was Scottish and called me Sandy, which is an abbreviation of the middle part of Alexander. This became my family name, which is useful for these letters.

Dear Sandy,
How well you set me up for later life. Playing, studying at school (and dreaming), running, climbing, inventing games, acting roles – all these became useful afterwards. Even colouring books and joining dots into pictures has turned out to be of value in engineering design. All that has come good is in part because of you. I’m grateful, Alex

Dear Alex,
Please continue to be interested in the world and people. Don’t hurry to see everything and everyone, remember how your small childhood bubble was adequate before. Look for goodness all around and help good things to happen all around you. Don’t forget your family and friends who helped and grew with you, look out and find them. Give yourself some time, like I had, to think.
Have happy times, Sandy


The year we stayed at home by Daksheenie Abeywardene

A whole year of lockdown,
the year we stayed at home,
days melted into the other.
As we stared into the abyss
we were separate yet, together,
in the unity of loss.

Loss of lives and loved ones,
loss of contract with each other,
loss of jobs and freedoms,
loss of income, loss of purpose
A sense of overwhelming loss.

A light now shines in the darkness,
hope that the end is nigh,
as we emerge with tentative steps,
what will the renaissance be like?
Will it lead to an appreciation
of that which matters most,
will we hold on to kindness?
The acknowledgement of another’s need.
Or shall we go back to the world as it was,
with its consumerism of greed?

Daksheenie as a teenager

Letter in lockdown by Liza Castellino

Dear Liza,
Do you recall the lockdowns we went through because of Covid-19, said to have originated in Wuhan, China in 2019? Foreign visitors to the area are thought to have spread the virus around the world and in England Covid-19 cases came to light by February 2020. I had been on a 3-day weekend walking holiday in the Lake District with HF Holidays, starting two days earlier staying with Seeta, Noel, Zara and Echo in Birmingham and returning to them for another two days after. Mariette had relieved me to look after Tony and when I got home the Government advised us to stay home and save lives.  When we did venture outdoors, we wore face masks covering nose and mouth, stayed socially distanced (six feet apart) and used gloves/hand gel; we were even advised to wash our hands before leaving home and on our return. It wasn’t long before the Government declared lockdown and queues snaked outside shops and supermarkets with shoppers keeping their distance and being admitted only when a shopper had emerged from within.  An hour as soon as the shops opened was reserved for the elderly and NHS staff to shop and others were permitted singly thereafter.  This could have been because toilet rolls and sanitisers were the most popular purchases and stocks of them were running low.  There was a time when foodstuffs were scarce and shoppers bought whatever was in sight. When supermarkets donated various items to charitable organisations, they in turn got their staff and volunteers to help fill bags of assorted groceries that included a toilet roll, toiletries, snacks, bread, tea bags, sachets of coffee, sugar, breakfast cereals, eggs now and again, raw pasta, white rice, tinned food, besides a face mask or two.  These were delivered weekly to the vulnerable public (of whom I considered myself one, because I dared not venture out for fear of carrying the illness to Tony, who had a cocktail of ailments) with an occasional bunch of flowers.  ASKI, Asian Resource Centre and Laura’s church in South Norwood between them provided cooked meals covering the entire week, saving me the trouble of shopping and food preparation. I created new lyrics to the tune of Que Sera Sera and sang it at one of Carers UK’s Care for a Cuppa weekly Zoom meeting, when everyone joined in the chorus. They even recorded me sing it so that it could be played at occasional future meetings and sent me the recording. In mid-April Tony became bed bound and for the second time since February 2019 was pronounced ‘end of life’.  The GP declined to visit and sent District Nurses instead. When a single Carer could no longer manage him, Right at Home had a team of 18 trained to help in pairs, so that should the regular pair need to stay away for any reason, others would step in.  They would kit themselves in personal protective equipment before approaching Tony. Unable to see their faces, or read their lips, he was at sea.  Nina, to whom he had been accustomed since February 2018 left in September 2020, having been headhunted by Bromley Council. Fortunately, Natalie had a good way with Tony and subsequently Susi struck a rapport with him discovering that he would eat when fed. Because of his swallowing difficulties the Speech and Language Department recommended pureed, diluted, fortified foods that eventually need to be strained as well.  St Christopher’s advised us on the use of morphine patches, besides Oramorph and Paracetemol when Tony’s pain was unbearable.  Marie Curie sent in nurses overnight to ensure I got a good night’s sleep from time to time. I discovered the existence of Zoom and joined Clear Community Web’s tech classes to familiarize myself with the finer points of using Zoom which became my lifeline. I was at the laptop all day when not preparing Tony’s meals and drinks, and when Tony was asleep. In addition to being a member of South London Cares, I joined Age UK’s My Social, South London & Maudsley (SLaM), Care Vision, 60Up, Ethnic Minority Centre, Expert Patients Program, Walk & Talk for Your Life, Carers UK, Tide, Daily Caring and others, getting to meet thousands of strangers online, as well as learning various skills.  Katie Rose, who led the Carers’ Choir held sessions on Zoom, as did Anusha Subramaniam, the Bollywood dance teacher and circumstances permitting, I would join those too. When Tony died in mid-December 2020, we held a family zoom meeting each household eating a Chinese meal, it having been his favourite cuisine, and remembered his life.  The same night Croydon & Birmingham that had been in Tier 3 were escalated to Tier 4 and Mariette, who had been in Croydon at the time, had Tim drive over from Kent to chauffeur us all to live in Ramsgate over Christmastide.  Niece, Judy and her husband, Flavian from Toronto set up a Zoom call on Christmas Day inviting her Mum and brother, Kenny from Nashik, India as well as her brother, Leslie from Nepal, besides Mariette, Tim and me. Tony’s nephew Brett also from Toronto, whose Dad had died in October, set up a Zoom call on Boxing Day with his Mum, daughter, Sharai son, Caden living under the same roof present, and including Mariette, Tim and me. Since then the Pfizer, as well as the Astrazeneca vaccines have made an appearance on the scene. They were rolled out to the elderly and those in Care Homes initially, followed by the nonagenarians, octogenarians, septuagenarians and others of lower ages.  Given in two doses, some 10 weeks apart and said to be effective against the various strains that have since come to light, we remained cautious, continuing to wear face masks and stay socially distanced.

