Tag Archives: England

Friday the 13th: A Good Day in My Book

November the thirteenth is a special day to me, and though it does not fall on a Friday this year, I thought I would share my musings about this auspicious day and Friday the 13th in general. Someone I care about was born on Friday, November the 13th and because of this, I have never thought the day to be unlucky…though some certainly do!

Friday has been considered a doomed day since Chaucer wrote “The Canterbury Tales” in the 14th century. Friday has long been regarded as an unlucky day to undertake journeys or begin new projects. The number 13 is always thought of as extremely unlucky and almost every religion and culture regards it as an evil, sinister digit. For Christians, this is most likely because of its association with Judas Iscariot, the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper. The superstition surrounding Friday 13th could also be linked to Norse mythology. According to legend, 12 gods were at a banquet at Valhalla when Loke, the demi-god of mischief who was not invited, turned up, bringing the total number of guests to 13. He was responsible for the chaos that led to the death of one of the other gods.

Friday the 13th facts:

  • Just as many people are born on Friday the 13th as any other day, but there are slightly more people who die on Friday the 13th.
  • It’s a good day to travel, as many people avoid this day.
  • Friday 13th in August is considered unluckier than any other Friday 13th in Brazil, especially as agosto (August) rhymes with desgosto (sorrow).

People born on Friday the 13th must be born under an unlucky star–You’d think…

But several blessed celebrities cut into cake on this unholy of days: Mario Andretti, Kat Dennnings, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Feist, Margaret Thatcher, Kate Walsh, Darius Rucker, DiDi Conn, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steve Buscemi, Max Weinberg, Christopher Plummer…did I miss anyone?

Oh, yeah…and my gran.I think of her fondly on November 13th; and, in fact, on every Friday the 13th.

She may have had pause to wonder if she was in fact born under an ‘unlucky star’ as she had quite the life of turmoil. Raised in wartime England with memories of diving behind a couch when bombs blasted the street outside, and sharing the affections of her mother with five other siblings, and some who didn’t make it. Her life was filled with death and loss. She later lost her husband at a young age, leaving her to raise two children on her own.

At 4′ 11″, she took up more space in a room than anyone else. Her presence was palpable. You had the feeling she knew what you were thinking at all times, so of course I always felt guilty about something when I was around her. She was a stalwart woman, not given over to emotion and superstition. She would have none of it. Many thought her cold and distant, but I think her hard-nosed attitude evolved over decades of hard work. She was practical, strong, and spoke her mind with a wit like a pistol butt to the back of the head.

She was not a woman of many words–I would never have called her chatty; so when she did speak, her words had weight. I remember her observations, not as criticisms, but just how she saw life. Open and honest, she was, with no time for dressing up her words.

Before my mom, dad, sister, brother and I moved to Canada when I was twelve, we lived in my gran’s house for a while. She was even more brusque and distant than usual, and I could tell it was because her heart was breaking. She was going to miss us, but she couldn’t tell us that. When it came close to the day we were to leave, she grabbed me as I passed her one day and hung onto me for a few gut-wrenching moments, her fingernails digging into my back. She did not know how to hug, but I felt more love from her in that moment than she’d ever shown me before. We did not speak.

Years later, just before she died, she made the long trip from England to Canada to visit me and her first great-grandchild. She was awkward holding my baby, but would watch her like a hawk, perhaps trying to see a resemblance in the tiny doll-like face. Gran softened around the baby and after the first few days she relaxed and started sharing more and more stories about her childhood and life, and eventually began discussing her inevitable death. I think she knew. Only a few weeks after returning to England, she had a stroke. She was found sitting in her armchair, a crossword on her knee and a cup of cold tea at her side. English to the end.

I picked up the phone on November the 13th of that year and dialed her number. The phone rang a few times before I slammed it down into the receiver, suddenly remembering she would not be on the other end to pick up.

I hope she is happy wherever she is, and looking down on us all with pride. She would be delighted to see her little great-grandaughter growing up into a strong woman, and her other descendants she never got to meet, unknowingly carrying around a little part of her within them.

Happy Birthday, Gran.

Friday the 13th falls next in February, 2015 for all you superstitious folk. What are your thoughts on whether or not it is an unlucky day?

