Patchwork Post: Jasmine, Fireworks and YES!

My inboxes are all at zero. The kids are at out with friends. The house is empty, and it’s fresh, cool and drizzling outside. Pizza soon and a family DVD with wine. I’m surprised you can’t hear my contented sigh all the way over there…

I had fun talking about my garden yesterday and got inspired. We ate outside after I logged off, then my husband and I sat with a glass of wine and chatted. I went inside and grabbed my camera because what I really wanted to share with you was the scent. I have jasmine growing up the wall beside my back kitchen door, honeysuckle scrambling through the laurel bushes and a pot of lavender on the table. The scent is at its most heady and intoxicating in the cool of the evening after a hot muggy day. Click here to sniff. (Wouldn’t that be nice!)

jasmine

honeysuckle

lavender

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Some of the posts I’ve enjoyed recently.

I choose my blog route carefully so every day I’m sure to read at least one post that leaves me saying Exactly!

Hayden of Through the Illusion had me linguistically giddy with joy, shooting out exclamation marks like happy arrows and shouting Yes!!

Eliza of Silver and Grace wrote one of the most practical and helpful pieces you can ever hope to read if you’re a woman over forty.

Brenda’s post at Betaphilings made me want to roll around in a field!

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Here are some of the quotes that have sung to me this week:

There is great happiness in not wanting, in not being something, in not going somewhere. ~ Krishnamurti
Some people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy. ~ Abraham H. Maslow
All sorrows can be borne if you tell a story about them. ~ Karen Blixen
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Staycation fun…

Today I served up quiche Lorraine …for breakfast!! In a French accent, of course 😉

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Patchwork wishes

~Happy belated Canada day to all of our Canadian ‘café’ customers!

~May everyone from the States enjoy fireworks, good food, friends and family this 4th of July weekend!

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What could you do differently today to make it feel like a holiday?

Holidaying at Home

pathio

Today is the first full day of the kids’ summer break. If you’d like to know how we plan to spend the next few weeks – and why –  please check out my guest post at Goodlife Zen, Staycation: How far Away is Happiness? See the table in the corner of the photo? That’s where I’m hoping to spend a few hours today!

This is the  narrow strip of garden outside the kitchen door; I designed and planted it to feel like the path winds into secret spaces, and laid the paving slabs at 45 degrees to make the space seem wider. I call it the pathio – wider than a path, not a very big patio!

garden path2

Enjoy your day – however you decide to spend it!

Holiday Presence

A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in. ~Robert Orben

Our oven is on its last legs. Two nights ago, it sighed warm breath over a pizza that took thirty five minutes to cook. I looked at my husband. He looked at me and we knew we had to tell the kids.

After we’d eaten, we asked them how they’d feel about not going away anywhere on holiday this year. We’d both accepted that it isn’t just the oven that needs replaced; two of the gas rings don’t work properly, some of our kitchen cabinets are beyond repair and some of the countertops are so old, they’re crumbling at the edges. We have maintenance work to do throughout the whole house.

I was poised, ready to explain to the kids that in the current economic climate, we may have to move house and ours needs to be in good repair – not just cosy and family friendly. We were ready to console them, to suggest a short break in October, day trips and lots of alternative plans and lists of exciting things to do. We waited.

My heart ached at the thought of our loved ones over in Greece, of the long conversations we have in the cooler evening air on their terraces and verandahs overlooking the sea. How they spoil the kids with gifts and favourite meals and ice creams while shaking their heads in disbelief at how much they’ve grown.

I thought of the long days we spend on the beach, laughing, playing simple ball games, dripping sea-wet hair onto magazines, puzzle books and holiday paperbacks, lying on beach towels and sandy loungers, smelling of suntan cream and summer.

