An Unexpected Change
Dear diary...I can recall parts of the early 1990s like they were yesterday. It was the beginning of a change in another direction for me. I'd been running dance fitness classes for so many years, but then the constant exercise of eight classes a week was starting to take a strain on my body, I tried to cut them down, but it didn't make any difference.
My problem also started when I began to find I know longer enjoyed teaching, it was becoming something I had to do, rather that what I enjoyed. The years of learning and practicing new routines, also driving to venues, unpacking and packing all my equipment was taking its toll.
So it was with great regret that I decided to close my classes. Sadly I couldn't help feeling that I'd let a lot of ladies down, but I knew they'd probably find another great fitness regime to attend being as there were so many around Swindon at the time.
The Spring of 1993 stands out in my memory too. It was my 39th birthday coming up in the Summer and I'd planned to really celebrate with a big party in the garden where I was determined to have live music playing. At the time me and then hubby used to go to this back hall which was part of a pub called The Prince Of Wales up in the old town of Swindon, they would have folk nights in there and also other band nights as well.
The hall was quite big and held a fair amount of people. At the front was a stage where bands would get up and play. There was one band that me and hubby became special friends with, named Severance. They were always happy for me to come up on stage and sing with them, which surprised me as I'm stone deaf when it comes to singing...well apart from in the bathroom when there's an echo and I'm alone.
One of my favourite tracks of theirs was: Kill The King which I learned all the lyrics off by heart. It was quite an experience being part of a group that was so special to me. One of the members Alison, was their brilliant drummer and had such great rhythm... although she would always say she was rubbish, which I didn't agree with. We became best of friends and went to see a band called The Almighty, I think it was in Cardiff, but I'm not sure, even though I drove to the venue. Both of us head banged all the way through the gig, it was so cool.
I decided that Severance just had to play at my birthday and they accepted. So my next job was to send out invitations and share the news with friends. Then there was the job of informing all the neighbours as it was to be held on a Sunday afternoon. I also informed the police too, they said it would be fine as long as I didn't go on too late with the noise.
Sunday July 4th came around quickly. It was a beautiful sunny day as I recollect. Everyone started arriving mid afternoon, sharing in the food and drink supplied. Severance were surprised at how small our garden was, but they played on the patio, even though there was a lot of worrying about the closeness of our neighbours. I assured the band I'd spoken to most people and they'd been okay about it. Thankfully we never had any complaints. Everyone either sat on the grass, or chairs. I got up and sang my usual stint, even though my voice is not good, but I enjoyed myself so much I didn't care. Then there was Chris the blues...well that's what we called him. Chris had one of these husky voices which would grab you as he sang the blues so well.
Severance and a few other people stayed on late into the evening and we carried on chatting and drinking in the garden. I seem to recall it was a beautiful balmy evening and one of those nights I didn't want to end.
That same year I also became extremely interested in the native American Indians, especially the Sioux, because of their strong connections to a Sioux Indian who lived in Swindon by the name of Spotted Eagle...although his real name was Jeff Starr. I cannot remember where his ancestral connections were linked, but I think it might have been his father and grandfather who had been real Sioux...though I still can't remember it was so very long ago.
That year after contacting and meeting Spotted Eagle, I went around to his house where I met his wife and children who made me feel so at home. I was so keen to throw myself into that way of life, that summer I ordered a real native American tepee which arrived by special delivery. I have to admit getting in quite a state trying to put the darn thing up, with so many poles and not having a clue what I was doing, never being any good at construction or DIY, even when camping, but with a little help it was soon up and standing in all its glory, taking up a good part of the garden.
I was now the proud owner of my own little piece of reservation, of course it only stood on a small patch of grass surrounded by leylandii trees on one side and fencing on the other, so not quite living on the native plains, but hey ho we can't have everything and of course I did have my imagination.
I only had one drawback, my three cats enjoyed snuggling up in there too, they'd learned how to squeeze in through gaps, my male ginger tom called honey would annoy me by spraying all along the outside, making sure other cats knew this was his domain, which had me grinding my teeth every day with annoyance, but with my love of cats I couldn't stay mad for long.
