6.00 am, 22 January 2019 and all was quiet. The weather men had been warning us that the Beast from the East was going to return (though maybe not from the East!). It had certainly been cold over the last couple of days and last night was positively Baltic. However, when you only have two days away from the tearoom, you just have to make the most of what ever weather comes along on a Monday or Tuesday.
Last night, we were visiting one of our lovely customers. It does seem strange referring to people as customers because of course people are more than customers. They may well have been strangers and new customers when they first entered the tearoom, but they very quickly become friends. This is certainly the case with Dashing Tom. Tom had a bit of a tumble last week and broke his hip so we were had popped in to see him at hospital. If you can’t come to the tearoom Tom, we will bring the tearoom to you.
Anyway, I was discussing with Tom, his daughter and Mr M that I was planning to go up Ben Ledi from Callander in the morning. Well you would have thought I was talking about going up Mount Everest. (Actually, that is on my bucket list). I was trying to explain why I liked to go walking on the hills, especially in the winter and snow. It’s not because I am an intrepid explorer and live for the adrenalin rush, but quiet simply being on the hills is where my peace and tranquillity is. Everyone finds their own space, and the hills are mine.
First thing this morning Kirkintilloch was a bit on the chilly side and the ground a bit icy when I took Beatrix for a 10 minute walk before breakfast. There was no snow though. All will be well I told myself.
Back home for a bowl of steaming porridge and blueberries. I was expecting the usual, “are you sure it’s safe to go…..” from Mr M but he just said, “be careful”. So off we went. Flasks of tea (one for after the walk if needed), plenty layers and of course, crampons, were packed into the car along with the excited Border collie.
The drive to the start of the walk, just past Callander, was quite non-eventful. There were a few snow flurries but nothing to shout about. I could see Ben Ledi and the surrounding hills in the distance and they were indeed covered in snow. Parking the car, there was a good covering of snow, which is unusual for so low down in the valley.
5 minutes after leaving the car, it seemed that the Beast had caught up with us. I did lots of detailed calculations in my head. Ok, I thought, “Well, I’m here now”. No, honestly I thought that I would be better to have a bit of walk now and let the snow pass over us and let the gritters, ploughs and traffic clear the main A84 ready for us to go home later.
Usually the walk up Ben Ledi takes you along a forestry road then up a forest track before opening out onto the real hills. I know the forest track and it can be a bit tricky in good weather so I opted to go the long way round and follow the forestry road to the end before going into Stank Glen. I planned to get as far as the end of the glen and not attempt the full climb up Ben Ledi.
The highlight of the day today has to be the point along the forestry track when the snow was falling but there was not a soul about except for me and Beatrix. There was no wind, no sound, nothing. Imagine walking alone with your dog and listening to the sound of your own footsteps in crunching and your dog running in the snow. I stopped for a while and watched Beatrix playing, rolling and jumping in the snow. Once Beatrix had stopped alongside me, I just waited a while and enjoyed the silence.
As we climbed up the valley and reached the track to take us into the glen, the snow eased, and then stopped. The clouds started to lift and before long, the sunshine had joined us on our walk. At the end of the Glen, we had our picnic and flask of tea looking at the amazing scenery and I have to admit that I was very, very tempted to go up to the top of Ben Ledi. However, I did listen to my little voice of reason and agreed that Ben Ledi will be there another day when I have not used up all my limited energy walking in the deep snow. So I lingered a while and enjoyed an extra cup of tea and a boozy fruit slice. (Imagine a fruit slice but rather than just a fruit filling, this one is filled with my homemade Christmas mincemeat).
I am sure that there would have been many people cursing the snow and struggling to get to their work today, but for me, the snow provide the just what I needed. Now I have had a hot shower, a nap and had my tea cooked by Mr M. I am fit for the week ahead at the tearoom.
The Beast of the East (but from the West) was trying to scare us, but was certainly put into the shadows by the beauty of nature today.
Where will we go next week?
Of course, the song for this week just has to be Walking in Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves.
