Death’s Apprentice – Part Five

My heart gave a start as the door to the back was flung open. Several things happened at once; a tall man with a large hook nose and wearing dark blue overalls covered in soot burst into the room just as Lola yelped and disappeared behind my chair.

‘Lola!’

‘No dogs! No dogs! We don’t do dogs!’ called the man, flinging his arms in the air like he was swatting flies.

The receptionist jumped up. ‘No, Mr Black, he’s here for the job. His name is Joe Bones. I told you about him -’

He stopped his arms still high in the air. ‘You did?’ he asked, turning to look at the receptionist.

‘Yes, just now.’

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ he snapped, ‘how am I supposed to remember everything?’ He turned on his heels to look at me. ‘Mmm,’ he said, looking over his thick round glasses at me, ‘you’d better come through then. But not the dog!’

‘Okay, I er…’ I looked a Lola. I didn’t think she’d want to go anyway.

‘Leave with me,’ said the receptionist, who was now standing beside me although I hadn’t seen her move at all.

‘Are you sure?’ I asked.

‘She’ll be fine with me here,’ she said, taking Lola’s lead, ‘now go on Mr Bones, go and do your interview before you miss out.’

I followed Mr Crow through the door and into the back of the funeral parlour. There was a funny smell, of acid and melted wax, lavender and something that reminded me of a fly spray my nanna used when she was still alive.

‘Down here,’ said Mr Crow, taking a dirty handkerchief from the top of his greasy overalls. He wiped his forehead with it then stuffed back into his pocket.

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My Grandad

I don’t know why but I’ve been thinking about my grandad a lot lately. I was 11 when he died and I was devastated. It was probably one of the most profound things that has ever happened to me. I’m 42 now and still, I feel it. Not as deep or as intense as when it first happened but, even after thirty-one years, the grief is still real.

Recently, I saw a quote by Jamie Anderson on Pinterest that hit me in the feels:

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot…Grief is just love with no place to go.”

Anyway, here’s a little memory of my grandad. He couldn’t talk or walk properly because he’d had several strokes but still, he was my hero.

The Red Leather Chair

The smell of frying bacon drifted in from the kitchen and my stomach groaned in anticipation.  Grandad looked at me with his smiling blue eyes, his thick white eyebrows arched high above his black glasses.
‘Sorry,’ I giggled, shrugging my shoulders, ‘had no breakfast this morning.’
‘Uh,’ he replied, with a shake of his head, a gentle smile erupting on his face as my stomach complained again.  He pointed to the telly with a crooked finger and then to his ears.  ‘Uh-uh.’
I flashed him a cheeky smile and shrugged again.
Shep, my Grandad’s long-haired collie, stirred in the seat beside me.  He yawned loudly, stretching out and laying his head on my lap as I wrapped my hands in his glossy coat and turned my head towards the telly just as it was announced by the heavily bearded commentator that Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy were due in the ring.
Grandad shifted forward to the edge of his seat, his walking stick clattering to the floor as he unbuttoned his shirt sleeves and rolled them up past his wrinkly elbows in preparation for the fight.
‘Fred, do you want sauce in your bacon?’ shouted Nan from the kitchen, but Grandad was oblivious to it all; he’d only got eyes and ears for that small black and white telly.
Shep leapt from the sofa, dashing behind it as my Grandad’s red leather chair began to dance around the room, the wood and leather creaking and straining under his weight, his grunting harsh but still with lashings of warmth, becoming louder as he lost his mind to the wrestling, to his life as a boxer in the army.
I could never tell anyone who won any of those fights we watched on that battered telly on the Saturday dinner-times we spent together; I was far too engrossed in Grandad’s face to care.  The strokes had robbed him of many things; his speech, the ability to walk or eat independently, but as we sat there I became lost in the sparkle in his eyes and the stories that had become etched in his wrinkles.  It was during these times that I could see my Grandad was still a man and was still truly alive.
But the red leather chair sits empty now; still and lifeless like the room in which it sits.  His grey trilby is still perched at an angle at the back of it, his walking stick abandoned on the floor.  The smell of cigars lingers in the air along with the smell of his hard-earned sweat.  But now the warmth has disappeared and a numbing coldness is seeping into the room through the cracks, filling me with emptiness.

Death’s Apprentice – Part Four

Crow’s Funeral Home sat at the end of high street, sandwiched in between Everheart Florists and the King’s Head pub which has been derelict for over twenty years. Crow’s (established 1854, or so the peeling gold lettering over the door told me) was a shabby red-bricked, double-fronted Victorian building.

I pushed open the black door and entered but Lola wouldn’t cross over the threshold. She began to grumble.

I closed my eyes and sighed.

‘Come on girl, don’t do this now.’

I turned to face her. Her teeth were bared and her hackles were raised.

‘What’s up, Lola? Come on now,’ I said, pulling her by the lead, ‘don’t be stupid!’ But the stupid dog wouldn’t listen and dug her white claws into the pavement.

‘Lola, come!’

