Saturday, January 14, 2006

I love watching the squirrels and I'm sure they would like to visit our Tree House. We can leave them some bread and nuts, but we do have to be careful as they will come to expect food.
this photo was taken by a friend,Marv Berryman of Colorado.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Letters and cards

Downsizing is just that
To carry less in one’s life

And yet I cannot
Let go of some things

Lynda wrote me notes
Constantly in the seventh grade

I never look at them or read them
But each folded note is a time capsule

of books and bears

When I was a child I lived in books, discovered at an early age, and was a fluent and avid reader by the age of 7 when I moved up to the junior school and discovered that I had already read most of our set books for the year. I travelled through Narnia, met hobbits, played with the famous 5 and Biggles and the secret 7. As an adult child I have read all the Harry Potter books and particularly enjoyed Philip Pullman's 'his dark materials' trilogy, which I can highly recommend.

But my thoughts led me back to the sycamore tree we had in the garden. It didn't have a house in it but my father fastened blocks of wood on to its trunk for us to use as footholds to climb up into its crown where I could sit with my brother and sister, although not in much comfort.

My greatest joy, however, was my dolls house. It was a rectangular construction with a front panel which you could lift off. It was painted red, with a white balustrade, elegant windows and a porticoed doorway, and when opened it revealed 4 rooms inside. My father papered the walls with paper from books of wallpaper samples. Over the mantelpiece hung a stag's head resplendent with a fine set of antlers which came from a Christmas cracker. A school friend of mine gave me a couple of antique pieces of dolls house furniture amongst which was a tiny glass vase with red and blue stripes on it. The kitchen had cupboards full of miniature cutlery and dishes of food - a strong reminder of Beatrix Potter's story of the two bad mice where Hunka Munka tries to stuff a plate of food, stolen from a dolls house, into the fire grate. Eventually the dolls house grew too small for its inhabitants and Dad made me an annex out of an old fruit crate.

The inhabitants were bears - "Syrian bear" was about 6 inches tall, white with movable limbs and a moveable tail - and "Polar bear" who was about half his size and made of rabbit fur. He slept in a miniature picnic hamper in the annex.

Syrian Bear and Polar Bear used to go on expeditions in my younger brother's wooden toy train set. There was a train and about 4 wagons which you could pull along on a string. With the train loaded up with crockery and food, the bears would go out into the garden to explore the nooks and crannies of the rocks under the lilac tree. We had such fun.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A visit from the Mail Art Muse

Last night I was thinking of going to bed early when, shezam! the Mail Art muse popped in and I stayed up and made my Mail Art postcard for the snail mail group.
Here it is...

Every kid had a bike

Since I offered to fix bikes and things at the Manor,
perhaps you should understand how I work ...



A kid can't live without a bike, leastwise not back before video games and SUV mothers. Not that we minded walking. There wasn't an alley unexplored, nor building unclimbed, nor big tree not properly housed. But that was way back when I was a kid. Bikes just expanded our universe -- big and small. We didn't just "get a bike" you see, we got special teaching by dad, and careful lessons on changing tires and oiling chains and safety rules. We worked those 'stallions' hard too. -- not just easy road stuff. Stairs and ditches and railroad ties. Dad knew we had better know how to fix 'em.

My daughters had it a bit easier. I settled for having a spare tire already fixed and them just knowing how to change it. I build both of their first bikes -- kinda tradition, I guess. Find a lost memory hanging on some neighbor's garage, scrape and sand, bash and paint -- add a couple of new parts, certainly a seat without spring sticking out. Of course a set of tools went along, and a can of paint for touch-up. Then out to the street for the 'method'!

First came the adjustments to handle-bars and seat -- never just right (on purpose). "That's a box wrench -- this is a Phillips screwdriver." Then came the 'cradle' -- me holding both left handle bar and back of the seat -- "you watch the road!" Down a block then back -- mom waving from the porch. Pretty soon came the 'stroll' -- scary! I let go of the handle bar and just walked behind holding the seat. Talking, pointing out interesting things and tiny dangers. Down and back. Somewhere along they got to put feet on the pedals to get the feel of things. Wobble, wobble -- "it's OK, I'm right here." Finally, of course, comes the 'glide' -- me just standing there in the road watching the bike and girl slide away on their own. It was kind of a game to see how long it took for them to realize, glance back -- and fall down. Inevitable.

