Saturday, 7 May 2011

Flora Day

Today was Flora Day – an ancient tradition when the change from Spring to Summer is recognised by the whole town of Helston (where my mother’s nursing home is).

There is, no doubt, some pagan significance to the ritual, but nowadays it is a mix of secular (make as much money as possible by any means possible – mostly real ale), general merriment with a touch of Church and folklore thrown in.

All the gates are festooned with bluebells and rather ambitious arches of fauna that generally wilt by lunchtime. The town band does a magnificent job of playing a medley of the same tune over and over – which can be a bit mind numbing and most certainly lip numbing for the brass and silver sections. The tune would be good for a baby’s ‘go to sleep’ toy.

However, despite this year’s distinct lack of Lilly of The Valley for lapel nosegays (thanks to the royal wedding and Katherine’s desire for authentic English, Spring flowers; my mother had one solitary sprig) the jamboree carried on with gusto.

Tradition still holds as the dancers parade through my mother’s nursing home, Penhellis, and as a resident’s family member I gain the status of privileged person for a day. This involves sitting on a particular side of a piece of red-tape and I gain free access to a buffet table along with Pimms and wine provision.

It is amusing to see the other supposed important people dance pass, including our local MP and the mayor. Ladies make an effort to wear long-length ball gowns with ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ hats.  All the men are in suits and top hats creating a rather sweaty and red-faced scenario. The children dance in white earlier and 'pretend servants' do their bit at tea-time.

My mother in her wheelchair sat like the Queen and waved the town's dignitaries pass, I, her lady in waiting, drank tea and was thankful for a sit-down (knowing that a raised bed of weeds awaited me at home).

It is the perfect opportunity for alcoholics to get drunk by lunchtime and stumble about the lanes of Cornwall. The day is ideal for family picnics and community catch-ups. Inside the nursing home it means all residents’ families can support each other, in a reserved way, as we cope with the reality of dementia, Parkinsons, sight loss and other conditions of old age. One resident is 102.

As I made my way back home, I considered how after all the fuss and bother we all went to, and the effort we made to get a close to the Furry Dance, I still doubt whether my mummy will remember a thing. However, at least I was offered a respite from weeding and a chance to feel like the lady of a country manor for an hour or two.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Bamboo baby rescue

It’s amazing what you can do with a bamboo cane. Of course my village is 'bamboo central', in Cornwall, with three public sub-tropical gardens on my doorstep – each with an array of bamboo clumps. We have our own crop, which subtly hides our neighbours’ modern bungalow and gives the impression, from the kitchen window, that we live in an isolated paradise. Our neighbour is obviously offended by its spreading capacity and seems to be applying some killing chemical on his side; however we still smile and say “hello”; so all is well.

The super hero of my life has been at it again. This time he has prevented a small baby from slowly boiling whilst being trapped in a car.

At first I noticed a rather stunning ‘yummy mummy’, in a particularly arresting red sundress, on the petrol station forecourt. I daresay that most men would leap to her defence if she cried, “I can’t work the air pressure thingy” or “there is a squashed fly on my windscreen”. So at first I didn’t bother as my dearest went to attend to her and her car.

It wasn’t until five minutes later, when he beckoned me over, that I realised I was needed in yet another rural drama.

Picture the scene, we are on the outskirts of Truro, it is a hot, sunny bank-holiday and a tiny baby’s mother has locked her keys into the car along with her child. It wasn’t an emergency so the police said.

The hero of the scene, already well accustomed to panicking females (in fact, he rescued his daughter’s organic pork in the oven, after she locked herself out of her second-floor flat, only a few days ago) took charge and began to master the problem. Incidentally, over the same weekend he also held her up while she fainted at a concert and rescued all her silver bangles and rings, which she took off in a Turkish restaurant in order to play the guitar and sing (as you do) - all another story!

Back to the sun scorched garage, “What we need is a garden cane and a coat-hanger,” he said. Thankfully a nearby gardener had decided to grow Sweet-peas and an already gathering group of concerned onlookers went knocking on doors for metal wire. So armed with a bamboo garden cane, the art of rescue began.

Thankfully the dippy delight dressed in red had left a tiny gap open in the driver’s window. This enabled the hero to slide the cane through the aperture and thus gain access to the stifling car.

The baby was oblivious tot the growing concern outside and I had begun the task of bossing my beloved around (something I have 25 years of experience doing). “Right a bit, left a bit, there press now!” all said in an attempt to press the controls on the inside. Despite two attempts we failed and it became clear that the ‘safety technology’ of the car was far too safe.

By this time several nearby homeowners had turned up with an array of coat-hangers. However, dippy-delight yummy-mummy had left her keys on the passenger seat (for the last time- we hope).  Using the bossy wife and super hero teamwork, along with garden bamboo precision, we managed to tip the keys over. Then locating the precise button super hero pressed down hard and yeehhah the locking mechanism did its bleep and flashing light thing thus releasing the door locks – phew!

At this point the mother leapt into the car saying all sorts of endearments to the oblivious baby.  There was a cheer from the crowd, waving unwanted coat-hangers, and then the mummy leapt out to hug and kiss my husband saying,
Thankyou, oh thankyou!” His cheeks matched her dress and I must admit to joining her in a few tears of relief.

As we drove off I reflected on the fact I had married a useful sort of male, the type to be marooned on a desert island with. In fact if I was to write an article for a leading women’s magazine on ‘how to find a good husband’, I might set up a series of tests:
      What uses can you think of for a garden cane?
      How would you break into a second-floor flat to ensure the pork in the oven doesn’t burn? 


3.  How would you rescue a boiling baby in a car?


Do you grow Sweetpeas?

Four out of four equals marriable.