I thought of reassuring rituals, quiet family times alone on jasmine scented balconies, playing Yahtzee and card games and strolling along the bustling seafront in the evening, choosing which noisy laughter-filled taverna to have a meal in. I longed for a table beneath the stars, for bouzouki music and endless salads and village bread, and plate upon plate of mezedhes – tzatziki, wrinkled olives, aubergine and courgette fritters, tangy feta cheese and giant beans baked in a tomato, olive oil and herb sauce – all washed down with retsina from the barrel out back.

My teenage daughter responded first. “You know,” she said, “I’d love to just chill out at home for a change. I’m really tired.” My son agreed, told us how he longed to just sleep until he woke, with no thoughts of alarm clocks, school or after-school hobbies. They both went on to explain that they enjoy everything they do at school, but are bone-weary, tired of timetables and homework.

Stunned – relieved – I asked them if they’d miss Greece, swimming every day, eating out…

“I won’t miss airports,” said my son. “Or mosquitos,” said my daughter, “…or having to get up early to swim because we can’t go outside at mid-day when it’s too hot.”

My husband and I sat there, listening, as they made the perfect case for an at-home holiday, a staycation, talking of how they loved the idea of a few weeks on holiday here, savouring the things they have little time for during a busy school year; the books they wanted to catch up on, the songs my daughter planned to learn on her guitar and all the sleeping late they were longing to do in the damp, cool Scottish mornings.

“If it’s sunny,” said my son, looking at me, knowing what I love most about holidays, “we can drive to a Scottish beach. The waves sound the same.”

“We can go to Edinburgh or Glasgow,“ said my daughter, who, like me, loves bustling crowds of foreigners as much as serenity and silence “We can pretend to be tourists, sit in cafés, go to galleries…”

I suddenly thought how much fun it would be to capture Edinburgh on camera, to send postcards of hills and lochs and castles to my friends abroad.

I thought how my daughter could play her guitar every day and my son could play football outside for as long as he liked without me worrying about sunstroke or dehydration.

I thought of all the unread books lying around waiting to be read, books I could enjoy after a day’s gardening or decorating, or on a Scottish beach, when I wasn’t gathering bits of driftwood or shells.

I thought how good it would be to get the house fixed, to get rid of all the tolerations and little jobs we’d been putting off.  To gut the attic and create a cosy new kitchen. To have months and years of feeling ‘clean and clear’ for the price of a holiday in the sun.

I hadn’t realised we’d been focusing so much on the benefits of an annual holiday that we’d never given the kids the option of staying at home, had never encouraged them to talk about what they don’t like about going away. I hadn’t realised how much those few weeks in Greece keep me anchored in the past and how many weeks of my life I dream away, longing for a pre-arranged change of scene.

A change of scene begins with a change of thoughts. We don’t always need new vistas; sometimes it’s enough to see what we already have with new eyes and be grateful. If we can’t be happy where we are, with what we have, how can we ever be truly happy somewhere else?

The next night, my husband came back from the supermarket carrying a bottle of retsina and the brand of ice cream the kids eat on holiday. “May as well start early,” he smiled.

(This was written as a guest post for Mary Jaksch at Goodlife Zen, where it appeared as Staycation: How far Away is Happiness?)

Give the Gift of Words on Mother’s Day

Whatever beauty or poetry is to be found in my little book is owing to your interest in and encouragement of all my efforts from the first to the last; and if ever I do anything to be proud of, my greatest happiness will be that I can thank you for that, as I may do for all the good there is in me; and I shall be content to write if it gives you pleasure. ~ Louisa May Alcott (to her mother)

If  you live in the States and are lucky enough to still have a mum you love to cherish, you may want to create a unique Mother’s Day gift for her. If you’re a dad with young kids, some of the following  may give you ideas to surprise their mum with.

Use your words…

Writing is a gift you share with the world, every time you capture and express a thought or overflowing part of your soul in words. Why don’t you share that gift with your mum, especially if you learned your first words on her knee, handed her your first carefully coloured crayon drawings, saw her storing away every story and school essay you ever wrote?

