I know this isn’t a forcing myself happy thing (I will blog about today’s happy thing later on) but it makes me happy to talk about it.
I wanted to tell a story about two amazing people who were in my life when I was younger and how they affected my life in such a good way.
The were called Mr and Mrs Miller and were my next door neighbours. When I was brought home from the hospital after being born Mr and Mrs miller were there to see me apparently. (It’s making me cry just thinking about them as they gave me so much and I just hope they knew how much I loved them. Sometimes you don’t truly appreciate the old people in your life until you are older yourself)
Actually, my whole neighbourhood was filled with old people; there was The man with the tortoise that I would visit, another guy who had loads of interesting stuff in his house like goat skin drums, there was ‘evil nancy’ who said that you had to put salt on birds tails so they couldn’t fly!! (I never did that!) She would give me a foosty old toffee out of a box and If I looked at the clock she would say ‘It’s very rude to check the time. I still visited her! (I know now she was lonely), There was the woman who made me polish all her brass when I visited. There was hundreds of it! I would be there for hours! Then there was the woman upstairs from her who has the ‘bad nephew’ that I wasn’t allowed to play with because he stole the wheels off my wee scooter to make a go-kart!
The Millers- As soon as I walked into their house it smelled of pancakes and all sorts of interesting things. Mrs millers pancakes were the most perfect pancakes I have ever tasted in my whole life. She had a huge plant at the top of her stairs (I think it was a busy Lizzy) that she fed tea to. Their house was peaceful and a safe haven for me as my house was very shouty.
They had chairs each side of the fire, on the left Mr Miller who would smoke his Benson and hedges (He only smoked one or two a day I seem to remember) and on the right Mrs miller would sit. Mr miller had a throaty laugh and a smiling face. When I was small they had a dog called Jock and Mr miller and I would take him for a walk and pick wild mushrooms which Mrs Miller would cook when we came back. Thinking about it maybe that is why I love mushrooms, I think they remind me of the millers.
Mr and Mrs Miller helped out during WW2, she was a nurse at Hairmyres hospital during which you might be interested to know George Orwell stayed as a patient in 1946 when he was in the middle of writing 1984. Mr Miller was a watchman-he said it was quite boring and he mainly played chess, which he taught me at an early age. I still have the worn out chess set he gave me. One king doesn’t have a head and the other is stuck on with blue tac but aside from that it is still perfect.
Mr Miller had a red car for a while, they would take me for drives in the country and to the garden centre where there was a minor bird called Charlie who would say ‘You canny say shenanigans’
While I loved Mr Miller it was Mrs Miller who was my favourite. Because of their war effort they never has time to have children (My mum told me this later) so they spoiled me rotten. They certainly had a way with children and would have made wonderful parents.
Mrs Miller taught me so many lessons; How to free birds from strawberry nets-when I freed them I would hold onto them and they would bite me. She taught me that some things would rather be doing their own thing, flying free than being held onto. She taught me about the flowers in her garden and about nature and the animals of Scotland. There was a small old wooden seat outside Mr Millers greenhouse (where he grew the best tomatoes ever..I think the smell of tomatoes of the vine is like nature encapsulated and is so comforting still to this day to me.) Anyway, this small seat opened up and there were always earwigs running about in it. When my mum came into Mrs millers garden to see what I was up to Mrs Miller would say ‘She is playing with her little friends’ and my mum would freak out a bit and say ‘YUCK!’ – I was taught to respect all nature and to be still and to let it come to me if it wanted.
While I was spoiled by them and taught many things they also taught me manners!! If I got annoyed because I was losing at ludo Mrs Miller would say ‘Shut up shop’ and the game would be shut over! haha It makes me laugh because we have a wee boy we look after sometimes and when he has a tantrum when we are playing a game he gets three chances then it is ‘Shut up shop’ for him!! It happened the other day when I was showing him to play chess (On the very set Mr Miller gave me) He started crying because he was losing. (He is nine has only played twice! Very competitive) at first he got a cuddle and comforted, then I explained to him how difficult chess was and it would take him a while to understand it.. then it was ‘Shut up shop’ -which actually worked best of all because he calmed down and I saw him out of the corner of my eye opening the chess set and trying to remember where the pieces went.
I have lots of other memories, of them teaching me the rules of snooker, on a black and white tv!! of me playing with a box of delights for hours which was basically a magnet and a lot of safely pins. I remember when my wee brother was born Mrs Miller walking with me hand in hand past the giant trees that almost guarded the houses and a bird pooping on me. She said when that happens it means luck and it was because I was getting a new baby brother.
If I could meet them again even for a moment I don’t even know how I would begin to thank them. They taught me so much about life, about patience, about having manners, about treating animals and people with love, kindness and respect and a million other things.
Mr miller died first. This was just before I was a teenager. I had my friends that I wanted to play with and I only remember visiting Mrs miller a few times and I hope she understood. I think I thought she would last forever. Another lesson she taught me. I think I must have been about 13 and it was the first time I think she talked to me as an adult. When I asked her how she was she said ‘Ach, I miss Archie’. I remember being silent and not knowing what to say. (there is nothing) I held her hand.
When she was dying in hospital she was upset because she couldn’t remember what her house looked like. I told her you walk up the stairs and on the left there is a busy lizzy plant (It was still there and massive!) you turn to the left and go up a couple more stairs (we lived in houses that were like two flats) and your kitchen is on your left and your bedroom on the right, you walk forward and thats where your living room is and on the left of that another spare room. She smiled at me and said thank you. She also talked about The wee squirrels that came to her hospital windowsill to visit her. we thought she was hallucinating but when my mum trained to be a nurse later she worked in the Care of the elderly ward and said that it was true and the squirrels did pop their heads in the window.
She died when she was in her 80′s and I was heartbroken. I never realised at the time though quite how much she had been a part of my life and how much she had shaped me as a person. I just hope Mr and Mrs Miller knew how much I loved them.
I think its disgraceful the way old people in this country are treated. When you go to Spain you see all the old people sitting outside talking. In some tribes the oldest people are revered elders and make the decisions for the tribe. Western society forgets how much old people have to give I think. A society that doesn’t treat it’s old people with love, care and respect becomes quite soulless I think.
It sounds strange perhaps but I want more old people In my life. I want to listen to their stories and wisdom. I think we could all do with having more old people in our lives. I know not everyone was lucky enough to have a Mr and Mrs miller but I know most of you will have had elderly people in your lives that have shaped who you are in some way.
When I get better and I manage to get my anxiety under control I would love to take my guitar to an old folks home and sing some songs or even when I am getting better just go along for a chat with the residents. This would selfishly make me happy I know it but I hope it would make the old folks happy too.
I know this was a bit off course.. but I wanted to tell you about the wonderful people who shaped me and made my childhood better than it would have been. Mr and Mrs Miller. I love you.