Elephant

1I7A0164 copy1© LiolaPhotographic 2019

Elephants are considered to be a good luck symbol all over the world. They symbolise strength, family, loyalty, endurance and so much more! Truly magnificent animals!!

Image captured at Colchester Zoo, Summer 2019 and then manipulated in Photoshop to remove the cluttered background of the zoo, and to create a more moody effect that just focuses on the Elephant!.

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Shalom Jackie

Shalom Jackie, is a phrase used by Jim when Jackie answers the door to his knocking, in the comedy Friday Night Dinner. If you have never seen it, you are in for a hilarious treat (in my opinion anyway, for what it’s worth). Truly funny! Well it has had me and my daughter (more of her in bit) rolling up.  A really good ‘Brit Com’ (British Comedy).  Talking of comedies, I  am actually living in a real life comedy or maybe soap opera is more appropriate or maybe a melodrama. Yes, I know, we all say that but I mean it!

Let’s see what the weekend has been like so far in my totally dysfunctional household here in The Mews.  People always say that, or not always but quite a lot, in that their families are not quite ‘normal’. By people I mean ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys of all ages, and anyone not mentioned who would like to be included. Well, first of all let me roll back to yesterday. The husband or rather the handsome fisherman who stays with me sometimes went off, you guessed it to play with the cats, I mean fishes or more aptly Catfish. He took his tent, he took his trolley, and his brolly; in fact I watched almost the entire contents of the garage get packed into the van. Long gone are the days when he used to take his rod, and a hand held tackle box and just pop to the local lake for a couple of hours. These days he embarks on a full blown expedition with his merry men in tow, though not really in tow as he meets them at the venue/lake where they all set up their camps and then get down to some beer, I mean fishing. And merry men may be a slight exaggeration as from what I am told some of them or actually one particular person so far was not really merry but a total ‘something’ but I will refrain from using the terminology I was privy to. Anyway, let us  just say that they did not shake hands and make up. Anyway, these are what I call the FF brigade, which stands for fishing friends and facebook friends. Whether they are friends in the real sense I cannot say. After all, it is not for me to say as I am not there. I am of course here, stuck indoors looking after the dogs (one of which is poorly as per previously written post), the cat and the hedgehog. So we have ascertained that the man of the house is away with the fishes.

I am setting the scene here, so bear with me. The house is in a real mess and muddle throughout. It’s dusty, dirty, full of clutter and what’s worse the whole entire house is painted in tired,  not fresh magnolia. Just for the record we rent our place here (note I said place and not home) at the Mews, so called because of the sort of regency style town houses which are not really regency style at all. In truth they sort of look like erect boxes which someone has likened  to the Tardis in Doctor Who, though I suspect that the Tardis had more space. To be honest everything in the house is tired from the bottom floor up, including me, especially today as I only got five hours restless sleep last night. You’ll be getting the idea that I am none too keen on this box of a house, and you would be correct.  I/we moved here just over five and a half years ago. If I say that quickly, it still sounds just as long.  I/we planned on staying for a couple of years, and then moving on somewhere else. As you can surmise that has not happened. Here, we are, still living in a dust dungeon. Oh, and we (my daughter and I think it may be haunted, at least on the top floor as that is where all sorts of  strange things have happened. The ghost story is for another post and another time maybe. Because the house is not ours, and the tenancy agreement states that we have to ask for permission to pretty much do anything, motivation and enthusiasm has been lacking to say the least. That said, on a good point the Landlord has left us alone, and we in turn have not bothered him.