Here are a few ideas you might like to try. In troubled financial times, please share them with others, too. If it’s too late for Mother’s Day, there’s always next year or Christmas or birthdays. Adapt the ideas to use with other loved ones. Use them to reach out and heal wounds. Let’s get back to making more meaningful memories and gifts.

Let your inner child say thank you with a photo…

Get a photo of you as a child, one that captures your essence. Scan it and then use Paint, Photoshop  or Gimp to write heartfelt words of love in a beautiful font at the bottom. They can be yours or a quote that expresses you. Frame it, wrap it in tissue paper tied with string or ribbon and slip a daisy or wild flower behind the string like you might have done as a child. Spray the wrapping with perfume; I used to do that when I was a wee girl and my mum loved it.

Make a card…

Let your thoughts run free on a one line theme and list them:

Mums are…warm towel hugs on cold windy beaches

…hands wiping hair from eyes and tears from faces

or,

Because you love me, I can… love myself enough

… hold my head high, even when I’m scared

You could also use that same scanned photo idea from above to make a card.

Make a bookmark…

  • Pick a wild flower (I used to give my mum dandelions) stick it on to a book-length piece of card two inches wide with some beautiful inspiring words on it, laminate it, punch a hole in the end, thread and loop a doubled ribbon through and slip this book mark into the card. I guarantee she’ll use it forever.
  • Painstakingly write out the Desiderata and laminate it to make a book mark. I have one I made myself when I was seventeen. I still use it.

Make a small book of words and poetry and quotes…

Use A4 paper doubled to A5; spiral bind it or simply punch through several sheets and thread with ribbon, tied in a bow at the front. You could also thread beads or buttons through the ribbon, anything you might have used as a child. Accompany it with an MP3 or CD of songs that mean something to both of you or whose lyrics express your love .

If you can’t be with your mum, make her an ebook. I make mine in Word, then use an application called Primo PDF. If you send her an ebook, you can add links to music in the book.

Fill this book full of

  • sayings your mum drummed into you, wise words of wisdom that have stuck.
  • silly words and jokes you used to share
  • photos
  • famous quotations about childhood, motherhood and gratitude
  • wee haiku style poems about your mum or childhood memories (see for hints have a look at  haiku: showing essence, shedding skins and cultivating happiness)
  • do an accrostic poem. Write the word MOTHER vertically then write a word or very short phrase that symbolises motherhood to you across each letter. Here’s the start of one to give you an idea:

My best friend
hOt chocolate in winter
firsT smile in the mornings

Write her a short story or a longer piece of writing.

This was a commissioned piece about gratitude, but it ended up being a hymn to my mum and daughter:  And the Angels Sang

My mum died when I was pregnant with my son, so Mother’s Day is always poignant for me. I always feel closer to her when I write.

Dedicate a page of your blog to her.

Give your mum a beautiful cloud on Mother’s Day. Get inspired on www.Wordle.net

Give her the promise of your best future

Find her a beautiful pebble and a flowering plant; give them to her with this handwritten quote and a huge embrace:

Touch a rock and you touch the past. Touch a flower and you touch the present. Touch a child and you touch the future. ~ Anonymous

All of us mums want to feel like we’ve contributed to a better tomorrow by passing on the most precious parts of our souls. If you write something special for your mum, she’ll know she has.

Here are some quotes to get you started:

A loving and careful mother both recognises and even protects her daughter’s autonomy and also helps her dance out confidently on to a wider stage. ~ Rachel Billington

My mother raised me, and then freed me. ~ Maya Angelou

Her love is sustained and deep. Sometimes I feel like a drowning person, saved by the pulling and tugging, saved by the breath of air that is her caring. ~ Bell Hooks

If you have ideas for giving the gift of words, please share them with us here.

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Spreading link love

These last few weeks have been been amazingly rich – lots to read,  lots to learn and enjoy.

A very special soul, Cindy Platt at NamasDaisy, wrote a beautiful poetic post about motherhood.

