Blog 54 …September…
Why am I pleased?
Is it because the children are back in full time education? Is it because the trees are changing colour? Is it because the nights are cooler and darker earlier? I hear you all ask. Well, no, it’s not really just all those things…yes I do enjoy the peace and quiet in the house during the day, yes I love the reds and golds of Autumn, yes I do love cooler nights and I am addicted to warm scented candles flickering on the mantelpiece above a toasty warm fire…BUT I’m loving this September for lots more reasons.
The first week of September had always been the back to work week…new class to get to know, new routines to become familiar with, new work load for night times: September always came round so soon after a few weeks of easy breakfasts, reading for pleasure and catching up with family during the school summer holidays and it seemed to be the longest month of all.This time there has been a whole different start to the month of September…the Guild in my town. Actually it’s a city now but I cannot get used to calling it that: in comparison to larger cities like Liverpool and Manchester we do seem small and the recession has brought continual closure of shops and businesses that have been here for years. We seemed to have hit a bit of a dull phase whereby nothing particularly exciting was being planned or built or introduced into the town and the world seemed to go on around us. Everywhere seemed to be looking neglected. But then we had the GUILD 2012 and a new lease of life was breathed into the community.
This is an event that has taken place every 20 years for more than 800 years, with the exception of during the War. It is a unique celebration brought about by King Henry II granting Preston the right to have a Guild Merchant way back in history in 1179. It meant that the town had a Royal Charter. The Guild was an organisation of Traders, Craftsmen and Merchants and newcomers could only trade in the town with the permission of the Guild. During the Guild Celebrations people gathered to watch processions and enjoy special events.
Nowadays there are still the processions of trades, churches, schools and charities. There are markets, musical events, circus, dances and in recent years pop concerts in the open air on the parks. Communities celebrate with street parties. The whole celebration lasts a week and ends after the town has had a Torchlight procession, the only procession held in the dark, and a firework display. The whole town…er city…comes alive with music, bright costumes, banners, colourful bunting, flower displays, flags and a sense of history. People are mingling amongst strangers but everyone talks to each other: the pace of life seems to slow down and people take time to be out and about. The museum was buzzing with visitors eager to see relics from previous Guilds…I took the boys; amazing to see old footage of the place we call home and take for granted.
With so much going on every day it’s a great opportunity for social gatherings and family get-togethers: which is exactly what we did.
Last October very sadly the last of my mother’s brothers passed away at the age of 84. As always it seems that as a family over the past few years the only time we get together is at funerals. We always say ‘We must get together’ but somehow it just doesn’t happen. But after this particular funeral myself and two of my cousins decided that yes we should have a proper family reunion and what better opportunity than to hold it at the beginning of the Guild week when most family members would be home for the Guild. This is the side of my family that hails from Preston, my mother’s family. As you may remember I did once tell you that my mother was one of seven children; 3 girls and 4 boys. When her parents celebrated their Golden wedding Anniversary they had 26 grandchildren: 13 girls and 13 boys. [A late arrival a few years later made it 14 girls!] As all these children have grown up and had children and some even have grandchildren the family has swelled and so it was not an easy task to try to track them all down and organise a reunion…but you know what? We did it!
My two cousins and I set about having regular coffee and cake meetings…although it has to be said that we actually often got a bit carried away with other things and the plans would be slotted in quickly before we parted! We are quite close in age; although not the eldest members of the family we are not the youngest! Round about the middle age! We actually found we had a lot of catching up to do as it had been years since we had had the time to just sit and natter!
So we decided on a date, venue, entertainment and set about contacting everyone. It was to be a gathering of our grandparents’ off- springs. The past few weeks in the lead up to the party was hectic to say the least as we tried to organise food, music and the all important photographs of years gone by. After a few sleepless nights we pulled it off…we had a total of 89 family members;ages ranging from 84 to 2 years...and one due in three weeks but almost on it's way after all the dancing! Family had travelled from near and far…a few couldn’t get up here but those of us who gathered had a ball; literally!
Four generations of the family crowded together for the best family portrait we could ever have hoped for. We sang and we danced to a fantastic band [family members …of course!]We ‘dosey-doed’ and danced in circles like Morris dancers…although one of us flew through the air and landed flat on her front…well not quite flat… and yes it was me!
There was a lot of laughter; especially when my two brothers performed what has become a family tradition started by mum’s two older brothers: using the foil trays that had had sandwiches on they proceeded to sing a song whilst banging the trays on their heads and each others’ heads in tune to the music…a happy sight although pretty crazy it was not dis-similar to a Laurel and Hardy song and dance routine!
There was a lot of talking about the old pictures, a few tears as we remembered our loved ones who were no longer with us…we oohed and ahhed at the picture of granddad as a young soldier in his First World War uniform and pictures of grandma as a very young lady. Some of the family members have been inspired to put together a family tree and had brought along a lap-top to get everyone to update details. One cousin brought in a fabulous cake decorated with the pictures of our grandma and granddad and all their seven children against the skyline of Preston. Another cousin brought a beautiful cake decorated by her daughter. We had the most amazing food that everyone had contributed to, including the traditional butter pies!