In that spring I also became interested in plants and their uses and read up as much as I could from books which I still have to this day. I sowed seeds and grew tansy flowers in a circle of earth, along with a piece of the lawn dug out in the shape of a crescent moon. The flowers I grew for their colours to use for dyeing tops, dandelion heads and marigolds were a must for tie-dyeing, their natural yellow meant I had vibrant jazzy Sun tops.
Feverfew was a great favourite too because of its pretty daisy flowers and the fact these leaves had medicinal qualities, it was said chewing the leaves could ease headaches, but I never actually tried them, being a bit weary of whether it would work, I just enjoyed growing and watching insects flit from flower to flower.
Then there were colourful nasturtiums, blue borage and of course the pretty chive flowers which attracted bees and many other insects, also making an excellent accompaniment to any salad to have with the barbecue.
One of my greatest achievements was growing the angelica plant which I'd never done before and managed to dry the stems in order to make candied decorations for cakes. If anyone asked me how to do it now I wouldn't have a clue as the process was done so long ago.
Also I had a go at candle making, using different shaped jam jars. Collecting old candle wax and melting it down. Firstly our local butcher was kind enough to give me some string, the kind they use to hold joints of meat together. I would cut the string to size and positioned it in hot wax, afterwards removing and hanging in the jar with a peg holding the end in place. I'd then proceed to fill the jars with the hot runny wax I'd melted down and wait for it to dry.
Next step was to get the candle out, so with heavy garden gloves on so as not to cut myself, I'd place the jar in a plastic bag and gently tap the glass with a hammer till it cracked and broke, of course it wasn't very environmentally friendly at the time because we never had proper recycling back then, so it was just put in with the general rubbish, but well wrapped up in newspaper. The vivid rainbow candles with colours of orange, yellow and red looked so spectacular on the dining table as centre pieces and very romantic surrounded by the herbs and flowers. I also made garlands to hang on the wall and above the fireplace.
My hubby at the time was learning to cook Indian food and had gone to evening classes, so he would prepare amazing curries and Indian breads, samosas and side dishes. I would decorate the table and we'd feast on a Saturday night.
There was a time during the hot summer of 1994 that my son was about eleven going on twelve, He thought I was bonkers when his school friends would come around and find me sitting cross legged on the grass over an open fire. I'd made it by cutting out a square of grass and digging out a large hole in the ground, then I put large pebbles in the hole over the top of burning charcoal, it would take at least an hour for the fire to die down, when the stones were hot I'd take a metal grill and locate it over the hole, then wrapped food would barbecue either on the pebbles or over the grill.
This all came about after my modern barbecue collapsed and all the food ended up on the grass, much to my dismay. Rather than buying a new one I thought I'd make full use of the garden, every bit of available space was given over for some project or another, it was such an adventurous way of cooking,
My garden at the time was my life where every day was a chance to experience something different. Sleeping under the stars was also a definite must. As I lay in my sleeping bag on a piece of matting, I awoke one early morning just as daylight was fast approaching, I was aware of something staring at me as I opened my eyes, it was only a neighbouring cat, but I don't know who was more surprised me or the cat, it's very amusing now I look back.
Also my Turkish Van cat, Seta came bounding out of the trees with a frog in her mouth, the poor thing was petrified and you could hear it screaming. I did manage to retrieve the frog who hopped away fast. I couldn't believe that Seta would have put the frog in her mouth as they must taste rank, luckily she was okay and they both lived to see another day...talk about cats having nine lives! I think frogs do too.
It's surprising what nature can throw your way when you get out there and become part of the great outdoors and for me it was all thanks to Spotted Eagle. You just couldn't help but love his great enthusiasm for his culture which shone through with everything he did or said.
To be continued...
I managed to find a photo of me and one of Spotted Eagles friends
at a get together, but I cannot remember his name.
The photo is mine.