Marc, who you may know as WelshScribe, launched a new blog called DailyAikido which highlights what he’s learned about life through his Aikido mastery. I look forward to watching it grow.

Marc’s new blog uses the Frugal WordPress theme, designed by another friend, Eric Hamm, of Frugal Site Design. Please check it out if you’re thinking of updating your WordPress theme. It’s free but is built like a premium theme, with beautifully clean lines and no unecessary frills. You can have it customised by Eric himself. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits is happy to endorse Eric and his work.

I LOVED this post by Robyn McMaster of  Brain Based Biz. It’s all about coffee and…..the health benefits!!

Dave at Blogger Dad always makes me laugh, but his post about his son’s toilet training had me snorting and chortling as I read.

Special thanks to my friends Nadia at Happy Lotus , Randi at Foreign Quang and Chania Girl for sharing their talents and their readers with me this week!! I’m also grateful to Diana at Mosaic Moods for letting me build a post around her mosaics.

And finally, Tess at The Bold Life and Cheryl Wright made my week; I won a book in Tess’s Monday giveaway last week and Cheryl nominated me as an uplifting blog.  I leave you with some anagrams Cheryl sent me to make me smile after my humourous haiku post.

DORMITORY:
When you rearrange the letters:
DIRTY ROOM

PRESBYTERIAN:
When you rearrange the letters:
BEST IN PRAYER

ASTRONOMER:
When you rearrange the letters:
MOON STARER

DESPERATION:
When you rearrange the letters:
A ROPE ENDS IT

THE EYES:
When you rearrange the letters:
THEY SEE

GEORGE BUSH:
When you rearrange the letters:
HE BUGS GORE

THE MORSE CODE :
When you rearrange the letters:
HERE COME DOTS

SLOT MACHINES:
When you rearrange the letters:
CASH LOST IN ME

ANIMOSITY:
When you rearrange the letters:
IS NO AMITY

ELECTION RESULTS:
When you rearrange the letters:
LIES – LET’S RECOUNT

SNOOZE ALARMS:
When you rearrange the letters:
ALAS! NO MORE Z ‘S

A DECIMAL POINT:
When you rearrange the letters:
I’M A DOT IN PLACE

THE EARTHQUAKES:
When you rearrange the letters:
THAT QUEER SHAKE

ELEVEN PLUS TWO:
When you rearrange the letters:
TWELVE PLUS ONE

MOTHER-IN-LAW:
When you rearrange the letters:
WOMAN HITLER

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Have a great weekend! (I may not be able to respond to any comments promptly as we have family visiting for a few days.)

i thank You God for most this amazing day

hyacinths and freesias at the kitchen windowIt’s a glorious day here. Daffodils and hyacinths, tulips and primroses and all around the sound of birdsong and families in their gardens, laughing, playing and preparing barbecues. My kids are listening to their Grandad, giving him the chance to reminisce, to share his stories in the sunshine.  My husband’s pottering somewhere in the garden, enjoying a break from his work-day routine. I can smell freshly dug soil.

I don’t normally go near my laptop on Sundays or family holidays, but I found myself wanting to share one of my favourite poems with you today. 

I love the way ee cummings’s mind moves. I love the way he makes me explore the possibilities of my own language, searching for meanings in what’s not there and the why and the where of what is there. I love his delight in words, letters, syntax, symbols and sound and the way he expresses life and love.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Redefine the Recession and Revitalise Your Spirit

…we’ve been given a great gift – the chance to re-evaluate what’s most important to us in a deeply authentic way. ~ Janice

For many people, this weekend (or next weekend) is Easter, a time for spiritual rebirth, a time to celebrate gratitude, unconditional love, renewed hope and purpose.

In the current economic crisis, many people have had change and a new life thrust upon them, often in the form of loss. I wrote the following post for my ‘Coaching Moments’ column in VOICE last spring,  before the global financial crisis hit like a tsunami. I’ve also included a few links at the end of this post, to support and inspire you this weekend.

