17th April 2019

Brown Paper, String and a Spirit Level


  I had absolutely no intention of sending a long and rambling newsletter. All I need to do is let you know that our opening hours are a little 'Topsy Turvy' over the following week. Now, if I had my way I would stipulate that all shops remain shut on Sundays, and that on Wednesdays and Saturdays the doors firmly closed at lunchtime. That way I could spend some lovely quality time with my family, Yeah Right!  Actually I would far prefer to hide myself away with my knitting and get some much needed peace and quiet. Alas, my draconian shop hours would not be too popular, so it's with much delight that I fully support and embrace the fact that all retailers must remain closed on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and ANZAC Day. So, I have warned you, and I expect you to plan ahead and ensure that you are fully stocked up with all your knitting needs. I can keep an extremely accurate tally of the number of you who plan to visit our store only to find we are closed. No, I do not have some high technology surveillance system, rather I count the number of nose prints left on my windows!  
So to recap...Good Friday closed
Easter Sunday closed.
ANZAC Day closed all day

Now here's just a teeny weeny ramble.
  My Dad passed away last November, it was all very sad and I am still getting used to the fact that I cannot call him on the telephone for some expert gardening advice. Mum is now all alone in England and I know she's really struggling with her grief. Each week when I telephone her I hear the radio playing in the background, it's 'company' for her. Her voice is usually wobbly and a little croaky, she doesn't use her voice much as there's no one to talk to. I do the best I can for her, which really isn't much, given the vast distance between us. Every Monday I choose a beautiful card to send to her. It's always a flower design, and I write at length  about whats growing in my garden, the weather and about family news. I know she really appreciates my cards dropping through her mail box. I also take a little comfort in the fact that the postman usually stops to have a little natter with mum. Many years ago Dad was one of the village post men and the older 'posties' do 'look out' for mum and like to check up on her. I also take some comfort in the fact that the milkman and the newspaper  boy call every morning too.
  Now, I will digress a little now. In a previous newsletter I mentioned that Neil and I had bought ourselves a motor home. Much as I adore my job, we were tired of always working and never having any quality time together. With very little thought, and a huge leap of faith, we now know we chose the ideal motor home for us. We have managed to get out of Auckland most weekends. Neil usually spends most of Saturday 'getting the van ready' then swoops by the shop at 4 pm to collect me. I think it's a great arrangement . Neil knows I am a chaotic organizer, I do get there in the end, but we cannot, and do not, work well together. With the van though, I do have one important job. Whenever we park up I have to ensure the van is totally level, if it's not the fridge doesn't  work, and sleeping on a slope, no matter how slight, is not comfortable. As we draw to a halt at our chosen site, I hop into the back of the van, switch on the spirit level app on my phone and pop it on the floor. A few girly 'left a bit, right a bit' directions from me and the van is perfectly level. Technology is a great thing, but it isn't really my thing. 
  So, now to the point of my newsletter. I remembered that Dad had a magnificent spirit level in one of the draws in his shed. Like many long suffering men, Dad's shed was his sanctuary. I won't go into details as my grief at loosing Dad is still a little raw and talking about his wonderful shed will probably set me off blubbing. Anyway, I needed Dad's spirit level. I telephoned Mum and asked if she could please post it to me. I knew exactly where it was, it was in the draw crammed with boxes of useful screws, nuts and bolts, some assorted alum keys and boxes of rubber bands. One box was labelled 'thick rubber bands', one, 'small rubber bands' and one 'assorted rubber bands'. As I mentioned Dad used to be a postman and rather than toss onto the pavement the bands holding the bundles of mail together , he carefully gathered them up and took them home to be filed away in the appropriate box. I never saw the rubber bands put to any good use, although I do have hazy memories of my school socks been held up with rubber bands, leaving rather painful marks under my chubby knees.
Dad's Sanctuary
  Well, an adorable parcel arrived at the shop a couple of weeks ago. Take a peek at the photograph at the top of this newsletter. Like many of her generation Mum is incredibly frugal, she the epitome of 'waste not want not'. Dad's spirit level arrived  wrapped in a rather unique way. Unwrapping it was like a game of solitary 'pass the parcel', each layer roused strong feelings from deep within me.  The strong and thick navy blue felt pen, used to address the packet, would have stayed tucked safely in a draw for the last 40 years, I remember using it while studying for my A levels, aged 16. The string, securely wrapped width ways and length ways, would have come out of a box in 'the top draw' I noticed that she had tied two lengths together, obviously the ideal length was not available so she improvised. And goodness me...the brown paper! Mum must be letting her standards slip. She always used to iron brown paper, Christmas wrapping paper and any envelopes that she planned to re use. My brown paper was severely crumpled, so crumpled that the haphazard lengths of sticky tape acting as a secondary level of security to the string, were not really doing a great job. Having carefully and a little tearfully, peeling away the many levels of wrapping, there, nestling in copious lengths of toilet paper and small scraps of bubble wrap was my spirit level. I cradled it carefully, I stroked it and I held it up to my nose and gave it a smell. I smiled, I welled up and I was warmly comforted. I imagine Dad would give an incredulous snort and retort 'What the devil do you want that old thing for?' 

