Tag Archives: History

The Cottage

I always loved coming here as a kid, when the gardens alone offered hours of adventures with my brother. I’m almost 40 and now the cottage signifies getting older and loneliness.

I don’t visit anywhere near as much as I should, this also adds guilt on to the list of overwhelmingly negative feelings I have attached to this place. It’s a ball ache to get to, but it’s worth it. Like something straight out of a wartime drama, the cottage sits in more than 10 acres of National Trust land, the nearest neighbour is a good thirty-minute walk away, and that’s exactly how Nanna likes it.

On bank holiday weekends the roads to the cottage are packed with day-trippers, same for Christmas and throughout the summer holidays. That’s bought me a fair bit of leeway over the years.

Apparently, because I don’t have a family of my own to care for, I’ve no real excuse for not stopping by more frequently than once every six months. God forbid my busy work schedule, socialising and pouring over the Sunday papers should get in the way of tea, cake, and a lambasting of my continued singledom.

Yep, Nanna doesn’t mince her words. I’m personally responsible for letting her down on the great-grandchild front, despite the fact my brother has twin girls. I literally can’t win. Yet I know I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t make the trip at least a couple of times a year to check-in on the old bird.

I pull up at the main gate and press the buzzer, “Hi Nanna, it’s me.” I call into the grey box. “Well, it’s about time” comes the curt reply, and the gate slowly swings open. Sheesh, maybe I should’ve left if another month or two. Rolling my eyes in the safety of my own car, I make the short journey up to the cottage.

The gardens are stunning. She may be pushing 85, but she’s damn sprightly with a lawnmower and pruning shears! I remember the rose buses like those from Alice in Wonderland, one plant red, the next one white. My brother chasing me through the knee-high hedgerows like the Mad Hatter. Nanna was carefree then. She was never angry or bad-tempered. She’d often clip a rose especially for me, and slide it through my ponytail. Now, she’s more akin to the Queen of Hearts if I so much as admire a petal.

I park the car, switch my phone over onto silent, she can’t abide any kind of beeping noises, and taking a phone call would be considered terrible rude. Leaning over to the rear seats, I pick up a parcel and the fresh pastries and brace myself.

“Nanna, it’s lovely to see you, you look well.” I greet her. She’s stood in the kitchen doorway, surrounded by dozens of potted herbs and spring wildflowers. “What on earth are you wearing?” she bats back. And so it begins.

Sat at the patio table, I notice she looks old. I mean, she is, but it seems like life is taking its toll. When I saw her back in October, she was preparing for harvest, pumped up that her crop would be her best yet and she’d have enough to share with the groundsmen and their families. With Spring, Nanna looked tired and drawn. Like she’d not slept.

The light around the side of the cottage is the most beautiful. Dappled by the trees, the sun streams through onto the patio until late evening, making it the perfect spot to enjoy the peace and quiet. Today, the Spring sunshine only illuminated my brother’s fears, Nanna was beginning to struggle. He’d asked if I would bring my visit forward, and now I knew why.

“Have you managed to bag yourself a handsome chap yet then Maureen? I’m not getting any younger you know. This place should be full of life and laughter again, I want to be here long enough to see your little ones running about on the lawns.” That was the second time she’d called me by my mum’s name. I didn’t correct her, I played along.

“Ahh Nanna, I’m so busy with work that I don’t have time to date a man. And besides, you’ve done too good a job proving we don’t really need men to be happy. Just look at this place, it’s blooming more than ever, all thanks to you.” I leaned forward, smiling.

“Now you listen to me. I always did my fair share when Pop was alive. We were a team, I could never replace him. You’ve got to get yourself a team Maureen, you’ll be much happier.”

Peering over her glasses with a stern look, she continued: “All this work and no family, it isn’t good for you. What if you end up going doo-lally-tap, you’ll be all alone, like me.

“You deserve better Beth, don’t end up on your own, you hear. Make that a priority on your busy schedule.” She took a sip of tea and busied herself buttering a scone.

She knew. She knew her memory was slipping, her coordination slower than before. Even since before Christmas, there was a noticeable change.