The ‘R’ Word…How to Redefine the Recession

I’ve recently read a surprising number of newsletters and blogs which have used the phrase “the ‘R’ word” to refer to economic recession. Now these aren’t coy writers I’m talking about; they’re highly respected, powerful coaches who inspire and lead many others. I don’t know why they use the phrase, but it got me thinking about what recession means to the coaching world and also set me off on a journey exploring ‘R’ words.

Real estate, reaction, response, re-positioning and relief…

I live in a tourist area where many local newly-weds can’t afford to buy homes because of inflated house prices. In other parts of the country, families are faced with the prospect of downsizing or negative equity because of the post-boom drop in property prices. I’ve seen how distressing this can be, so it’s not a topic I’m being dismissive of or disrespectful about. I’d like to share a story with you about one of the best coaches I’ve ever known.

He started to feel the waves of worry over the US sub-prime mortgage situation last year; his wife works in real estate and they have a young family. His initial reaction was to increase his networking and marketing until the pace became almost hysterical and frenetic. Then, after an aha phase, he responded from his heart by putting the theory of ‘letting go’ into practice. He focused on the abundance he already had – his family, friends, training, experience, wisdom and qualifications – and acknowledged that they weren’t going to evaporate if he didn’t fill his coaching practice immediately. Instead, he started applying for other jobs to supplement his coaching income, even though he already had more clients than most coaches I know. The job offers came flowing in. He  accepted one that allowed him to work from home and the relief was almost tangible, like a breeze of fresh air blowing through his life, bringing with it financial security and a continuation of the family dynamics and routine he’d worked so hard to build. And then – no surprise to those of us who believe in the law of attraction – the clients came pouring in too. Eleven new clients in two weeks.

Redundancy, re-evaluation, readiness, relocation and resourcefulness…

My husband works in the Scottish branch of an international company and we’ve been affected by the global crisis too.  Every October for the last three years, his bosses have announced that hundreds of people in the company are to be made redundant. The list of those about to lose their jobs  isn’t released until December.  It’s become harder for me every year to celebrate Christmas in the carefree way we used to. It’s become increasingly painful for my husband to lose colleagues at a time when workmates all over the world are celebrating the holiday season with office parties and frivolity. But as we’ve narrowly ‘escaped’ for three years in a row, we’ve been given a great gift – the chance to re-evaluate what’s most important to us in a deeply authentic way.

We have to ask ourselves what we’d really like to do with our skills and talents and which risks we’re ready and willing to take, seeing as our children are thriving at school. If we were to move anywhere in the world for work, where would we go? What would we do? Why would we choose to stay here in Scotland? My dad is 84 but has another daughter and grandsons here. Heart-searching talks, provocative conversations. Despite my heart-wrenching wanderlust, we always end up feeling that we’re here in Scotland because we want to be. We’re always left knowing what we’re willing to fight to keep.

Not moving house also makes us more resourceful with what we have. Downsizing our consumption, expenditure and stuff is a pleasure for us, a solution, not a form of imposed deprivation. It makes us feel prepared for anything, like we’d be ready to move if we had to. It makes us feel ‘clean and clear’ while we choose to stay. Most of what we own is useful, beautiful or treasured.

Relishing, ritual and religion …

I’ve also coped with looming redundancy and the threat of ‘forced’ relocation by strengthening my love of ritual. It can be a powerful glue in every relationship, religion and society. My daughter laughingly told her Religious and Moral Education teacher at school that her mum steals the best bits of every religion she comes across!

We love creating our own rituals too. On Mother’s Day, I never expect presents, flowers or chocolates. My kids volunteer to be ’servants’ for a day and keep the home running while I stay in my bedroom and read a book from cover to cover – a rare and cherished treat. They make me cards and create ‘cheques’ promising to pay me in love, respect, tidied rooms and fewer tweenage tantrums! I laminate those and use them as bookmarks.