Well, both girls had bigger bikes after a while and but one 'clunker' still hung on the wall. This little girl comes up, sidling shy. I was placing stones around a new fish pond and not thinking 'bikes' at all. Her name was Kerry, I knew -- down the street and across. "Mr. Muller," she stammered. "Patricia and I were talking about bikes." I had seen my daughter give her a ride. "She said you had one that I might buy -- work something out. 'Course I have to talk to my mom." She just stepped back and waited.

"That took a bit of asking, I suspect," I announced -- settling back in the shade. "Now what did she really say?"

Dimple and tears came together. "I asked her if she might talk to you, but she said I had to do it myself. My dad would if he were here …," she trailed off. I signaled to my two schemers just waiting by the street. They were pushing each other trying to assign guilt, or something.

"All right you three. There is a bike on the wall. It needs a little work. Kerry needs some coaching on care and fixing. Then there is the 'method'. How is this going to work?" They got into a huddle while I pulled down the bike -- one tire flat and the seat loose. I thought the petals might need some blocks. Paint might be all right for now.

"Mr. Muller." I sat down to her height. "They say that I should clean it and learn all of the parts, and that would be best from you. Barb says she will fix the tire and adjust things for me when it is safe. Patricia says she would like to do the 'method'. She doesn't make it sound scary, but isn't sure if you have to do that part too."

"Sounds like a plan to me," I said. "I can have it ready tomorrow and you can have the week end for your share. Of course, I'll need a note from your mom saying it's all right."

"Yes sir. What is it going to cost." Kinda cute the way she stood with her feet set firm and hands on her hips. She was still shoulder carrying small, not all knees and elbows like my bigger girls. My two backed off a bit, perhaps unsure of their having set this all up.

"There is no price," I ventured. "but it may cost you more than you wish to pay. It will be easy to say yes right now, but difficult down the road. It is something you can afford though, without asking your mom for a thing. Deal?"

She glanced at Patricia but got no help there. A stare at the rafters helped even less. I don't think her eight year old self had ever been asked to make a commitment before. She just had to trust, or walk away. "That's my bike you're sitting on," she laughed.

It was fun to watch all three of them race up the street week after week. They grew, and I had a different bike resting on the wall.

Their new ones were all ten-speeds now. Kerry's dad ambled over, sweaty from loading a moving van -- me too from helping. "The kid says I can't leave that old bike behind. Claims we must keep it until we find another little boy or girl to give it too. Says it's part of the 'method'. Doesn't make any sense, but she's a right determined young lady. Then she laughed and said you'd give me some rope to tie it on back. That's why I'm here. She said I had to ask!

Favourite childhood games...

My favourite game as a child was building houses - odd for a traveller child, but I loved cottages and other people's houses, and I always wanted to live in one.

My favourite kind of house to build was the `bower', which I read about in What Katy Did. Katy and her family always seemed to me to have the best life possible, like the sisters in Little Women, producing plays, magazines and creating new games. To make a bower I would cut branchs and lay them over a sticks in a kind of lean-to hut.

As I mentioned earlier, when I could get bricks I made walls and even sectioned the interiors off into rooms, but I never had enough bricks to build up the walls so it was always just an outline.
I always wanted a pony when I was a child (I was one of those annoying little girls who read the `Jill' books, and anything by the Pullein-Thompson girls, Pat Smythe or Monica Edwards).

Before I got Bikenstein I rode an imaginary horse everywhere, and this was one of my favourite games. I did get chances to ride real ponies when I was growing up, but I have to confess I fell off a lot.

I was another scrapbook nut. My favourite scrapbooks came with a rainbow on the front cover and different rainbow coloured pages inside. I collected anything that looked at all interesting from Mum's magazines and my comics. The comics were another favourite thing - School Friend, Girl, Girl's Chrystal - even the Eagle, which was supposed to be for boys, but I loved Dan Dare.

Every Christmas I got the annuals that came out for the comics, jig saws, board games and art supplies - mainly pencils and sketchpads.

I got my love of crafts from my Dad, who used to sit in the evenings and make fine beadwork or leatherwork. We didn't have a TV until I was about 14, so crafts and the radio were important.
I was never much for sport, but I enjoyed playing wall tennis (where you play with a raquet and ball against a wall) and I loved being near the sea, messing about in boats or rock climbing.

