Shades of Autumn


It is time, 2011.

The appearance of curly, red-brown leaves on an uncut lawn drew my attention first. They may have been gathering there for a couple of days, who knows. I noticed some more rustling together under the ivy covered fence, probably planning ahead.
It creeps up on you; change.

Autumn, no, not yet, please! Come on, we haven’t had a good summer. But it is time. The Essex sunrise needed a nudge this morning, so slow to share it’s light with others. The days grow short, and the nights draw in.

In some ways the seasonal autumnal colours are my favourites; subtle, natural and, yes, co-ordinated. Love colour co ordination!! There was a time in our lives, as a family, that we were surrounded by browns, oranges and yellow hues in our home. As a family, I would say, YES, we were co-ordinated.

It was 1962, and they were her favourite colours too.

That was in the summer of her life. Eleanor Finlay. An Irish lady, in an adopted and adapted home, South Africa.

Who can forget the floral brown and orange in the carpets, the dark brown couch with a row of yellow cushions and the bright canary yellow curtains. These were not ours alone, in Pretoria, South Africa. No ! Did you know that the whole world was subjected to those colours at the same time?!! Hard to believe they were all taken in with fashion then……

She always struggled with the heat in Pretoria although they had been South Africans for 14 years by then. Surely she still often thought of the fresh summer breeze lifting her skirt as she walked down William Street in Waterford? But it was easier to remember what wasn’t good about her home, that way she wouldn’t yearn so much for a visit; like the freezing days when your hands were chapped and sore, and the snow and ice that made it impossible to get washing dry. She spoke of those often.

She would smile if she knew that I now live with this same weather, and discuss it too, like a true Englishman. The first weather forecast, ever, must have been done in England, it had to be. There is so much to talk about and you can never run out of conversation! I now sometimes long for those hot humid afternoons in Africa and want to be able to fly out the door with only a skirt, top and sandals on like we did then.

The coat was nonexistent in SA. Here it is one of your body parts.

In our younger years coats were forced on us by Mommy when we went to school, along with the adage; you never know, just in case. She was back in Ireland, dreaming of a fine drizzle of rain on her face. Thunder storms, lightening and huge drops of rain beating into the ground were the substitute weather that she had to bear, but hated.

I do believe then, in 1962 Mac was almost reaching the pedals of our cream Austin A55, when no one was looking; but he had ten years to wait to drive legally.
Our home in Gezina was new to us, we caught the local bus to school and a branch of Woolworths opened up two blocks away. Woolworths is a chain store in South Africa that sells all Marks and Spencer brands from England.

While John Glen circled the earth 3 times, and Cliff Richard sang The Young Ones on the LM hit parade, my little brother turned 8 (he may probably relate to Telstar by the Tornado’s) and sister Charlotte was 10 years old.

Today, can you believe it, Marks and Spencer here in Essex have all their winter clothing on display, drat, they know something that we don’t! Winter is really just around the corner.

Suppose it is best to “stand by” and watch the weather forecast each morning like I am told to do! However you can always keep a jacket handy, just in case. It will soon be one of those mornings when you cuddle up in bed until you know the heating is on before getting up.

Mommy didn’t rise early everyday if there wasn’t a commitment, which means she hardly ever lay in! And she did love a cup of coffee served by her man, before she rose, it was something of a treat, snuggled beneath her orange counterpane!

Late 1950's Dancing Girls, Eleanor, Vera and Murial

A treat that was well overdue, if you considered the many ungodly hours she had given lovingly and unselfishly to her husband and children through the years
For so long routine was part of her day, breakfast around the table as she stood to serve, wearing ‘the housecoat’ of the era, first cotton then later made from some new synthetic fabric that needed no ironing. Everyone in the household wanting their own speciality and packed lunch, she spoilt her children, spoilt her husband, but wouldn’t do any less. He said it himself, ‘she spoils me you know!’, and loved her for it.

When we arrived home from school, no matter what time in the afternoon, Mom was waiting with a meal for each of us, glad that we were safe. She would sit and chat about our day while we ate. Talk about our fears, listen, and dry our tears. We were home, and knew it.
Mom’s fears for us, included strange things she had on her mind, but nevertheless, typically maternal. Unique, but everyday; we could get wet if it rained and ‘catch our death of cold’.

A warm afternoon in Pretoria.

The odd shower was refreshing.

She questioned why we were expected to carry so many books. She blamed the teachers, ‘sure they’ll pull the arms outta ye!’.

We had little choice.

If the old school shoes were looking near replacement and we were complaining about them, but it wasn’t pay day yet. ‘Aw, they’ll do ye a few more turns, luv; as me old Mom used to say, keep a smile on your face and no one will look at your shoes’

We all survived the embarrassment.

On the news and in the paper today, you cannot avoid reading about the riots in London and Manchester. Mere children, burning cars and stealing phones, shoes and clothing. No respect. They have never been taught respect, which has to come from the cradle, from their mother’s arms. No values, and people are asking, why. Why have the younger generation become wild animals, uncontrollable and selfish.
A lack of real parenting is one reason, they cannot ever have been taught to love and respect one another in their homes! It is some people’s misguided concept that wealth will give them this, that if they too had a pair of Nike trainers, they would be different and then show respect. Wrong! If they have no real morals, values nor care about others around them; “giving” to them will never change their respect for society and our laws. Take a few large steps backwards and ask yourself where and when did honour, honesty and respect disappear?

Eleanor expected truth, no less; believed in simplicity. Even lying to her wasn’t an option, because you could see deep into her eyes how disappointed she was with you already. You were always unhappy if she didn’t think the best of you. You, too, wanted to be respected for who you were.

On a lighter and opposite note, her belief in superstitions ran riot and she did love a gossip! What better place to start than the Sunday newspaper. She was a compulsive royalist and any drama of the day she would ‘relive’ by the look on her face, as she read it. Sports page was a favourite too, Tennis and believe it or not, Boxing.
The papers were available from Sunday to about the next Thursday in the lounge, or spread all over her bed when she took an afternoon nap. Dad always read them first on Sunday with good reason; because within minutes of Mommy touching them, the page numbers got into a terrible mess. She always knew where all the most exciting bits were, though. “wait now, wait now, and I’ll find it for ye, wait now…..”

We have rain falling outside today again, I can hear it tapping on the window pane. But I knew that yesterday (weather forecast!) Our autumn comes a-knocking. I’ll have to pop out and get the weekly shopping anyway; and don’t forget the paper! Mommy would be shocked and appalled at the up to date news in the local newspapers here in London these days, well, anywhere really.

The Sunday paper might have taken her right through to Saturday!


About liz2you

Life just happens when you plan something else. 50 years spent in Africa and relevant stories.
This entry was posted in in Africa, Irish Immigrants, nostalgia and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Shades of Autumn

  1. Sheelagh says:

    Hi Betty Yes “Those were the days my friend” as the song goes and yes we thought they would never end. That is probably why I am still sitting in Africa with all the turmoil going on around us……..we just don’t want those days to end. The short sharp winter and then the glorious long hot summer, where in the world can you get such weather, So yes at the end of the day one has to put up with a lot of non-sence and around the corner for us is not winter but probably a whole lot of trouble, if not another war, but we stay just to see the African sun shine and enjoy the weather come what may.Hopefully the Good Lord will stand by us.
    Love Sheelagh

  2. liz2you says:

    Hello again, my faithful follower,
    I have done a new look to the site with clearer print. A tag cloud of subjects so that it is easy to look back and find an old story or post. Tell me if you like it, I liked the green in the old layout, but this is clearer. Now I must get with a little physical work, the dreaded housework.
    Keep well!

    Love Betty

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