We also make homemade cards, sweets, presents and crackers at Christmas and have created fun-filled, friend and family rituals throughout December. It gives us all so much more to look forward to than shop-bought gifts.

It was my mum who instilled in me a love of details and ritual, and although we didn’t have much money when I was growing up, we grew up rich because of her.

I’m sharing this with you now because if you’re anxious about your future or your finances, this is the time to start being open to creative ideas to reduce your consumption and expenditure. You’ve time to design cards, make personalised bookmarks, write books of gratitude and ‘love memories’ for your loved ones, compile photo albums of treasured memories, and create works of art from digital photos. You’ve time to plan home baked gifts and to research unusual charities to donate to instead of sending gifts…You can give away heirlooms now and register the recipient’s pleasure rather than wait to die to do it. You can have clothes swap evenings with friends, bake and take to the homeless, give away the contents of your attic or garage to folk who need it.

I’m having a meltdown at the moment, trying to decide how to redesign my kitchen to get a bigger table in. As I hear of the tragedy unfolding in Burma, it puts my dilemma into proportion. By not buying meat, wine or treats for a just a week, I can send a Burma emergency relief fund enough for mosquito nets, water purification tablets or plastic sheeting for shelter. Doing without pizza or a bottle of Chilean red isn’t going to kill me.

Remembering, regret and reaching out…

My mum died a few weeks before Mother’s Day, while I was expecting my son. She’d gone into hospital to have an aneurism removed and never spoke again. Complications meant she had to be ventilated through her windpipe, even though she was fully conscious. She spent her last weeks on a gurney in intensive care, awake but hooked up to dialysis and a ventilator, defying all the odds. The day before she died, she was restless, hardly lucid and spent the whole day trying to point to her left wrist with her wrinkled, right hand. Everyone speculated; was she experiencing pain down her arms? Was she wondering where her watch had gone? She mouthed the words “I love you son” to my husband before she drifted off and we were asked to leave. That night, she developed an infection and didn’t regain consciousness. My dad was asked for permission to switch off the machines. The next day, I watched her slowly slip away. When the LED displays finally all reached zero, I looked up to the ceiling and said “I’m sorry.” So much I hadn’t said when she was alive. So many memories I’ve relished since.

I reckon she was pointing to where her watch had been, telling us it was time, telling us not to waste it.

Don’t let regret be one of your ‘R’ words. As folk who are involved in the coaching world, the recession is a chance for us to reach out, to inspire, to share our skills and our wisdom and to make a difference. It’s not all about marketing and money.

A few of my favourite ‘R’words…

Why don’t you make a list of your own or get your clients to make one as an attitudinal antidote to ‘R’ word anxiety!

reading,
rose scented laundry,
relishing truth,
rugs on real wood floors,
reaching out and really enjoying people,
rainbows (my mum sends them),
rock pools,
rusty-red painted wood,
rose flavoured Turkish delight sweets,
retsina and red wine,
rustling olive groves,
rustic tables (laid with blue and checked tablecloths, bread, olives and salads)

(I’d love if you could share some of your favourite ‘R’ words in the comments. How has the recession affected you? How have you coped? Please inspire and encourage us with your story. ~ janice)

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Links for you to explore this weekend…

If you liked my post above, you may like this; I wrote it  before Easter two years ago: Saving More than Money

If you need more than reading to support the changes you have to make in your life right now, Consciousness Shifting coach, Anne Walsh, is offering a course called Lemons: Life after Loss with her colleague Dr Karen Vizer. It’s designed for a small group, and its purpose is to help people stay positive, eliminate negativity and find the courage to thrive in these difficult and challenging times. Although I’m a certified coach myself, I’ve made use of Anne’s  unique consciousness shifting approach in the past, to help me make tough decisions. I know her techniques and skills work; her listening style makes me feel genuinely heard at vulnerable times.

Love your pet? Coach Gary Koehler reminds us of  what we can learn about living in the moment from our pets; I warn you, his dog is seriously gorgeous! Gary’s a friend who has coached me for years. What do you learn from your pets?

