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Posted on January 30, 2009 in The Home Front by Jay23 Comments »

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I was reading through other people’s ABC Wednesday offerings today, and Molokai Girl had used her button box to illustrate the letter ‘B’, and it brought back such a flood of memories!

You see, when I was a child, most households had a button box of some kind, and Mum was no exception.  She’d had to learn to be thrifty in the post-war years, and the habit was so ingrained that she wouldn’t have dreamed of throwing away a worn out garment without first salvaging what she could in the way of fabric, trimmings, zips and fasteners.  The fabric would be folded, the trimmings wound into figure-of-eight bundles, and zips would be sorted into sizes, and they would all be put carefully away.  Most of it went into the big wooden sewing box, all except the buttons, which were tossed into the button box.

Mum’s button box was a battered old red and white Oxo tin, about six inches square, and about three inches deep, and if I was at home sick, or if she was busy, and I was bored, out it would come to entertain me.   She would spread two or three broad sheets of newspaper on the floor, and tip the buttons and assorted bits and pieces out onto the paper, and I would spend hours happily sifting through the heap, matching up button sets, picking the cotton out of old hooks and eyes, marvelling over the fancy crystal buttons, the wooden buttons, the shanks and the squares and the mother-of-pearls, and the great knobbly coat buttons – and also, the non-buttony oddments which I would find in there, and which were many and varied.

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I would have to watch my fingers, because there were always a few pins lurking at the bottom – dressmaking pins, and drawing pins – and also those little gold coloured paper fasteners that looked a little like old fashioned clothes pegs with their shiny round heads and two flat ‘legs’.  I would try to make them ‘walk’ sometimes and they’d end up all twisted and crumpled no matter how hard I tried to straighten them!

Then there were the belt buckles, which looked so strange to me, because they had no prong for the belt holes.  I could never see how they would work.  And there were small flat cards with metal snaps attached – actually stitched on with white cotton thread!   A bobbin or two would sometimes get in amongst the buttons and I remember once finding a very strange shiny metal device with a little hinge in it and bits sticking out in all directions .. I puzzled over it for a while, then held it up and asked Mum what it was and she told me it was a foot.   A foot!  I gazed at it in bewilderment, until she glanced up again and saw my face and explained.  It was a ‘foot’ for a sewing machine – one of the many she could change to do different jobs with.   I have my own sewing machine now, but I only use two or three of the feet that came with it: the straight sewing foot, the zig-zag foot, and the zipper foot.  I still don’t know what the one in Mum’s button box was for – maybe it was a piping foot?  Something she didn’t use often, that’s for sure.

One thing I used to love to do was sort through the pile and find all the Co-op tokens.  The Co-op used to make its own money in those days, in the form of tokens.  I think they were perhaps paid out as dividends to the members and there were often a few in the button box.  They came in different shapes and were made of some kind of pressed lightweight metal, with the design and the amount of money they were each worth was embossed onto them.   I used to stack them up and feel quite rich, but then my pocket money in those days was 3d.  That’s three old pennies, which were each worth 2.4 of the new pennies, of which we now have a hundred in each pound.

I used to love finding these treasures, but I used to love the feel of the buttons themselves, too, and the noise they made as I swept my hand through them to spread them out and uncover new ones.   It’s an enduring memory, along with the feel of the wool carpet under my knees, and the crackle of the fire, and the sound of my mother’s knitting machine going zzz-i-i-i-p – zzz-i-i-i-p, or the clatter of the sewing machine as she worked on yet another commission to earn that all-important extra cash.

Even now, whenever I have reason to go to my button box, searching for a set of buttons for a project, I remember those childhood days.  Little me, sorting them into colours and types, making piles of all the shirt buttons, linking the safety pins together, unravelling the waste thread that had got caught up in things, and then, when my time was up, tipping them all back into the tin in a great heap and folding the paper ready to use as tinder for tomorrow’s fire.

My own button tin contains slightly different oddments to  those in my Mum’s box.  That’s my tin up there.  It’s smaller, and to my mind, quite boring by comparison, but it holds its own memories – for instance, there are dungaree clips among the buttons, and they used to be worn by my second son when he was a toddler.

So, does that button box stir memories for you, too?

‘Let me take you back to your childhood … ‘

 

*Oxo box picture by kind permission of ‘chinafinda1′ on eBay.

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There. Pretty, ain’t it?  That’s the windowsill of the guest room upstairs, and perfect for this week’s ABC Wednesday, as you see.

Beautiful blooms in a blue jug take the centre, flanked by those two red bottles – they used to contain Welsh spring water, and they were so lovely that I couldn’t bear to throw them away.  They provide a nice splash of contrast in a room which is mainly yellows, golds and blues.  They’re quite nice to use for single buds or blossoms too.