The Tree of Life (heart advice for the next generation)
by Maureen Thomas

Thankful every day
Hope for the best

Trust your instincts
Respect yourself and others
Endure the hard times
Embrace the good

Open your heart
Follow your own path

Imagine your dreams becoming reality
Find the FUN (your inner child)
Evolve into your true self.

Maureen Thomas is always learning – singing in a virtual choir during the pandemic

And Then By Sue Farr

Lots of happy experiences, many cherished memories – And Then

Something special for Kates 30th
David Attenborough was in Africa
We were in Brixton
Inspired by this great man, and her lifelong love of big animals her special treat could be a safari.
The word tumbled out.
Where did those words come from?
Me on a long-haul flight?
Me being so daring – not me!
Me planning something so different – so scary – so many worries, but I said it so we had to do it.
And Then
All my anxiety was so rewarded an adventure like no other with my lovely daughter.
Learning so much about real life
Smiling, caring people with so little and yet so much
Animals living together, caring for their families, each having a role and purpose from the dung beetle to the elephant – so much to teach us
And Then
The once in a lifetime adventure became a passion
Life changing to return again and again
And forever special
We have learnt over time how we can help them
The little difference we can make
The warmest relationships we have developed
We hope that they know a little of all we have learnt from them
People and animals.
Thank you David Attenborough.