All in all it was a huge success and family members met up with each other for the first time in years sharing news and photographs. As youngsters we had often met up at the many family parties and as we grew up we often met up at local pubs! Life and careers took us all on different paths and to different places. I sat for a moment and looked around the room at all the different ages of children and teenagers talking and making friends and I did feel a little tinge of sadness…a longing for the past when as children we had always spent time together with our grandparents: looking back I think our grandparents were actually the pin that held us all together with their principles, their work ethic, their no-nonsense values and discipline but most of all their love for each and every one of their 27 grandchildren [and the 5 great-grandchildren that were born during their lifetime!] They dyed hard boiled eggs a multitude of colours for Easter and gave us all a sixpence for our birthdays or good school reports. [Sixpence is the equivalent of two and a half-pence nowadays but back then you could get a full bag of sweets!] They were special people to us and I had a sense of their pride that we all managed to be together for this Guild. They would have loved it!
This wonderful night was followed by the rest of the Guild celebrations.
The ‘Bridezilla’ was excited as she proudly announced that she would be walking in the Community procession with her local Ladies’ Gym: this procession involved schools, voluntary groups, sports clubs, youth associations…in fact there were 124 different sections.
Mmm I wanted to be a part of this Guild but so far had only been a spectator. The last Guild in 1992 I was with the school children for three days on the park during their dancing event and had only seen bits of the Guild from back stage. The 1972 Guild I was a disinterested teenager of 14 [yes you may remember me telling you that’s when I first set eyes on the ‘Hubby’] But this Guild I wasn’t working and I was interested in what was going on but there was nothing for me to be a part of and disappointment had set in when one afternoon I realised that as I watched one of the processions this could very well be my last ever Guild…well let’s face it none of us knows what will happen in the next 20 years and I’ll be in my 70’s!
I have to admit I was a bit grumpy and the ‘Hubby’ just thought it was the ‘low’ after such a fantastic weekend. To cheer me up he agreed to come to the Torchlight Procession and to help persuade the boys to come along too. Ha! I think I need to develop this sulky technique for ways to get what I want in the future!
Still I felt a bit low and out of the blue the ‘Bridezilla’ asked would I like to join her in the walk as I had been a member of the gym [many moons ago…yes little old me on the treadmill…just getting into the swing of things and attended 2 Salsa sessions as well to help strengthen my ‘inner-core’: then I fell at home and broke my wrist…oohh the agony! I didn’t get back to the gym due to having had 3 plaster casts and treatment over a period of 6 months, I know; ow ow ow!]
Yes! I jumped at the chance! It was a gentle stroll through town, a bit like shopping and I would be in my trainers and jogging pants; not that I do any jogging these days!
The day dawned, I was excited. For goodness sake why on earth I was so excited about walking through crowds of people I don’t know.
We arrived at the gym, put on the specially printed Guild 2012 sweatshirts, collected balloons and pens [for giving to the crowds…note: giving and not chucking at: you can just imagine can’t you someone standing in the crowd and a pen comes flying out of nowhere and hits them in the eye…the compensation would be more than the cost of the procession!] All set, my new pain relief patch was still stuck on my back, I’d already downed the painkillers, I had been talking positive thoughts to myself about how I can do this… no I’m not really crazy it’s just a technique the Pain Management Team taught me to help cope with doing things and being in pain…and I was prepared!
We needed to walk to the starting ‘meeting and greeting’ point as all traffic was re-routed. Then it hit me. The most aggravating pain in my stomach. Dear Lord no! I hadn’t had anything out of the ordinary to eat to set this off! I’d had no wine the night before. No red meat for a few days. Why oh why now of all the days I sit at home why now do I get the ‘runs’?
I could feel my stomach churning with that old-familiar-butterflies in my stomach feeling. You could actually hear me rumbling. The ‘Bridezilla’ was beside herself with laughter at the noises but then the look on my face told her I needed help and pretty quickly! I panicked at the thought that everyone would either have to wait at the gym for me whilst I sat in the loo or that they would set off without me and I’d get lost!
The ‘Bridezilla’ came to my rescue: a packet of those wonderful tablets that stop the ‘runs’ in their tracks…or more appropriately in my tracksuit! Her trip to the local shop had provided me with the perfect solution. I took two tablets straightaway and another one just before the procession started! Phew!
It’s funny isn’t it? Once I’d agreed to do the walk I was more bothered about falling over or having bad back ache than anything else. I’d never even considered the fact that I could pooh my pants on the day!
[Note to self: stock up with these magic pills for ‘Bridezilla’s’ wedding day…now that would be a disaster…!]
Well the walk was fantastic! The weather was dry [I was warm due to a temperature!] and the crowds of people shouting and waving was exciting and a bit overwhelming in a strange sort of way. The music was inspiring and made me want to dance. This was it! This was my moment in the Guild and I loved it! We paraded past the Guild Mayor and other prestigious people on the City Council who applauded everyone. There were smiles and laughter and clapping and ticker tape and balloons galore…and NO mishaps!
To share the day with the ‘Bridezilla’ made it all the more perfect for me as well…and we'll get a medal, now how cool will that be to share with future generations?
So you see the start to this September has been great and there is something else that’s great about it…my two cousins who planned the party with me…we are bound by the fact that our mothers were three sisters…they had a lot of time together…sharing and confiding and laughing and most likely crying too.
Just like we have had in the past 11 months…and somehow a bond has formed almost like a sisterly connection…and even though we no longer have a party to plan we are still meeting up for a coffee and a chat and spending time with each other…just like our mums used to…and just how special is that eh?
As our granddad used to say; “Just champion…”
Footnote: heaven only knows what has happend to the colours of the background this week...must get the 'Cutie-pie' to check all my settings before next week's blog!
Blog 54  © GML 2012.