You might also notice, on the right hand side of the picture, a dish of marbles, which are, of course, nothing more than little glass balls.  I found these while sorting out the boys‘ toys, years ago, in a box of abandoned bits and pieces and I’ve always had a soft spot for marbles, so I found a little glass dish to put them in and they just sit there looking colourful and round and shiny.  The reason they found their way into the spare room (along with a few other games and toys) is that if someone ever comes to stay with a young child, that’s the room they’ll sleep in, so I’ve put a few toys and games in there to give them something to do.  I remember being taken to stay in strange ‘adult’ houses as a child, don’t you?  There was never anything to do, was there?   So boring.  Look carefully, and you’ll maybe be able to spot a blue marble or two in there.

So what on earth is that strange thing to the left?  What?  You mean you don’t recognise Willy Wonka?  Haven’t you seen Charlie and the  Chocolate Factory?  It’s Johnny Depp, you know, in one of his most bizarre – but delightful – roles to date.  Tennessee Jenn sent him to me for my birthday one year, but he gives OH the creeps so he has been relegated to the guest room, where he delights my fellow Depp fans when they stay.  He is a bobblehead, by the way.

The interesting thing about Willy Wonka is that he was the only victim of the earthquake we suffered here in February last year .  He was standing on top of our plasma TV at the time, and you know how thin the top of a plasma TV is.   Now, the trouble with bobbleheads is that they bobble.  And when the earth is moving they bobble quite violently, and the poor fellow just bobbled himself right off.

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As you can see, he became totally broken.  Poor Willy.  Don’t you think he looks a little bewildered?

By the way, the marbles don’t usually sit on the windowsill. They are normally kept on a shelf here with the books.

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Yes, yes, I know. Quite mad. You don’t have to remind me. The Jack Sparrow lunch box was a gift. I don’t go out and buy these things you know! Well .. I didn’t buy that one, anyway. Tee hee

Posted on January 26, 2009 in Hounds, Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay33 Comments »

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Now, all greyhounds are inclined to be lazy, despite the popular image of a dog tearing around at 45 mph with all his teeth hanging out and his tongue flying in the breeze, but this one is spectacularly lazy, don’t you think?

His name is Rizzo, and his human slaves, Maria and Michael, run a dog-walking group called Trail Bound Hounds.  Normally, Rizzo has fun walking with the other dogs, but if Rizzo has had enough, Rizzo stops, and nothing will make him move, and they have a choice – walk on without him or pick him up and carry him.  So Michael carries him.  He’s rather small for a greyhound, but as they say, after a very short distance, even a very small greyhound can feel like a ton weight.

The picture at the top was actually taken in January 2008, but trust me, Rizzo is still at his old tricks.  Hounds may be stubborn at times, and they may have a reputation for being slow learners, but they will learn very quickly indeed when it is in their interests to do so, and Rizzo has learned how to hitch a ride.  Here he is again in November last year.

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Rizzo is nine, which officially earns him senior status, although many of us don’t consider our greyhounds to be seniors until they’re a few years older than that.  He’s not being asked to do anything he shouldn’t – his people are very caring and protective of their dogs.

But for anyone who might be concerned about Rizzo being carried like a sack of potatoes, Maria has issued the following statement:

“Please note, Rizzo was not hurt in the taking of this photo. DH* got him comfy and safe for a short distance until he was ready to finish with the rest of the group. Sometimes Rizzo loves to walk and other times he’s just like an obstinate teen!”

And trust me, if you’ve ever tried to pick up a greyhound who doesn’t wish to be picked up, you’ll know that this one was perfectly happy up there.

I’m planning to feature this rather special guy as Mr February 2009.  Stay tuned. I’ll tell you a little bit more about him then.

* On forums like Greytalk, ‘DH’ stands for Dear Husband.

Posted on January 23, 2009 in Conversations, The Home Front by Jay20 Comments »

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We were getting ready to go out on our afternoon dog walk.  I’m still rather restricted as to what I can do, so I asked OH to help me with my shoes and socks.

I extended a foot towards him and noticed something.

Me: My toenails need cutting.

OH:  Do they?

Me:  Yes, look!  Can’t you see?  You could do that for me, couldn’t you?

*A moment of silence as a horrified look passes across OH’s face and decides to camp out for a while*

Me (pleadingly): You could do that.  Couldn’t you?

OH (firmly):  No.

Me: No?  But … but … I can’t do it myself!

*Pause*

OH: You know you said you wanted to go into town?

Me: Uh-huh … ?

OH: Book a pedicure.

Now, OH has been absolutely wonderful during my one-armedness.  He has cooked, cleaned house, showered and washed me, dressed me, blowdried my hair, helped me with 101 little daily tasks that become nigh-on impossible with one arm out of action and the other increasingly painful.  He’s even learned to put The Pirate’s eye ointment in.

But he just has a little thing about nails.

Oh well.  I guess I’ll just have to go get that pedicure.  Oh dear, what a shame.  I suppose I could have a facial while I’m there, too, and maybe a manicure.  And the old roots need attention.  Tee hee.

He’s just lucky I’m not up to a full body massage and the spray tanning booth just yet!