Getting back to this weekend. I hope I have not lost you, and that you are managing to keep up with the ramblings of a reluctant fishing widow (though probably reluctant just now because I have not been able to see my horse much recently because of Dog duty). So let’s now think about my daughter who went off to work yesterday on a late shift. Really proud of her actually. Though last night, I did not have a proud mummy moment, I had a mad mummy moment instead. The story is now starting to unfold. The evening started off well. I had bought lovely fresh ingredients earlier in the day, as I thought to make myself a lovely vegan curry. I started to prep the veg, and poured myself a glass, a large glass actually of Rioja (which came courtesy of the handsome fisherman from earlier)  to imbibe while cooking the meal. Or in plain English to drink while standing in the kitchen happily dicing onions, and pepper before moving onto slicing the courgettes, and peeling the aubergine. Oh yes, this was going to be a delicious curry. I had it all planned out beautifully. I had the onions and spices, and garlic all sizzling in the pot. In went the chopped tomatoes, then the yellow pepper. I cooked these up some more, and then the sauce would be ready to blend until smooth and then the other veg could be added. Oh yes, I was going to to enjoy my Friday night dinner. The dogs were settled and snoring, the lavender oil was burning with it;’s beautiful calm aroma, and classical lullabies playing on the CD player. A tranquil and peaceful evening underway.  What more could I ask for with my Friday night dinner. So we know the curry is underway, and the ambience is really chilled. Pour another wine while waiting for the sauce to simmer. Point of reference here, probably not a great idea to have wine before dinner when you have not eaten anything during the day.

Okay, so what next? Ah yes, I remember, with the sauce slowly simmering away on the stove, I thought now would be a good time to catch up on my social networking. WhatsApp checked; Facebook checked, and now for instagram, that wonderful platform for picture sharing. Quick flick through mine, and then thought have not looked at my daughter’s instagram for a while. Just have a quick look. So, I look, I saw, I did not like and I was not happy. Definitely not happy! There was a picture of my beautiful daughter wearing not very much at all actually. My daughter is lovely but she really does not need to reveal so much, too much but then I am her Mum so maybe that’s why I started to see a  ‘red rag’ coming down (I am a Taurean, and like the Bull I go charging in). All this while drinking another Rioja, and still no dinner.  The next thing is, I message my daughter and we get into a long heated text session over this damn picture of my scantily clad daughter. Initially her and her colleague were laughing as they thought it was funny. However, I was not laughing, and I think my daughter started to realise that. The tone of the messaging was not a pleasant one shall we say. I had my thoughts and she had her opinions and vice versa. The bottom line was that I felt she had just gone a step too far, she did not. I felt it was demeaning and she felt its was empowering. I told her that she was intelligent as well as beautiful, and did not need to be an object. Loads more was said but that is a private matter between mother and daughter. By the end of this lengthy and on going text tennis, the sauce had stuck to the pot, the curry was ruined, and I was not going to enjoy a delicious home cooked meal. I was fed up, cross or in my daughter’s terms hangry, and  had drunk too much wine. I forgot to mention that in the middle of this my daughter sent me a picture of her at work with a caption likening her to her boss that was quite funny but I was still angry and sent her a reply back that said

“better than taking your clothes off for dirty old men and pubescent boys”

of course I was referring to her possible virtual audience on instagram.  We do not always know who we may really be talking to. Not always. The thing is I did not send this reply to my daughter, it went off to a friend. It must have seemed like a really random thing. My daughter would have understood but my poor unsuspecting friend who is also young enough to be my daughter must have been a little puzzled to say the least. Later in the evening I realised what I had done and apologised, and told my friend to ignore the previous message which had not been for her. Like a good friend, she asked if I was okay, and then confirmed that she would ignore said message but not without laughing. So now I had sent out a random message to the wrong person. At this stage I decided to call it quits for the night and just go to bed, hungry, miserable and a bit the worse for wear.  On a good note the dogs were really good all evening!

