The Seven Stages of Woman

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I have told this story before – but I thought it may be fun to try and ‘Shakespearise’ it by using iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets – plus a little imagination!

‘Mewling and Puking’

Young Woman:  (enters)

How now old woman, why look you so sad?

Old Woman:  (sitting daydreaming)

Come hither my friend. You make my heart glad!

A far distant memory I recall,

From bygone days, when I was small.

Peering through dim eyes so far back in time

I see my mother with her hand in mine.

Young Woman: (laughing)

Forsooth for you ‘twas some time ago!

I’m surprised you still find the memory so!

Old Woman: (glares at young woman but ignores comment)

I see Ma with her bike pushing me to school

And me trying desperately to stay cool.

I remember the fear I felt inside,

But refused to cry out because of pride.

Young Woman:  (cheerily)

Your mind tosses merrily in the wind   (rhymes with find)

Keep digging deeper to see what you find!

How say you now? What more can you see?

So please you to spend this hour merrily!

Old Woman:  (thinking)

I spy a rotund man, who’s grumpy and old,

Clad in jumper of yellow, with countenance cold.

His grey hair ‘tis sparse, his red face ‘tis grim,

Fear hits my belly as my eyes fall upon him!

I peep from my hiding place on the stair,

Perchance he won’t see me sitting there!

Transported back to an age long ago

I still feel the shame and blush that ‘tis so.

Young Woman:  (excited)

Why comes he a’ knocking at your door?

What brings on your fear? Oh pray tell me more!

What did this gentleman to cause your plight?

My heart is beating with all of its might!’

Old Woman:

I was but small and to show I was brave

I took on a challenge to honour my name!

Young Woman:

What was this challenge? Oh, tell me I pray!

Old Woman:

‘Twas to knock on his door – and to then run away!

Young Woman:

How many knocks did they charge you to do?

Old Woman:

I cannot recall but ‘twere quite a few!

MAN: (enters shouting)

‘Bring that treacherous child at once to me!’

Old Woman:  (in fear)

His voice rang out loud, showing no mercy!

So draggéd was I up to the front door

My cries ringing out and fear at my core!

MAN

 ‘This wench will be punishéd,’ he cried,

‘Cut off her hands and gouge out her eyes!

Never again my door will she knock!

Away with her now, put her head on the block!

She deserves to be punishéd today!’

He turned in glee, ‘Do it quickly I pray!’

MOTHER:  (pleading)

‘Alack and alas don’t treat her so bad.’

Old Woman:

Ma’s eyes brimming over – her face so sad.

She raised her hand to hit me – but instead

Clouted the little man about his head!

He fell to the ground cursing Ma for her sin,

While she battered his head with a rolling pin!

Mother:  (angrily)

‘How dare you to harm my defenceless child!

Away with you now or you’ll be defiled!

‘Twas a harmless prank played out with mirth!

Take your sour temper home, along with your girth!’

Old Woman:

He rose to his feet, rubbing his backside,

Leaving foul words unspoken – along with his pride!

She then turned her wild eyes upon me –

I knew at that moment ’twas time to flee!

‘Forgive me Mother,’ I cried, ‘for my sin!’

‘Twas then I experienced the rolling pin!

*****

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A Walk around the Block.

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The trees begin to discard their robes of brown, and majestically transform themselves by donning new gowns of green. There are so many different shades that any artist can only envy, but never match. I set out on my walk along a route I have taken many, many times before and one which, as I grow older,  I seem  to see with different eyes.  The route I am taking is known as ‘Memory Lane’.

I begin my journey, on this beautiful May morning, right outside my front door. After a few yards and just before I reach the corner, I pass a group of maisonettes. As I stroll past them along this familiar and well-travelled path, I am transported back to a time before they were built. To a time when an old derelict cottage stood in their place, hidden behind its long-neglected garden of trees and shrubs. I remember treading softly, quickening my footsteps, hardly daring to breathe; fearing if I did so someone or something would jump out of the bushes and attack me! They never did of course, and as I walk on I smile at my own stupidity.

I turn left at the corner, following the path that runs down along the railway side, where the possibility of a steam train hurtling past still excites me! I hear the throaty sound of its whistle, the acrid smell of its smoke, the repetitive rhythm of its engine and I glimpse the driver as he reaches out to wave as he passes by!

I walk on, briefly glancing down ‘Conker Lane’, now sadly tarmacked but once a narrow path, lined with horse chestnut trees and blackberry bushes. I can’t conceal my grin as the juice-stained chins and purple fingers of my children flash across my memory. In their little hands they are clutching string-handled jam jars ready to collect frog spawn before their return home – but I am not going there today!

I see houses lining my route; each one was once identical to the next when the council owned them.  After the Thatcher era, when council residents were encouraged to buy their properties outright, each took on its own identity. Windows were changed and gardens block paved, in an attempt to prove to the world they were now individuals and proud ‘home owners’.

I now see dew-soaked, neatly clipped hedges where, on frosty mornings, my children would look for the intricately woven webs that spiders had created  during the night, hoping to see at their centre ‘Mrs Spider’, waiting to pounce on some unsuspecting insect for her breakfast!

I reach the shops. The Post Office is still there, so comforting to feel its familiar presence, as if time had stood still, even though its façade has changed many times. The butchers shop is also still there, now vastly expanded, as the family business has been passed down from father to son over the years. As I peer into its window, the enormous turkey that I collected at the crack of dawn each Christmas Eve, ready to be taken home and stuffed for the big day, comes into my mind.

I veer to the left and see before me my elder daughter’s first school.  I see her tear-stained face and recall her first day. I feel her little hands clinging onto my coat – and my guilt at having to unfurl her tiny fingers in order to hand her across to her teacher.

The old school building is, to my mind, beautiful. It was built in what is called the Butterfield Polychromatic style – which to the layman means different coloured bricks have been used to create patterns around its windows and doorways. It first opened as a school in 1870 but became a private home when, in 1978, the new purpose-built school grew up behind it.

Opposite the school is the park, where I walked my dogs after depositing my children safely into their teachers care. With no dogs in tow today I ignore the park and walk on past more houses, their residents now unknown to me. However  years ago, laughing, chattering, growing children would pile out of these houses and into my Mini – six in the back, two in the front,  plus me as taxi driver, without the safety of seat belts in those days, as I took my turn for the school run.

Another left turn takes me past larger houses with perfectly smooth, manicured, snooker table lawns. I pass the place where the old Smithy Cottage used to be. History recalls horses being shod there by the blacksmith, before continuing their journey towards Henley in Arden.

Now, my circuit nearly done, I am brought quickly back to earth as I see a building site: I see hod-carriers running up and down ladders and bricklayers and roofing contractors doing jigsaw puzzles on the roof. The most enormous crane carries its building materials dangling precariously in the air.  A ‘Retirement Home’ is to replace the horses that had once been ‘put out to grass’ in the field – although in many ways it will still be used for the same purpose, substituting ageing equine needs for those of the human variety!

My journey done, I arrive back at my cottage – and I listen. Once the only sound I would hear was birdsong or the occasional neigh of a horse. Now the Robins’ song is drowned by the continual drone of the distant Motorway and the frequent roar as yet another car revs its engine as it goes flying past, exceeding the speed limit!

I know I should expect some changes having lived here for over 40 years BUT …………..

But …….. if I close my eyes I can transport myself back to when it was a country lane, when the road had no curbs and where the air smelt of wild flowers instead of dust …. and people sauntered …. and my neighbour sold sweets and pop to passing children from her front room ….  and I relax and let it all wash over me – because even ‘progress’ can’t take my memories away!

The End