Simple games simple pleasures – Sue Farr

A retired teacher in a village in Zanzibar – interested in education in England – Sue Farr

Little one in the baking tray by Hilda Castillo

Dear Little one in the baking tray,
I have been meaning to tell you this for a long time. Thank you so much for helping me to enjoy my childhood, meeting mostly wonderful people who crossed my path, my friends to share food, play and secrets too!! I relished all the fun, giggles, laughter and risk taking, including riding my bicycle in the moon light.  My friend, Kim broke her leg because she was sitting on my saddle. We got off lightly with a clip around the ears instead of a serious whipping. The important family values that were passed on and my dreams which sustain me today. Such was the love of my parents, siblings, friends and the elders in that small village. Some of them have passed on but the sweet memories linger. We are now 10 with lots of nieces, nephews and grandchildren. I have 2 wonderful, handsome sons that will soon fly the nest. I recall my energy and love of adventures with the brothers and their friends, sometimes not fit for a small nip of a girl like me. My love of nature has done full circle as I now work as a gardener, growing things and enjoying the bugs, bees and squirrels. I still hope to have chickens and possibly an aviary too -lovely, my own honey as a ‘side kick’ like my brother Mark. All those prayers at Sunday school have kept me grounded and I now have new brothers and sisters in another family within the church Do you remember me, playing the teacher? I switched to nursing and looking back this was the bigger plan for me, as there was every opportunity to teach, to coach, to mentor and lead. My career brought me new friends. And what diversity, including the language, fashion, and travelling. The cuisine to savour, taste and enjoy. Big thank you again – Look at me now…
From, Little one in the baking tray



Mrs B by Hilda Castillo-Binger

Dear Earline Hilda Castillo-Binger -Mrs B,
I am so please to see you have hung on to the family name, that’s so much you, keeping the family legacy going and making a big look at me now statement. I still smile about my pet name ’Little one in the baking tray’. I am proud to hear you have grown into a fine, ambitious, confident person with empathy and love for mankind and nature. You have remained focused, always up for a challenge, so all that hard work has paid off and you are now reaping the fruits of your labour. According to your brother Eddy, you are still bossy but knitting the family together by the frequent family trips and parties and mastering modern technology like WhatsApp and Zoom to track them down. Wow!! So, you did not become a teacher but still evangelising. Your bother Percy, chides, ‘that girl still going to church. Earl, your husband swear, you were going to form your own church and called you followers disciples.  Amen!! I think what helped to keep you grounded was all that moving around as a child. It made you steadfast and determined. It certainly helped you to adjust and survive in UK for some 50 years. Seem like only yesterday, we saying goodbye at Picarco Airport. But you always remember your roots, coming back as often as you could and laden with gifts for everyone—such kindness and generosity is full of the love you have and which makes you stronger. So my dear, live your dreams, do not be lonely since Earl has gone to rest (passed). Those 2 wonderful boys will keep you busy and soon bring you some grandchildren. They are taking their time just like you to focus on their careers. Enjoy the land and your gardening projects, so sow, harvest and celebrate. Keep the family together with your magic and great organisational skills; it’s time for another reunion. I still remember the last one in 2012. Yes, please keep the family home in TT so we can all have a warm nest to roost when the going gets tough in the bitter cold winter months.  Thus says the lord, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches’.

The Seeds Grew Up! by Hilda Castillo

I do grow things working as a gardener.
I did train as a nurse and midwife.
I did teach as a volunteer tutor with the EPP after retirement.

I can now cook but NOT like Tanty.
My plaits have grown back never to be chopped off again.
My first son is called John after his uncle, my brother who
I followed around as a sloppy dog.
I have NOT forgotten my God in spite of the ups and down.
My suitcase is always packed for a trip down memory lane to T&T.

Learn From The Best by Hilda Castillo

Dear Young people
Keep close to the Lord in all you do.
Do not allow the devil, including friends to lead you astray.
Love unconditionally, forgive, eat well and look after your temple
That body which is a precious gift.
I will be keeping my eyes on you


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