Needless to say, I did not sleep well, I was restless. I tossed, I turned, I huffed and I puffed. Morning came and I got up with a bit of a headache. So not a great start to the day! I went downstairs and asked my daughter if she would like a cup of tea. She said yes (not sure if she said please) but definitely yes. See, look at me being the grown up. Tea made, coffee for me and then about that picture. Oh no, not that again Mum! This time we chatted, we laughed too but but we were both standing our ground. The discussion went on for a little bit longer but not really getting anywhere. I was told that I had no problem with the Dove advert on the TV where women of various ages, shapes and sizes are the models in their underwear. No of course I did not have a problem with that. It was an excellent advert. My response was that I would not have got so upset if she had been wearing oversized Bridget Jones knickers and a huge bra and wobbling about a bit. There was no comparison but still my daughter stands her ground. She gets her stubborn streak from me. On a serious note I feel that so many young girls feel they need to be seen in a certain way. They look for likes, adoration and a fan base but when does the line get crossed?  Anyway, I had my rant and said I would say no more apart from every now and then when something else came to mind. I’m a mum, that’s part of my job. Many people will see this from one side or the other or maybe both sides. It’s a modern dilemma I think.

Moving on to the weather of the day. It has been blowing a gale here. Big branches have crashed to the ground in the garden. The lime flower tree has been tossing, turning, and twisting. The tree is higher than the houses, stretches out over the road beyond the fence which is pretty busy with traffic, dog walkers, runners and the like. The tree is protected. I love the tree! It is magnificent and park worthy but today I decided it may also be dangerous, and in need of a little management though I am no expert. I contacted the Landlord, and he has said he will have to get approval from the Council before he can get anyone in. I just wanted him to be aware of my concerns. The wind has been fierce all day with no let up. What else could happen? Oh yes, something else had to happen, and happen it did. The fence has also blown down, not completely down but certainly on it’s way down and just being held up by the ivy which has attached itself to the wood. I never realised Ivy was so strong. So this too, I decided to report to the Landlord. After all in for a penny, in for a pound,  Big mistake, as now, said Landlord wants to come round and have a look. What’s so bad about that you may say, but think back to the beginning where I mentioned the dust, the dirt, the clutter and did I mention the dog that he does not actually know about, Oops, we have to come up with a plan now to stall him, deter him or at least delay him while we do a mammoth tidy up before he comes and hide one of  the dogs. Perhaps he’ll evict us. Could we be that lucky! Then we would have to move. We did want to move after all, and the Universe does work in mysterious ways so perhaps something good is on its’ way.

So, apart from the upset with my daughter, the falling branches, and the broken fence, not to mention the impending visit from the Landlord; the weekend is going well so far

A few notes to self here. Do not drink wine on an empty stomach. Definitely do not drink wine when getting angry. Do not look at daughter’s saucy instagram picture, and then drink wine. Do not contact Landlord if you do not want him to visit. And one other thing, tonight I could not be asked to cook a lovely home made veggie curry, so I bought myself a microwave curry. A chicken Korma to be precise. I ate it, and then came the reaction. I have a Cow’s milk allergy, and of course Korma has milk in it. Important note to self here, do what the Doctor tells you and stay away from. milk and anything with milk in it.  Sometimes I just like to check and see, just in case the allergy disappears but so far, not yet.

In the words of Jackie in Friday Night Dinner I bid you Shalom. ( I am not Jewish but I like the word Shalom as much as I like the Hawaiian word Aloha.

© Liola Lee 2019

 

 

Story time…

“…then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in”, bellowed the big bad wolf in the most ferocious, and gruffest of  voices that he could muster. This, he did to the first, the second, and the third little pig. Such is the stuff and nonsense that fills children’s fairytales some may say, but not I and maybe not you either. Most of the tales, stories and fables we heard as children, and in our turn tell to our own children have an important message rooted somewhere within. Something that needs to be said but in a way that young minds can relate to. Oftentimes (now there’s quite an old fashioned word), the message is crystal clear quite early on, and near the beginning even.  At others it is for the reader to discover as the story unfolds word by word, page by page, picture by picture.  Stories are repeated over and over again, and possibly, and most likely become ingrained in the young subconscious mind, a seed waiting to grow and realise the lesson when the lesson needs to be learnt somewhere along the line that is life. Let’s face it, most children love being read to! Many Mums and Dads, and children of all ages get to  share a special time, with storybook characters who may be good, bad, beautiful, ugly and changeable.  Story time is a time for make believe, play and characterisation. There’s many a parent out there who puts on their best funny, happy, angry, sad voice. I know I did, and my husband too. Our children loved all the verbal playacting and if we did the voices differently as happened on occasion, the little cherubs  would say “no, not like that, like this” as they piped in with how you had said it last time.  It’s part of the fun!  Part of the ritual.

