Eulogy for Phyllis

Phyllis was my grandmother. She was an important part of my life for almost 38 years.

When I was little the family and friends would spend Sunday afternoons at the Leadmill Club, where my grandfather, Fred would play the trumpet in his jazz band. The smell of beer and the sound of live music still sometimes brings me back to those Sunday afternoons, where Phyllis would sit, tapping her foot and enjoying a cigar.

She looked after me whenever was needed when I was a child. She got on well with my paternal grandmother Vera. The two of them took care of me together one week when Mum and Dad went away to Paris. They had  a lot in common. Two happy Geordie women, with a lifetime of child care between them. I was in good hands.

When my little brother Tommy was born in 1985, Phyllis took care of me while Mum and Dad where at the hospital. Tommy was a few weeks premature and weighed just 5 pounds 4 ounces. Phyllis took me to the hospital to meet him for the first time. He was tiny, wrapped in silver foil like a baked potato.

I got into trouble at school once when I was a teenager and got taken home by one of the teachers. Phyllis was waiting for me on the doorstep as Mum was at work. I was upset, and the teacher wasn’t very nice to me. Phyllis just smiled and chuckled. “Oh well,” she said, “Better put the kettle on.”

She was nice like that, she never judged. I don’t remember a stern word or a telling off. She was always jolly and friendly.

Our fridge was often well stocked with stews and casseroles she’d make at home and bring over. Our freezer with fish from the fishmongers. Always making sure we were well fed.

I was amazed by how unfazed she seemed by her age. “How old are you now?” she’d ask me, “My goodness, how old does that make me?” Always with a laugh.

I was the first of her seven grandchildren. But I wasn’t the first grandchild she cared for. For eleven years she was grandmother to my older half brother and sister, Andrew and Leigh and my adopted brother, Mark. She was kind and caring to them too, and they all have fond memories of her. 

As a grandmother she excelled. And she did what all good grandmothers should do, she made us all feel equal, each one loved no more than the other, because she loved us all to the fullest, and she was proud of us.

I think we can all learn from Phyllis. How to treat people with honesty, generosity,  with care and not to judge. How to grow old with grace and resilience. She went through life with her head held high. I’m extremely proud and very lucky to have been her grandson.

Phyllis Henderson 1923 – 2016

GBA Podcast

I was recently a guest on the Dave Pickering‘s podcast, Getting Better Acquainted. Dave and I discussed many things including story telling, dyslexia, tough times at school, depression and writing. Have a listen to the GBA Podcast.

Photoblog: Autumn Leaves

Autumn comes as a shock sometimes. One week it’s summer, the next it’s gone. The air turns a certain kind of cold that carries upon it a feeling of change and a natural sense of foreboding. Leaves begin to wither from their branches and litter the floor, a familiar rustling sound accompanies the whisper of the wind.

But each season carries with it a certain beauty, and autumn is no exception. Its beauty is unique, a wild contrast to spring, where the warmth of sunlight washes over the world again and colours explode with the vibrancy of flower and blossom.

It’s decay, but a necessary one as greens turn to deep reds and subtle browns that bring with them a reassuring comfort that the cycle of nature is constant, that seasons come and go, bad weather turns to good, and after storms come calm.

Autumn is a time for reflection, to look forward and embrace the constant change. So wrap up warm and go outside. Take a moment and enjoy the autumn palette.

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Spark London Podcast

I’ve been going to a few of the excellent Spark London open mic true story telling nights which are held twice a month in Brixton and Hackney. The good people of Spark were kind enough to feature one of the stories I told at their Brixton event in May on their podcast. The theme of the evening was surprises and I’m the 3rd story teller in the episode (the 2nd Joe) although I recommend listening the other two cracking stories as well. Follow the link and have a listen – http://stories.co.uk/podcast/

The Man Who Named Florida – Enterprise Magazine

“Ponce De Leon is a name that crops up across the map of America, a Conquistador who originally sailed with Colombus, you can still walk or sail in the footsteps of the Spaniard who went in search of the  Fountain of Eternal Youth…” carry on reading on Enterprise Open Road.