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EXTRA

March 2014

A love more touching than Mummy any Holywood Mayhem blockbuster

by Susan Clarke

Former Spectator reporter Susan Clarke went from being the woman who has it all to the woman who does it all when she decided to become a stay-at-home mum to her three young children. This is her life....

know I am a little late for Valentine's Day, but this month I want to tell you a love story. It is nothing that would make a Hollywood blockbuster or a best selling novel. It is about when two people simply 'fit' each other without suffocation or draughts. There is room for both their likes, dislikes and bad habits. They finish each other's sentences to help the other out, not to have the last word and they always look forward to sitting down with a cup of tea together.

I

It is not my story, but maybe someday if I notch up as many years as my neighbours in Donegal I will have the same contentment. Mary and Jack have been living next door to our holiday home for 15 years and it is hard to believe a time when they were not part of our lives. The couple are in their late 80s now, but when I first met them they had recently retired and moved to the country to slow down a bit, although at times they seemed to have a lot more energy than me. Driving up towards the house on a fine day we were guaranteed to see Jack painting, clearing the gutters or digging the garden. Mary would be waging her war against pine needles in the driveway or hanging out wet clothes to feed her washing addiction. She was the mother hen, constantly bustling about, and he was the doting husband who hardly had to stir his tea. They could point out each other's shortcomings and contradict each other about facts or dates or how much work

they should be doing at their age. He had officially given up cigarettes before I met him, and Mary pretended not to notice the smell of tobacco when he returned from his 'walks'. They accepted that if the bad habits had lasted for 60 years, they were with them forever, but that if their marriage had lasted 60 years the bad habits couldn't be that bad. They had run a boarding house in their old lives and could never lose the habit of looking after people. Mary's concern about our nutritional deficiencies increased with each baby I brought to Donegal and now no trip is complete without a pot of chicken soup and some home made potato bread as well as various buns and tray bakes. She usually manages to sneak some trifle in too because I had mentioned 10 years ago that it was my favourite dessert. Once when I had been staying alone with my first born eight years ago, she used her spare key to bring me up breakfast in bed. Before we head off on the three and a half hour journey home the children line up for their 'picnic' of fruit, buns, biscuits and sweets. I give her a big hug and wait for her to sprinkle some Holy Water on me for a safe journey and I promise to call her when we arrive to confirm that it has worked. They were like the grandparents I don't remember and my children saw them more than their actual grandparents Their house was the first stop when they got out of the car after the long journey.

They were at the top table at my wedding and we were honorary family members at their 60th wedding anniversary. The couple have slowed down a lot since we first met them and cancer and arthritis, among other illnesses have taken their toll. Over a year ago Jack's health deteriorated so badly that Mary could no longer care for him and he was moved to a nursing home 15 miles away. It is a well run and friendly place but Mary, who had never learned to drive, and now lives in a remote area without bus service is forced to rely on family and friends to get her in to see her husband. Now our relationship has changed and while I would never be allowed to mother her, she has become more of a close friend than a family member. Many of my nights are spent 'next door' in front of her fire where she will give me advice on how to handle husbands, children and Christmas cakes. We talk of the increase of crime in the village (the shop window had been broken after a drunken brawl) or the whispered confidence that there were two drug addicts in the next town. She tells me who has passed on since my last visit and accepts it as part of the circle of life. She will also, sometimes, let her guard down and admit she is lonely and 'gets down sometimes'. “But I shake myself and tell myself to count my blessings. I raised five children in troubled times and they all have good jobs and the police never had to darken my door. When you get to this age, you can't ask for anything

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more,” she adds. Sometimes I accompany her to visit Jack in the home and am shocked by how small he seems lying on top of the hospital bed. I attempt to speak to him as I used to but his understanding seems muffled by painkillers more than the hearing loss which has always been a part of his life. He tires easily and finds it difficult to stay awake after a certain time. Last week, however, while he was smaller again and his cheeks seemed even more sunken, he was propped up and reading a book when we walked in. He recognised me instantly and smiled. He joined in the conversation and asked us to clarify or repeat something he had not quite understood. The talk got on to the travels the couple had done in their later years. They talked about the pyramids of Egypt, (and the beggars), the dinner they had in a NATO canteen in Cyprus. About cruises and coincidences and about the month they had spent visiting family all over America and how relieved they were when their host had to go to work and they could sit and drink tea and read books without having to be treated like a tourist. They recounted with pride how their five children took time out of their own busy lives to run the family business while they were away. “We had some great holidays,” he said to her. “We did,” she agreed. “We had a smashing life,” he added. “We did,” she replied and I saw her squeeze his hand. That was more touching and honest than any Hollywood blockbuster.

William Jordan, assistant manager of Ladbrokes, Carryduff presenting a cheque for £1,100 to Lesley Wright from Marie Curie Cancer Care. The money was raised through a variety of fund raising events held at the Carryduff branch of Ladbrokes. Also included is Derek Munroe. B50-13-3-2-13

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Flood funds JIM Shannon MP for Strangford has thanked DoE Minister Mark H Durkhan for putting into place the regulations for Council to pay out up to £1000 compensation to those homes that have been flooded due to the terrible storm of the last six weeks. Mr Shannon said: “I had written to the DoE seeking their implementation of the regulations that gives authority to local councils to assist those worst hit by the storms. “Over the last six weeks the residents of the Ards Peninsula have been badly hit. It may not be as well known that along with the tide walls and the roads, that some homes have been flooded due to high tides, some on more than one occasion. “I was made aware that DoE have the power to enable local councils to administer help to those directly impacted. “It is therefore time house-holders flooded out by the storm, get this assistance of up to £1000. “Whilst not enough to cover the damage – every bit helps and I therefore call on householders to claim through the council if they have not already done so.”

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Chronicle extra march 2014  
Chronicle extra march 2014  
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