So where was I? Oh yes, I was talking about the inherent lesson that lurks within, between and beneath the lines. In the aforementioned tale of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ which was accredited to James Orchard Halliwell (later Halliwell-Phillips) the lesson is about how hard work pays off, and how by working hard, putting in the time and effort and  building strong foundations, you can achieve a safe and secure world for yourself where you can ‘keep the wolf from the door’ as it were. Of course it is a good lesson, and there is much to be said for working hard, and reaping the rewards of ones efforts, and the idea of a sound structure speaks for itself. However, you have to remember that this story was supposedly written in the mid 1800s, therefore Victorian times. People, or at least the working masses did have to work hard in those times to literally put bread on the table.  If you did not work hard, you may starve. So in this particular story the message is clear. That said, I think if the story had been written today, there may have been another angle that said that yes, it’s good to work hard but that play is just as important. I think today the onus would be on striving for and achieving balance. We all want to avoid the clutches of the big bad scary wolf which may appear in many guises but all work and no play pushes us too far near the edge, and if we are not careful we may trip over and fall into a quagmire.

Another thing that springs to my mind regarding the ‘fantasy’ of fairytales, and may be food for thought is how much a story can change through the telling as it is passed down from one generation to another. In one version of the above, the antagonist is a cunning fox rather than a big bad wolf. There is, it seems a version too where the three little pigs have names, and individual personality traits but that is another story. Where the changes in stories take place is often not known, and is lost somewhere in the telling. My point is that stories whether fairytale, fiction or reality should be told. We are the storytellers, and it is for us to ensure that those who follow in our footsteps know the stories so that they too can pass them down when it is their time to tell. So perhaps today or tonight put down that extension of your arm that is your mobile phone, pick up a storybook and share it with young ears.

In years to come you will be glad that you did!

© Liola Lee 2019

I captured the image of wolves shown here at Longleat Safari Park earlier this month.

Nameless Souls on Sepia

They were just nameless souls on sepia, staring out seemingly into space:  a peer into a time long since past and now, not often remembered with any degree of regularity. With its jagged edges, it was evident that part of the photograph had been torn away, why is a mystery. Someone in the family, though I cannot recall who, had once mentioned that there had been a rift within the family back in the days when they used to gather at the beautiful hill station of Mussoorie, when escaping the harrowing heat of the city. That was as much as was known. There was no accompanying documentation and nothing written down to suggest who the people in the picture may have been. That they were ancestors seemed a little more than likely. The photograph depicted a wedding scene. Three people remained in the frame. Two seated and one standing or rather two standing but as one had been unceremoniously decapitated he could not be counted. He could have been anyone. The bride wore a lavish wedding gown of lace with what appeared to be a full layered veil laid lightly and carefully, so as not to interfere with her elegant upswept hair which was so fashionable in the early 1900s. Seated beside her was an older man with a head of thick snow white wavy hair, and sporting a long white beard: a little like Santa Claus in a suit. Beneath the hairy façade was a man not unlike my father. In fact, but for the beard it could have been my father sitting beside the bride.  It was the eyes that gave it away. They were the same eyes that had watched over me all my life. Only my father’s eyes had seen different things to those of the apparently stoic figure of the man pictured here. Their worlds were far apart but their narrative of origin was one and the same.

