The Christening Gown

Made in 1894 by my great-grandmother Minnie Weatherhog nee Porter, for her only son, the christening gown has become a family treasure.  Thomas Percy (Tom) Weatherhog, my grandfather, was christened November 3, 1894 at Ilkeston in Derbyshire, England.
Using a small, sharp needle with an eye just big enough to comfortably hold the cotton thread, and a thimble on her finger, how Minnie must have worked to complete the gown, stitching the fine cotton in spare moments during the day and by candlelight or oil lamp in the evening, every stitch a labour of love.
The gown is a lovely piece of work.   It is full length with rows of pin tucking alternating with lace panels.  The bodice has vertical pin tucks and joins the skirt with two lines of hand sewn stitching.  The back opening is secured by a small piece of narrow tape. 
 It would be impossible to reproduce many of those stitches with a sewing machine.  The beauty and functionality of Minnie’s excellent hand stitching are astonishing.  And…


The unpredictability of defining moments means we get no choice and usually no warning when they will happen.  Happy or sad, busy or relaxed, it doesn’t matter one iota how we are feeling at the time they present and there is nothing to do except stand and face them head on.  These are the occasions when we get to find out what stuff we are made of and of what we are capable.
In my life, I’ve had many defining moments, but the very first one was huge and has, both positively and negatively, coloured every day of my life since.
In my blog, My Dad I wrote about my father’s untimely death, ravaged, as his body was, by the secondary complications of Type I diabetes.  The knowledge of his impending demise was kept from him (as was thought best in those days), but Mum had known it was coming for three years. The year before Dad’s death, Mum attempted suicide.  I only knew that’s what it was because I came home to find my father bewildered and sobbing, ‘Why would she do that?’  It is a hard…


Nearly fifty years on from his death, memories of my Dad are different for each of his four children, very precious and still tinged with sadness. His irreverent sense of humour and tame jokes, his courage, his great enthusiasm for life and his love for pretty much all people have gone forever. 
I am the eldest child, so I was lucky enough to have benefited from his youth, patience and the strength he had before illness catapulted him into premature old age, causing him to become irritated and frustrated.  When I remember what a wonderful father he was during the years of my childhood, I am filled both with gratitude and joy.
It was Dad, who, when I was at Primary School struggling with arithmetic, brought his till home from the business after work.  Night after night he helped me to learn to count and to give change.  We also played cards, and cribbage (on the board he had made himself during the war out of wood and bullet casings) so that I would learn to count and multiply quickly.…


It was her ears that saved her. The census collector saw them sticking up out of long grass as she was driving slowly along the country road, and stopped to investigate.  There, in a paddock surrounded by cows, abandoned to fate, was a shivering little scrap with dog bites all over her.  She was promptly uplifted by this kind woman and taken to her home.  
As luck would have it – or maybe it was destiny - the census collector lived next door to our daughter and took the puppy over to show her, saying she would take it to the SPCA on Monday.  But Jen, knowing I had long yearned for a dog, phoned me immediately and said, ‘Mum, come over right now, I have a puppy for you.’  When Mr B and I got there we saw a broken, sad, hungry little pup wrapped up in a towel, being cuddled and kept warm by our son-in-law.  “I suppose you want it”, said Mr B.  It wasn’t really a question – he knew I did – even though he was reluctant.  And so, with great excitement on my part, some trepidation on his, …

The Girl in the Shocking Pink Dress

It was always going to be a winner, that shocking pink dress.  I LOVED it from the moment I saw it.  It was a loose shift-type of dress in crimplene with a tie belt in the same material.  My 16-year-old light must have shone like a homing beacon and I felt fabulous.  Being the era of mini skirts, the dress was, of course, far too long for my liking, but I could sew reasonably well and took the hem up to a (just) acceptable level.  I bought some perfume – Shocking by Schiaparelli – which came in a shocking pink box.  It was musky and sweet and I doused myself in the scent until it made me cough and sneeze.
1968 was a great year.  I was coming slowly out of my little-girl shell, learning about being a young woman.  Mum gave me a book on etiquette – how to stand tall; how to peel your gloves off with aplomb (one finger at a time); how to walk with an umbrella; how to use cutlery and glassware correctly, etc.  I practised conscientiously until I had everything just so.
School was enjoyab…


I guess I was, even very early on, a dreamer.  Mum said that I was three weeks overdue, was in no hurry to be born, and as soon as I finally made an appearance, I put my thumb in my mouth and went back to sleep.
My Dad, with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, gave me an ornament - a small china dog in a kennel - which had the legend above it Dreamy
As a child, I dreamed of being famous; that someone would discover my talents for music, for drama, for public speaking, for writing.  My head was full of myths and legends, dragons and castles, and, of course, white knights and princes.  On the school playing field, I kissed Robbie S. and thought he was THE ONE.  He wasn’t. We were five years old; he was horrified and threatened to tell.  He didn’t, but I was scared.
Learning to play tennis, I dreamed of eminence and fortune, but all that happened was that Teddy R. kissed me behind the tennis pavilion after luring me there with an ice-cold Coke.  I didn’t fancy him at all, was horrified…