“We’re going to have to make all the arrangements soon. I think it’s time you took over the cottage. I’ve spoken to the solicitors….” She was still talking but I was too stunned to hear the words.

“Nanna, why would…. Nanna where are you going?” I looked at her, panicked. Nanna was born here. 6th September 1914. The old tin bath used as a water butt at the bottom of the garden was the one she was dunked in twice a week as a child, in front of the fire by her mother.

As a toddler she had ‘brothers and sisters’ from the cities as evacuation brought scores of children from inner cities to the peace and tranquility of the countryside. Her parents were kind, hard-working people. Her father worked the land for the local country house and her mother a cook, before the children came. The cottage was lined with more than 100 years of family history, births, marriages, and deaths. Nanna had lived alone since Pop succumbed to cancer almost 15 years ago.

“Listen, don’t try and play me for a fool. I know I’m not as able as before. I’m getting clumsy. It’s harder to get up in the mornings. I know when I’m beat, and it’s time I moved on.” She said matter of factly.

“Nanna, don’t be daft. This is your home. Where are you going exactly.” I almost laughed, but knew better of it.

“I’m going to die, probably within the next month or two. I don’t want this place to slip. I’ll expect you’ll have to give notice on your fancy apartment, so we’ll call today 4 weeks notice.” She nodded.

 

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I Come From a Land Down Under

Half a billion animals have perished in the Australian Wildfires, a figure which is set to rise in the coming weeks. 

I was born in a place called Cronulla, it’s south of Sydney, Australia. It’s not currently ablaze, but the effects of the worst wildfires seen in decades are truly being felt right across the continent.

According to the latest report on CNN (2nd January 2020) more than 900 homes have been destroyed in New South Wales alone and 17 people have died nationwide. The effect on wildlife is perhaps the most shocking. Wait for this. Half a billion animals have perished since the fire season began in September, and the number is set to rise. The native Koala population has been hardest hit, a third of the population, wiped out.

I’ve often heard people say they would love to emigrate to Australia but they’re too scared of snakes and spiders out to kill them. Who’d have thought it would be wildfires that pose the biggest threat. Air quality is dangerously low and so areas unaffected by the fire line are still in trouble.

The dry weather has made the situation worse as firefighters and volunteers work around the clock to try and stop the fires spreading. Despite international help being flown in, plus support from the Australian armed forces, the summer is just beginning and there is literally no end in sight.

It’s been a long time since I was ‘back home’. Sydney 2000 was my last jaunt as a ballsy 17 year old. I adore my home city and surrounding state and to see it ravaged in such a devastating way is sad and frightening.

My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones, their homes, businesses, possessions, everything in the fires. My thoughts and thanks to all those risking life and limb to stop any further damage and loss.

Climate change has played a real part in the fire season starting earlier and lasting longer. We all have to take action now, because it’s already too late for some.

 

 

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Walk Like an Egyptian in the heart of Liverpool

Today I saw the ancient world version of a tweet. Seriously!

I was filming for The Guide Liverpool at World Museum this afternoon for the press view of Ancient Egypt: A journey through time, two days ahead of the official opening….and it knocked my sarcophagus off!

 

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Not sorry about my Will Smith red carpet pose!

 

Having visited the Egypt gallery regularly for many years (more than I’m willing to admit) both as a child and with my own brood, I expected to find a revamped space with much of the same artefacts we’ve come to know and love. What I discovered was so much more.

I learned more about our city’s links with the ancient world in the 20 minutes I wandered around the gallery and spoke to the team behind this mammoth project, than I could ever have imagined. From scarab beetle tweet-like messages¬†and guy-liner to 10- stunningly presented mummies in all their finery, the entire 1,000 square metre gallery is phenomenal.

 

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Thebes/Liverpool we’re all the same when it comes to looking sharp and nailing those eyeliner flicks!

 

Head on over to The Guide Liverpool for our video and all the details about the official launch on Friday 28th April at 10am. If you do one thing this Bank Holiday weekend, discover a little bit of Ancient Egypt in the heart of Liverpool.

Kate x

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