The dog sat down in silent protest.

‘Can I help you?’

‘It’s this stupid dog,’ I said, ‘she won’t…‘ But I lost my train of thought as I looked up and into the eyes of the most beautiful woman I’d ever met. Her eyes were emerald green, and her hair was the colour of wild red roses. My heart began to skip a beat.

‘We’re closing in a minute but if you need some help?’ she asked, slipping on a pair of black shades.

Lola growled.

‘Be quiet!’ I snapped as I tried to regain my train of thought. Why was I here? Oh yes. ‘I’ve come about the job in the window.’

‘Oh right, come in, come in,’ she said, standing to one side of the doorway, so that I could enter.

‘Come on Lola,’ I said, pulling on the dogs lead. She would not budge.

‘Let me,’ said the receptionist. She took the lead from my hand, gave it a sharp tug and then let out a hiss that sounded a bit like that of an angry swan. The dog stood up and lowered her head in submission and the receptionist pulled her inside. I followed, impressed by how easy she’d tamed my unruly dog.

The Funeral home wasn’t what I expected. The right-hand side was taken up with a selection of headstones of various shapes and sizes and stone, and a small variety of coffins of different styles and materials including oak, wicker and (for the more environmentally minded) cardboard. Beside the coffins, there was a black covered sample book containing fabrics from silk to velvet and linen for the lining of your choice. The receptionist’s oak desk sat to the left of the room, covered in papers, an old fashioned rotary-dial phone and a large porcelain vase of Stargazer lilies which filled the air with their pungent aroma. There was also another smell in the air, something disguised by the lilies but equally as pungent but I couldn’t quite place what it was.

‘Please sit down,’ said the receptionist pointing to a set of four oak tables arranged around a small table, and I’ll tell Mr Crow you’re here. What’s your name, please?’

‘Joe Bones and thank you.’

The receptionist disappeared through a door at the back and returned a few minutes later.

‘Mr Crow will see you in a minute,’ she said, as she took her seat behind the desk.

Lola was quiet now. She curled up by my feet on the deep red carpet.

The clock on the wall read 5.00pm. I looked at the magazines on the coffee table; The Funeral Times, and Funeral’s Today. I didn’t pick them up; they looked like they’d been there since the place has opened.

It’s New Year’s Eve!!

Hello again! I hope this New Year’s Eve finds you well. I have to say, I’ve eaten so much and now I know how an over-stuffed turkey feels!! I hope you had everything you wished for and that your house is filled with peace and harmony.

Today is going to be a more reflective post. I think we all get a bit like that at this time of year, don’t we? Or is it just me?

So, 2018 has been full of highs and lows, but I must be thankful that there were far more highs than lows. It’s been such a transforming and busy year. From feeling low after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia to the highs of deciding that I wasn’t going to let it define me. That was probably the most transformative thing I did and I haven’t looked back since! I am NOT fibromyalgia. And, the most important part of this was accepting that I had a chronic illness. I detailed how important this step is in the post, Chronic Pain – Acceptance is a Key.

Now, I run this, A Pocketful of Stardust Blog, I have my shop, A Pocketful of Stardust on Etsy.com, and I have my shop on Conscious Crafties. I’ve taught myself how to use resin, and polymer clay and I continue to work on my technique and my writing. My books, BonesAshes and Dust, have been selling well. I feel truly blessed!

If I have achieved so much in 2018, what does 2019 have in store for me?

I really don’t know, but I’m excited to find out!!

Will it be easy?

Probably not, but it WILL be worth it!!

Won’t you join me???

Thank you, dear readers, and I hope you have a very, very Happy New Year xx

Christmas Decorations on Etsy – Five of my Favourites

I love Etsy. It’s full of gorgeous handcrafted and vintage items. It’s especially fabulous at this time of year. Here are five of my favourites:

1. Christmas Gnomes from KaremStore

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How beautiful are these guys? Priced at £19.33, these gnomes measure 30cm high by 30cm wide and are all unique and handcrafted. Find them here, shipping from Morocco.

2. Nordic felt Christmas Decorations by KirstyGadd

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Priced at £5.85 they would look good on a Nordic tree. I love the penguin! He measures 10cm high by 6cm wide. The reindeer measures 10cm high by 11cm wide and the reindeer 10cm high by 11cm wide. The penguin is sold out at the moment but you can be put on a waiting list so, if you love them, I wouldn’t hang around. Find them here.

3. Love personalised items AND penguins? Then try these personalised penguins from A Touch of Glass Yorkshi

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This decoration has the option for a 3, 4, 5 or 6 penguin family to which you can add any name. Priced at a very reasonable £8.99, it comes in an organza gift bag too! Other options in the sore include polar bears and snowmen. Find the penguin option here.

4. Love gingerbread men? Try these delicious felt Gingerbread Men at Pix A Patch:

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Measuring around 3.5 inches by 2 inches, they are priced at £3.00 each and come in the above options, including my favourite with his leg and some of his head missing! Find them here.