Internationally renowned spirituality coach and author Victoria Moran, shares her wisdom in Avoid Recession Depression: Top 10 ways. What helps you through?

Have a wonderful weekend, and if you’re a Christian,

Happy Easter!

Janice

And the Angels Sang

Cradling a coffee to my lips like a prayer in a begging bowl, I sat alone, half hidden behind a pillar and a potted palm. The owner of the hotel, a friend, kept throwing me reassuring glances. The lights on the huge Christmas tree twinkled and raucous laughter and the smell of beer drifted in from the public bar next door.

A pretty dark eyed Polish waitress and the owner’s son and daughter smiled as they rushed back and forwards from the bar, fussing around thirty elderly residents from a local nursing home who sat at a long table drinking tea and coffee, clinking their teaspoons as they relaxed after their annual Christmas meal.

Some sat very still, their hands clasped in their laps, their eyes rheumy, dreaming perhaps of Christmases past. One dignified man in a tweed jacket and sombre tie smiled and thanked the waitress graciously for every small service. A bald man with ruddy cheeks leaned over to chat to friends who had to strain to hear, their lined faces creased in smiles.

“That’s them comin’, Charlie!” shouted one of the regulars at the bar and my heart started pounding. A group of bustling schoolchildren in school uniform was herded in by two teachers, one anxiously smiling, the other firmly issuing orders in a hushed voice that brooked no opposition.

Tall gangly boys with dishevelled uniforms jostled with nervously giggling girls as they took off coats and scarves and flustered around, gathering sheet music and producing shining brass trumpets and trombones from black leather cases lined in red velvet. One lad heaved from a heavy case an accordion that was almost as big as him. Several of the girls spotted me, smiled, whispered to my daughter, nudged her and pointed: “Look! There’s yer mum!” She saw me, broke into a sunny grin and waved a shy half wave as I smiled back and fought to stop myself grinning like a doting idiot. Her teacher leaned down smiling and whispered to me “You’ll be glad you came.” One of my daughter’s classmates started to announce the short programme. “Thank you for inviting us to come here to entertain you today.”

A short dance routine, a brass band Christmas tune, a boy playing Flower of Scotland on the accordion. I listened with half an ear, clapping loudly at the end of each performance but ever aware of my beating heart and the faces of the old folk. From behind the pillar, I couldn’t see my daughter, sitting on the floor with her friends. Only those who stepped up to perform were in my line of vision. The old folk clapped each child, each performance till their fragile hands must have ached. But one old lady in a pastel coloured cardigan didn’t clap; her face intense and panicky, she searched the faces of the youngsters, stirred perhaps by memories of Christmas concerts gone by, looking for and not finding the face of a child long gone.

And there she was. My baby, standing tall and proud in front of the assembled choir of young people I’d known since they’d played with sand and plasticine at playgroup. Nearly as tall as me now, silver tinsel in her blonde pony tail, the same intense look in her pale turquoise eyes that I’d seen in every photograph of me growing up. My friend Charlie looked over, saw me struggling with a lump in my throat and the throb of unshed tears as my girl began to sing. “It was on a starry night…” and then he looked at me, looked back at my daughter, stunned. He’d never heard her sing, knew only that I was a proud mum, knew that like him, I’d lost my elderly mum before she’d had the chance to know her youngest grandchildren. “And the angels sang for him…” The public bar fell silent. “The bells in heaven rang for him…” As her golden voice wrapped itself around everyone in the room, I felt my mother’s arms around me, holding me together. I saw the faces of those proud old people transfixed and tears streaming down their faces. After her last note had faded away into silence, there was a pause before the whole room started clapping.

The children gathered up their instruments and sheet music, chatting and giggling proudly and my daughter came over to me, her face beaming. She grew anxious when she saw my blotchy face but when I smiled, unable to speak, and pulled her to me, she stroked my hair with a wisdom beyond her years and gave me a huge, silent hug.