  During my weekly conversation with Mum I informed her that my special parcel had arrived. She was relieved as it had been a bit of a mission posting it. She skipped over the intricacies of the wrapping process.but explained that her visit to the Post Office had not gone smoothly. The Village Post Office has changed over the years. Dad, up until retirement was one of 5 of the villages post men. Two deliveries were undertaken each day including a Saturday delivery. Each postie was assigned a bicycle and it was Dad's extra role to maintain and keep the fleet of peddle powered company vehicles in running order. Dad adored his job and was most indignant that he had to retire upon reaching the age of 65. The post men, along with the past office counter staff, were well respected and formed a valuable service within the community. Times have changed, although some of the older posties remember, and look out for mum, the Post Office and its counter staff are not 'up to standard'. The Post Office, once a hive of activity, is now a desolate space. Along with purchasing a stamp or choosing from the tiny range of  faded and ancient birthday cards,  village residents can now drop off dry cleaning, grab a plastic wrapped 'meat' pie from a hot cabinet, waste money on a lottery ticket, reach high on a shelf for some glossy 'ladies' magazines, or buy some e-cigarettes. Mum proffered her precious parcel under the slit in the glass security screen and the young counter assistant viewed it with great suspicion. He suggested it might be more safer if mum unwrapped her layers or paper, string, sellotape, bubble wrap and toilet roll and re wrapped it in one of their padded envelopes at an extra cost of two pounds. His suggestion was, not so politely, refused. He then asked what was in the parcel. Mum replied 'a spirit level', he looked vaguely at her and asked 'what's a spirit level?', Mum was rather taken aback and momentarily lost for words. What is the world coming to? Do the 'youth of today' not know what a spirit level is? She told me that she felt she should have told him that her parcel contained a bomb or a very sharp knife, I had to chuckle but kindly tell her that that would not have been the most sensible thing to say.
I didn't let mum know that the counter assistants had sloppily placed the Airmail sticker upside down, and just between me and about 1300 of my newsletter subscribers, Mum has spelled the name of my shop incorrectly. 
  Just as a very cute aside. Mum  gleefully told me that the stamp on my latest letter to her had not been franked, I know full well that would have been the highlight of her day. She will have rummaged in the top draw for an envelope, that was not so battered that it could withstand the journey to New Zealand. If I'm lucky she would have ironed it, slipped the stamp inside and secured the flap down with sticky tape. Any day now, my stamp will be safely delivered back to me. 

  Neil has observed me tapping away at my lap top for a number of hours. 'Your'e not rambling are you?' he asks. So, if my nose is not going to grow to Pinocchio lengths I had better end this brief newsletter pretty quickly.

Happy knitting,
Fran and the Woolly Girls
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