5. Unicorns are bang on trend at the moment. These next baubles are absolutely fabulous and are made by That Glitter Life.

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What little girl wouldn’t love these? To be fair, I love these!! Priced at £4.95 each, they come in gold, blue, pink, purple and silver. They are made from shatterproof plastic, ribbon and polymer clay. Each is made to order and lovingly embellished with flowers, feathers and diamantes. All will slightly vary as they are handmade. Find them here.

I hope you like my five favourites from my browsing today. If you want something unique and handmade, Etsy is the place to go.

All prices correct at time of writing. See individual stores for details. All links correct at time of writing.

Featured image is from my shop, A Pocketful of Stardust, on Etsy.com.

 

Twenty-Four Beautiful Things I’ve found on Conscious Crafties – Part Two

This post follows on from my last one in celebrating the talents of those who live with chronic illness or are carers of those with illness. These are people who sell their beautifully crafted items on Conscious Crafties, an online marketplace and a supportive community of like-minded people.

Conscious Crafties

From Fiona’s Crafts and Gifts:

Fiona crochets and makes handmade cards while living with ME, Brittle Asthma, Diabetes, Arthritis, Neurofibroma, Migraines and Coeliac Disease. Her shop is ideal if you’re looking for a gift for a newborn baby.

Here’s a gorgeous pink crocheted blanket available in small, medium and large and ranging in price from £15.00 – £25.00.

And my personal favourite, the New Baby Girl Card priced at £3.00 and with free postage and packing:

The card is 6 inches by 6 inches and has a white organza bow and three sparkly pink gems on the front.

Are you looking for something truly unique? Then maybe take a look at items from the next shop on my list.

Branch Beads:

Branch Beads is run by Sarah who is a carer and also a mum.  She has twins aged 5, a son with dyskinetic cerebral palsy and a daughter with an autistic spectrum disorder.

There are all sorts of handmade Jewellery in Branch Beads, but they specialise in Wire Animal Pendants. I particularly love the hare pendant:

Priced at £25.00, this little chap is made from high-quality silver plated wire and a turquoise dyed Magnesite stone. Also, check out the cute wire wrapped moonstone polar bear:

This is priced at £25.00 and has onyx eyes, a crystal bicone nose and a large rainbow moonstone body.

From Gert Lush Designs:

Gert Lush Designs is a treasure trove of beautiful handmade items. Run by Sharon who crafts whilst living with Restless Leg Syndrome, Sleep Apnoea, Lymphedema, Type 2 Diabetes, Depression, Anxiety, Memory Issues and Mobility problems.

I love this At Rainbows End card, priced at £2.50. The beautiful background reminds me of holidays spent in Ibiza. It’s got that hippie vibe to it and I love it:

Also, check out this gorgeous moon and stars pendant priced at £25.00:

Sharon writes that “These beautiful handmade wirework pendants make perfect gifts for the lady in your life, what better way to show her you love her like giving her the moon and stars?” She’s right. I would love one of these in my Christmas stocking!

From Felt Treasured:

Claire, who runs Felt Treasured, crafts whilst caring for her husband who has heart failure, COPD and pulmonary hypertension. She has also recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

I’m absolutely in love with Claire’s Christmas Decorations! Take, for example, the Pack of 2 Christmas Owls priced at £7.95:

Or her cute Mouse/ Rat Fairy Decoration:

Priced at £9.95, is approximately 17 cm tall and has been lovingly given sparkly wings and a silver star.

From Alycraft Book Folds:

Alycraft Book Folds, is run by Alyson who crafts with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and Osteoporosis.

My most favourite item in her shop is this Unicorn Magic Book Fold, priced at £35.00:

Or, are you looking for something truly unique to give a loved one this Christmas? What about a stationery set using your loved one’s favourite book title for just £23.00?

This is such a clever idea!

From By Samantha Webb:

By Samantha Webb is the place to go to if you want a cute teddy bear. Samantha crafts with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Anxiety Disorder.

Lonnie has got to be one of the cutest bears I’ve seen!

Priced at £129.00, Lonnie is made with beautiful dusty pink mohair and has cotter pin joints and glass eyes and a pink bow around her neck with her little bells. Samantha writes that “Lonnie loves the springtime, she wants to grow roses some day and spend her days tending the garden. She would love a home with someone who loves florals too.”

Equally as cute is Edmund the Sleepy Bear, at £29.00:

I think me and Edmund would get on quite well as, like me, he “is so sleepy he can hardly keep his eyes open. If only he could find a comfy spot to lay down his little head and dream about chocolate and strawberries, he would be the happiest little bear in the world.” Me too!

As you can see, the lovely people at Conscious Crafties are amazingly talented people who craft despite all the struggles they face. Why don’t you consider giving one of their beautiful handmade gifts as presents this Christmas? You won’t be disappointed!

 

With Thanks to Karen Thomas, founder of Conscious Crafties, and all the lovely talented people who agreed to take part. You rock!

 

With thanks to smborkowski6 on Morguefile.com for the featured image.