Childhood Memories

I found these wonderful images on FB (Ormskirk Bygone Times) and spent an afternoon reminiscing about growing up in England. The quaint market town were I spent most of my time hardly changed over the years. I still recall cobblestone streets, the butcher and the fish and chip shop, corner sweet shops and double-decker buses.
I walked through a graveyard on my way to school and climbed up a tower to my English class wearing my school uniform and polished shoes.
I remember the sights and sounds of the Saturday market and playing in the magical woods.
All these memories were vague until I stared at each photo, unlocking times gone by.
Enjoy the slideshow of Ormskirk, Lancashire, England…

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Canada, My Home

images (2)       shutterstock_1284665181-e1384353431251 I am proud to be a transplanted Brit and a Canadian citizen. I belong to both England and Canada and am lucky to have lived on both sides of the Atlantic. My experiences in each country helped form who I am today, and my memories of both fill me with happiness. England1 My memories of England are of bare-footed, innocent ramblings through ancient woods past waving fields of golden grain and post-war brick buildings separated by cobblestone streets. I remember sitting in front of a fire at granny’s house — my siblings and I still damp from the bath. The firescreen became a rowboat, tossing on treacherous waves. The clothes maiden, turned on its side and covered with a sheet, became a tent in the darkest depths of Africa. The narrow stairs to bed were mountain slopes, and each step a rocky crag that threatened to break if I didn’t make it to the next one. If I dared to peek at the window after lights out, I might catch a glimpse of the giant in the mustard shirt and blue denim jeans that hid behind the poplars on top of the hill. If he saw me peeking…off with my head! The long walk to school in my crisp white shirt and red tie with my imaginary pets, Mischief, the cat, and my little pony, Blackie, to keep me company. I would wait until the street seemed empty, then climb of Blackie’s back and gallop ’til the wind caught my hair and I had to keep checking to see if Mischief could keep up.

Short cut by a church of stone and graveyard full of dusty bones. Basket of shopping from green grocer and butcher as we walk along eating hot steaming pasties.Fish and chips and mushy peas, steak and kidney pies, Blackpool rock, and sweets for a penny. Chucky eggs and conny-onny, sweet tomatoes from Granny’s greenhouse.

My childish imagination helped create a special world that I will always treasure. Having never been back to England, my memories have remained intact, untainted by reality. I do remember some unsavoury aspects — only one bathroom with no shower for six people (unless you include the outhouse), bedroom windows glazed with ice, and hurrying to dress in the morning. The portable washing tub complete with mangle, and hanging the clothes outside to dry. Squeezing into a red phone box on the corner that smelled of urine and lead paint to make a phone call to people who were never home to answer.

We moved to Canada when I was twelve. My only exposure to Canada had been through a friend who wore a first nations style suede jacket with embroidery down the front. It seemed very exotic to my uncultured eyes and I remember staring at it enviously. When I found out we were moving to British Columbia, I imagined evergreen woods, log cabins and teepees and my mind was filled with magic. As I walked out of the airport I expected to see cowboys and Indians, horses and dirt roads. What greeted me was very different. Concrete roads that stretched from side to side, houses big and bright, beautiful mountains and clear skies, and everything so new and clean, clean, clean! People who looked just the same, but somehow bigger and more open, like the roads. I became so small and shy and quiet.

I did find one log cabin! Thank goodness we didn't have to live in it!
I did find one log cabin! Thank goodness we didn’t have to live in it!

I appreciated — and still do — a bathroom with a shower, and a dryer for clothes. I jumped when the phone in our home rang for the first time and admired the brand new television with more than two channels. I slowly forgot the comfort of the row houses and the coal-fed fire, and fell in love with the warmth of the people, the unique houses and the big, beautiful wide open spaces where I could stretch and let my imagination soar even more. It took a while for me to feel like I fit in — to grow into Canada. I learned to love this country after craving my homeland for so long. Now Canada is home, and I could not imagine living anywhere else. Canada means snow-capped lavender peaks, moisture sodden air and moss-covered everything. Gray ocean depths, mountain streams and icy puddles. A myriad of cultures, races and beliefs, all people free to speak and live and love. Canada, my friendly giant, welcoming the world. And everything so green, green, green.

Stanley Park, BC
Stanley Park, BC

Happy Canada Day!

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