My mother fostered my love of reading by introducing me to all the books she had loved (like Katie and Little Women) and signing us both up to a library chain run by B oots the Chemists, which people who travelled could use because you could return thebooks to any branch. Boots Booklovers' Library introduced me to Enid Blyton, Tove Jannsen, Joyce Lankaster Brisley, CS Lewis and Tolkien, as well as the pony books I loved so much.

Once, when my parents went to Iceland and I stayed with my Grandmother in London, they brought me back American paper dolls - I had never seen anythin g like them. The dolls were modelled on film stars (I think one was Rosemary Clooney) and I was consumed with envy of American children for being able to get such wonderful things.

But in spite of the paper dolls my favourite toys wrere always my huge collection of stuffed animals - my parents friends were always adding to the collection for my birthday and Christmas. It started simply enough with a toy bear given to me when I was a baby. I still have that bear and the one bought the following Christmas. They are very ragged now. But what could you expect, they are almost as old as me!

Monday, January 09, 2006

How to build a house

What happened to the sweet home you promised?
My fountain of spring water
My trees of shade, where are them?
Where is the full moon I have not seen?
My fading roses, my violets,
All my growing seeds, where are them?
Where will you take me tonight?
Do not take me there until dawn...
Where is it, what happened to the promised home?

Jigsaw Puzzle Addicts


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Nebraska Landscape

Memories of Childhood
By Sylvia K.
After reading Winnie�s wonderful poem and description of a house and a childhood friend, I wanted to add a somewhat similar memory. I am continually struck by how certain memories stick with us. It may not the big events, but some daily activities which left an impression.
I lived in a small town on the plains of Nebraska. The town did have some large Elm trees on our street, but the surrounding area was all farm land with very few trees.

At the end of my block was a large home that had a big wrap around porch. There were big trees to shade the house from summer heat. The couple that lived there seemed mysterious and different from my family. The woman was young, beautiful and quite glamorous in my eyes. Her husband was much older but a quiet man that liked to raise Homing pigeons. He had a pen and bird houses for them in the yard.
During the summer, a niece of the young woman would come from another town to visit. Her name was Suzanne and she had long braids and I thought she was very pretty. We would play together and at this time I got a chance to go in the old house. It was dark and cool in the summer. The lady was sewing and she used Vogue Patterns. My mother used only Simplicity or Advance.
The upstairs had a wide hall with bedrooms on each side. I was impressed because we didn�t have a second story on our house.
Suzanne and I played with dolls and paper dolls and made up shows. We did many of the things young girls did in those days.
The beautiful lady lost her husband as he was so much older.
She married a younger man and moved away.
I do not know what happened to Suzanne either as we all went on our separate ways. Yet, the old house and the stylish lady left an indelible impression on my memory and influenced my interests to this day.

Used to be a game

When I was 12 or so, my brother, a friend Dan
and I would sit together in a church pew,
select a hapless victim a row or two ahead,
and stare at the back of his neck. Sometimes
it worked alone, but often took all three of
our innocent hooligan minds --
soon the person would start to figget and squirm
and often turn about. We would do it at the bus station too,
and people would get up and search around,
but would ignore us kids.

All we did was say, "hello", but I guess
it wasn't really right -- so I don't do it any more ...

besides, now people carry guns and things.

Always Been Creative

I sat and thought about games I used to play as a child. Nothing came readily to mind. I couldn’t think of a single one. You see I was an only child for the first 6 years of my life and my parent’s friends didn’t have young children. My father was in an Irish folk band – The Quarefella’s – and I was taken along to all the gigs. I had the usual assortment of dolls and stuffed toys, my favourite being monkeys.

But as I sat and thought, I knew that there had to be something that occupied my time. It was then that I remembered the scrapbooks. My mother bought me scrapbooks, scissors glue and project packs. They had pretty pictures to cut and paste. I even had paper dolls to dress in pretty paper dresses.

My parents owned a unit in the city. I remember when tenants moved out my mother would go in and clean it before tenants moved in. She took me along, armed with my scrapbook supplies, to keep me occupied for hours at a time.

So it seems I have always been creative – my mother even nurtured that creativity – although there have been lapses over time, after my mother read my diary in my teens I didn’t keep a diary or a journal again until I was in my 20’s, now I keep them regularly and have many volumes.