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Saturday, 20 October 2018

Dot


There comes a moment in the passing of time when the days of our stay in the village feel numbered. A flight is booked. We must check-in on line and get boarding passes, jot down lists to do, things to bring back when we return.
“Jigsaw blades, sanding disks, multicutter blades, marmite”
“If I hadn’t got so much to do in England I’d cancel going back” says Lin.
We’ve been making notes for Dot’s funeral in Birmingham, for Richard to design a service sheet with photos.
DRAFT: Dorothy Reynolds  was born in Little Norton on Sunday 30th March 1924, the daughter of William and Sarah Bentley, one of six children - sisters Edith, Violet  and Barbara, and brothers William and Jack.
Dot went to Norton Canes school and left at age 14 to start work. She had many and varied jobs during her long life. One of these was working in a grocer’s shop. The grocer asked Dorothy if she would like to do the grocery deliveries, to which she replied that she couldn’t drive. The grocer offered to teach her. At a time when a driving test was not required, Dot was soon doing deliveries in a van with ‘three forward gears and no reverse’.
On Saturday 8 September 1945 Dorothy Bentley married Arthur Reynolds in St James Church, Norton Canes.  Arthur died on 5th April 2016.  They’d been married for 70 years. Their daughter, and only child, Linda, was born in 1951 in Ivy House, previously the local ‘workhouse’.
When Linda was young, Dot worked at a plaster factory belonging the Oakley family, with whom she established a life-long friendship. Later she worked in the Walsall leather trade as a leather stitcher for the Olympic Riding Saddle Company. She brought ‘out-work’ home and taught Linda to stitch to earn pocket money, making her ‘the richest kid in the class.’ Linda remembers, as a child, enjoying long Sunday walks with her mum and dad on Cannock Chase to Milford and Sherbrook Valley.
Dorothy was grandmother to Richard and Amy; and much later, great grandmother to Amy and Guy’s children, Oliver and Hannah. Dot and Arthur regularly stayed with us when Richard and Amy were young. They would, for many years, come with us to Rock Cottage up Bell Hill on the border of the Forest of Dean.  Dot loved our long walks in the Forest of Dean – especially along the River Wye, around Mallard’s Pike and Cannop Ponds - and Handsworth Park. In summer she made wonderful puddings, from the hedgerow blackberries we harvested together.
For many years Dot and Arthur’s favourite summer holiday involved going by coach for a fortnight in Torquay, but at the end of the 1980s we began taking family holidays in northern France. Starting with sunny ferry crossings of the English Channel, Dot loved our holidays in Brittany.  She and Lin made up the many picnics we enjoyed, sitting on a deserted beach, on the city walls of Saint Malo, on benches in the Jardin Anglais in Dinan, overlooking the oyster harbour at Cancale, or below the heights of Mont St Michel.
Dot had a variety of interests - walking, singing, reading, doing crosswords, collecting small antiques, sewing, knitting, crochet.  She took to the modern craze of  adult colouring, although her choice of colours was sometimes somewhat garish. Dot loved poetry. In her last year she would still recite her favourite poems to family, and to the craft group she attended until just before she died. She read stories to her grandchildren, but they liked it best when, at bedtime, she made up stories about the adventures of ‘Johnny Brown and Jimmy Green’. She learned to swim at age 40, because for many years she got fed up watching Lin and her dad swimming in the sea while she paddled in the shallows. She went to piano lessons at age 50. She exercised with the Women’s League of Health and Beauty at Chadsmoor and went to regular exercise classes in Bridgetown.
For the last two and a half years of her life, having lost her beloved Arthur, Dot was confined to a wheelchair. She wanted, more than anything else, to join ‘my Arthur’. She died at City Hospital, Birmingham, aged 94, on the morning of Monday 3rd September 2018. Her grand-daughter, Amy, was at her bedside.
I will speak her eulogy as I did for Arthur in 2016 and my mum in 2012.  I’ll probably wake up knowing what to say, but for the moment my mind’s blank; how to encompass Dot in a way that helps engrave our memories of her life. In the crematorium there’ll be two neighbours, John and Les, and our family – me, Linda, Richard, Amy and Guy; Dot’s sister, Barbara and niece, Janice and great niece, Michaela with Dean and our best friend, Liz.  The undertakers are Hadleys, Melanie and Angie attending. Lin’s wish is to circumvent the potlatch that insinuates into funerals where attention to cost is unsubtly treated as unseemly, even a sign of disrespect. She’s making arrangements as for buying a seat on Ryanair, alert for craftily hidden extras. Dot would approve. After the ceremony’s over we’ll go to Toby’s Carvery in Sutton and have a meal together.
Linda, Arthur, Dot, Hannah and Oliver in our kitchen 