Aunty Paddy had been a gifted and animated storyteller who had a penchant for making colourless characters come to life. She would captivate us with stories of heroes, heroines and travellers tales. “Children….are you listening carefully?” would be our queue to gather round to hear how our ancestors had sailed across oceans in search of fame and fortune. The story told so eloquently and consistently by Aunty Paddy, revealed that long ago when great vessels with billowing sails ruled the waves, travelling the trade routes carrying spices, silks and other luxury commodities, and when George III was King; two or possibly three brothers had set sail from bonny Scotland for the far off and exotic land of India. One of them or maybe all of them had been seduced by what the East had to offer, fallen madly in love with and married an Indian princess, and lived out his days happily ever after in India. This was perhaps a rather romanticised account but this was how the story had been told and retold. One brother had perhaps been a doctor, one a sea captain and the third, if indeed there was a third could have been anything Paddy decided him to be. Such is the power of the narrator. The stories were most likely a mixture of myth and reality but to us as children they were fact rather than fiction, impressing upon our imagination that we were indelibly connected to this mysterious and mystical other world, where gods were more than one, and princes were one and many; a world that had captured the hearts and souls of our forefathers and that was forever in our blood.

Shared experiences, cultures, customs and habits all go some way to forging our identities. What we are told as children often stays with us as adults. However, there are other commonalities that can engender an inherent sense of identity and belonging, such as the idea of shared stories and myths. There is no hard definition of myth. Myth is sometimes seen as being synonymous with fantasy and fairy stories, and little to do with fact. The notion of myth often conjures up images of superheroes and superhuman beings that create an idealised view of where we come from, therefore adding to our sense of worth. To us, these pioneers were real life superheroes; they represented the true to life fodder of fairy tales and fiction, that filled our minds with the machinations of an ‘Other’ world. 

Linking myth to the narrative form is relevant, especially when considering Anglo-Indian narratives of origin because their change in circumstances, and the transitions they underwent in adapting to a colonial and a post colonial era both in Indian and in British society is shrouded with princesses both real and imagined. Of particular interest is what has become known as the princess myth which seems to circulate in many Anglo-Indian families. The myth suggests the presence of a noble ancestral connection and more specifically an Indian princess. What is of importance is why this myth has been created and the reason why some families lay claim to a princess in their midst.

Aunty Paddy’s version of events is echoed in a letter dated 19th December 2004 written by Marjorie Williams to her niece;

     …thank you so much for sending me a copy of the family tree…It’s very interesting that so many Howatsons lived in India. Where does the Scottish side come in? I suppose Thomas Howatson who was originally married to (an Indian Princess)? So I heard. My story was that two brothers, Thomas and George set sail from Scotland – one a doctor and the other a sailor or captain of a ship. I can’t tell you where I got this story from – maybe Paddy…

The letter demonstrates firstly, that we find our narratives of origin appealing at any age. Marjorie Williams was 81 when she wrote the letter. She is unable to remember where she got the story from, ‘…maybe Paddy’ she asserts. Paddy was her elder sister who had died some years earlier and who it is purported knew more about the history of the family than anyone else. When Paddy past away, so too did much of the family narrative.

In addition the letter typifies the element of the ‘Indian princess’ myth that circulates in many Anglo-Indian families. Marjorie Williams is Anglo-Indian. Her father was Hugh William Howatson born in Calcutta, India, in 1886, habitually resident in India until about 1900 when he was sent to Britain to finish his education and later to follow a successful career in medicine. It was in Scotland that he met, fell in love with and married his own princess. His princess was Annie. It was close to one hundred years earlier, when Hugh William’s great grandfather Thomas Howatson had set sail for India. What Thomas would have thought of the Britain that his great grandson Hugh returned to can only be guessed at. It is known that following an irregular marriage in Glasgow, Hugh and Annie journeyed to India and travelled about with their young family for a few years, only to return permanently to Britain later. The reasons for their movements between these two great lands, is unknown. The Diaspora to other lands following partition and independence is well documented but what of those who returned to the fatherland beforehand. What are their stories? Our sense of ‘self’ is governed by what is going on the world and is in a constant state of flux. 

It is only by telling our stories and passing them on to our children that we can preserve the memories and myths of past lives. Many stories are passed down between one generation and another, while other stories remain untold and are lost forever. So next time, when you are gathered cosily around the dining table after a sumptuous Sunday lunch as is quite common among families, laughing at the crazy antics of dad’s schooldays,  finding out about grandma’s culinary gifts or hearing of an aunt’s penchant for telling tales, take note and listen very carefully to the snippets and anecdotes of your elders for these are your stories, your narratives of origin: savour every word and share!

© Liola Lee 2010

This was a piece I wrote a few years back. I was lucky enough to have its included in a lovely Anthology titled ‘More Voices on the Verandah’ which was the final in a series of works by Anglo-Indians and those of Anglo-Indian descent. The Anthology is available still and is edited by Lionel Lumb

Hugh’s Story

Hugh Montgomery Howatson 11/04/1923 – 29/12/2013 ‘ A man who inspired…’

Hugh was a truly amazing Man, and a beautiful human being! He was good, he was kind, he was patient, he was intelligent, and he always offered encouragement even when the odds were stacked against you! He epitomised Strength and Gentility! At the beginning of World War II he played his part by becoming an ARP Warden (Air Raid Patrol). Then as soon as he reached 18 he enlisted and joined the RAF, and was attached to 294 Squadron as a WAG (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) in Air Sea Rescue. He was just a boy at the start of the War but had strong values and believed in doing his duty by his country and his family, and fought for the continued freedom of his fellow countrymen and women. Joining the War Effort was just par for the course. While serving King and Country Hugh demonstrated a skill for languages, and during the war years mastered fluent French, German and Arabic. He was a very talented man. He attained a Degree in Chemistry with the University of London as an external student, and later became a Research Chemist by Profession, a job which he stayed in until he retired. He was a devoted family man being a wonderful Husband, brilliant Dad, loving Brother, Uncle, Grandfather, Great Grandfather and friend! He worked hard all his life and always paid his dues. He had always been a healthy man, and always looked much younger than his years. He never ever complained about anything, least of all his health, and just got on with Life. He believed that if a job was worth doing it was worth doing well and to the best of your ability. He had many hobbies and interests. He was a brilliant Photographer, an avid reader, an exceptional craftsman with wood, making his own beautiful items and restoring antiques. He used to enjoy making his own wine. He would always tell us to follow our heart and our dreams!  He passed on his love of learning and his many gifts to all of us. We are all better human beings for having had the honour and privilege of being a part of him. Getting mixed dementia was not on the agenda. You always think things like Dementia and Alzheimers happen to other people, and other families! When it comes, it can be a gradual process, and even go unnoticed for a long time. But when it takes a grip it does n’t let go! Each day bit by bit the person you love is taken from you until they no longer know who you are or even who they are. There are drugs that are currently used but in all honesty they fall far short of doing anything that really helps. Resources are limited to say the least! Much more Research is needed to explore this soul destroying illness in its many guises. 

This story is Hugh’s story but it could be anybody’s story. Alzheimers/Dementia does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, male or female and not always when elderly. It’s a cruel, unforgiving and soul destroying illness which lays claim to an individual bit by bit chipping away relentlessly until a person is just a shadow of their former and vital self. Families are heartbroken as they watch their loved ones die, and then when physical death occurs they lose their loved one all over again. When Hugh was in hospital he shared his part of the ward with Bertie, Terence and Tony. All had Alzheimers/Dementia in one form or another. This illness is on the increase! A former Global Summit said we need to do something! So let’s do something  and raise awareness to find a way forward.  No one knows what the future holds until it happens. Let’s make it a future free from Alzheimers/Dementia!

© Liola Lee 2014

It is five years today since our beautiful Daddy passed away from this World to the next. I originally wrote this piece in 2014 when I set up a charity page in his memory. It was about raising much needed funds for research, the message remains relative and of course to raise awareness. The page is no longer running but the message remains as important today as back then I am posting this article here in his memory and in memory of all those who have suffered from Alzheimer’s/Dementia and of course for all their loved ones…