*** *** ***
Network on Air have just announced the arrival, on 12th November 2018, of an 8-disk DVD box-set of all sixty episodes of Jack HargreavesOld Country series on Channel 4 in the mid-1980s, sleeve design by Richard Baddeley - product of a joint work negotiating my rights in the programme, with help from Dave Knowles, Simon Winters, Ian Wegg, Simon Coward, Phil Wade and Network's Steve Rogers and Juan Veloza. Tim Beddows began thinking about this publication at the start of the year.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

A chance to talk about my stepfather

Michael Livesley asked me, out of the blue, to come up to Liverpool, and talk to him in 'The Livo Lounge' about my stepfather, Jack Hargreaves and the work being done to serve his legacy and make his films and books available. This is on Youtube too by the way.


I am quite pleased. I even enjoyed watching myself. Lots more to do of course.
Jack and Simon c.1951 (photo: Barbara Hargreaves)
Michael Livesley and Simon Baddeley in the Livo Lounge  (photo: Mark)

Monday, 27 August 2018

After I'd carried our luggage down the 13 steps

Ano Korakiana. Welcome rain.

After I’d carried our luggage down the 13 steps, while Lin drove on down Democracy Street to park, I returned for our shopping - packed in three cardboard trade boxes. Carried down, I placed these beside the luggage, inside the porch, our closest door. I walked round to the veranda, and opened the other door, in familiar dark I switched on the electric. I walked down to below the apothiki, raised the iron lid above the communal taps, wary of scorpions, and turned the lever on our water meter; and a second lever above the pressure gauge on the side of the house. From the dining room, I opened the sticky front door to heave in luggage and groceries.
The air seemed clean and fresh indoors. “The house feels cool”
Lin had the kettle going. Tea and coffee.
I’d glanced at the tidying to be done – the wisteria sprouting whippy tendrils to be cut back; the reluctant Bougainvillea showing at least some red flowers; invasive pelargoniums to be curbed; dried summer-shed leaves to be swept and put on the compost; litter at the bottom of the path from the street; and the rest of the path, as it passes below the house, needing my sickle to clear our way to the lower road.
I checked to see how the citrus trees were doing since their infestation with scale insects this last year has prevented fruiting. I’d sprayed the trees with olive soap mix in the first week of June. Now at least there was no black mould on the top of the leaves preventing photosynthesis. Although the scale insects had been busy over the last 11 weeks – all my flypapers hung in the branches were covered with their remains. Yet more were stuck on the underside of almost every leaf.
“But” said Lin “they're all dead”
The sticky substance with which I’d circled trunks and veranda pillars seemed to have stopped ants from their suspected symbiotic alliance with scale insects, though wasps were hovering and settling amid the leaves, sipping the remains of the honeydew the scale insects exude.
“And look!” said Lin “I can see at least twenty new lemons”
My heart rose at the sight of them, almost hidden amid foliage.
"Goodness! How that's cheered me up. I wasn't even bothering to look for new fruit yet."
Others in the village have pollarded their trees to skeletons or sprayed insecticide that kills all insects indiscriminately, without guaranteeing that scale insects will not return on new leaf growth.


New lemons on one of our scale insect infested citrus trees
 I suggested we spray again - with olive soap solution only.
“Not so you harm the leaves”
“Perhaps leave it for the moment. Hope for the winter and spring. Pray for new blossom.”
“Sponge off the dead insects from some leaves. Check to see if they return.”
Later our neighbour Katerina spread her arms in exasperated despair. This ‘no-lemons’ problem is "everywhere in the village”
I saw lemons in a net on the fruit counter at Lidl, imported from Spain.
Having lunch in Doukades with Marie and Bo Stille - naturalists,, ecologists, books on the lizards, dragon flies, snakes, slow worms, frogs and toads of the island under their belts - I showed them sample leaves covered in dead insects and one of my flypapers and what we'd done to remedy the infestation.
"Sometimes trees learn." he said "They evolve resistance"
"Really?"
"Sometimes. Yes, Perhaps you should leave things to your trees."


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