FRUIT SLICE (GF/DF/Egg Free)
Fruit Filling (or simply use some homemade Christmas mincemeat)
Making the fruit filling
1 Preheat oven to 190oc/170oc fan oven.
2 Grease and line a tray bake tin with parchment paper.
3 Put all the fruit filling ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
4 Boil for 4 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
5 Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Making the pastry
6 Put the flour, baking powder and xanthan gum into a free standing mixer (or a large bowl) and whisk to mix.
7 Cut the stork into small cubes and add to the flour mix. Have the mixer running at low speed and mix until you have rough breadcrumbs (or rub in with your fingers).
8 Add cold water, a little at a time, with the mixer still running (or mixing with a knife) until you have a soft but not sticky dough.
9 Cut the dough into two equal pieces and roll out each piece until they are large enough to cover the baking tray.
10 Carefully lift one of the pieces (use the rolling pin to help here) and place in the baking tray.
11 Cover the pastry with the cooled fruit mixture and spread out covering all the pastry.
12 Carefully life the second piece of pastry (again use the rolling pin to help here) and place this over the fruit.
13 Prick the pastry all over with a fork and then brush down with almond milk.
14 Bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes until lightly browned.
15 Remove from the oven and (if you are not coating it in icing later) sprinkle with caster sugar.
16 Leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into 24 equal pieces.
17 If you want to add icing to this, wait until completely cold. Mix the icing sugar with enough cold water to make a thick paste and carefully spread over the pastry and leave to set before slicing.
I know that I am not the first person to become a Grandma, but what follows is why I feel the need to tell the whole world about my new baby Granddaughter. Sadly, I know that I am not the only person to have such a take to tell. Who knows though, by telling this story it may just give hope to somebody else. Hope, determination and love is what conquered here.
Let’s take a little trip back to 2007. A short conversation from my 16 year old daughter, Chloe, was to change my whole outlook on life. “I’m pregnant”. Ok, so this was not the news I was looking forward to hearing from my young daughter, but pregnant she was. So, I was going to become a Grandma. I think it probably took about 30 minutes for me to change from being concerned at how young Chloe was to being excited about being Grandma.
Unfortunately, this was not going to be as smooth a journey as I would have hoped for my daughter. This pregnancy sadly ended in an early miscarriage. This was followed by another miscarriage.
In 2009, Chloe became pregnant again and this time she passed all the usual milestones and, flying past the usual 12 week worrying time, we thought this was her time. Two days after my birthday, 20 October, 2009, Chloe went into premature labour and suffered the unbearable pain of her first still born baby, Michael.
I cannot explain the pain of seeing your daughter going through such terrible heartache whilst being unable to do anything to help. No words, no actions, no money, nothing. Nothing I could do would make this easier for Chloe. Behind this heartache of Chloe’s my own heart was breaking for the grandchildren that were not to be. How could it be fair that one person could have to endure such pain? How could one person deal with such pain?
The next few years past and more miscarriages followed. Tests were carried out, therapy given, but still the miscarriages happened.
2012 seemed to start well though. Chloe was pregnant again. As usual, Chloe shared this information with me almost from day one. Every day I spoke to Chloe and every day we spoke about the pregnancy and how well it was going. 6 weeks passed. 12 weeks approached and the first scan. Everything was perfect. We took the pregnancy day by day and eventually the date for the 20 week scan arrived. The scan showed that this little baby was going to be girl. Oh my! This was going to be Chloe’s time. Every day we talked about things to look forward to. We talked about the things Chloe would be doing with her daughter. A name was chosen, Nieve Debra Olive. I can’t tell you how my heart was bursting with pride at this.
1st November found me at home making smiley face biscuits for our bonfire night supper up here in Scotland. That day I got the phone call that has probably changed my life for ever. It was Chloe. Just as though she was saying hello, Chloe simply said, “The baby has died”. I heard a noise and realised that I was wailing. Jim standing next to me picked me up of the floor. “Will you come down please”, asked Chloe.
What followed is still a bit of a blur. I remember having a long, dark, cold, icy journey down to Halifax from Kirkintilloch. I recall stopping at Tebay services on the M6 and trying to eat something but feeling sick at the very thought. I needed to be in Halifax. I needed to be with Chloe.
On Saturday 3 November 2012, two days after learning that her baby had died, my incredibly brave and amazing daughter endured, with no complaining, no tears, no words, the unbearable labour of her angel baby Nieve. My Granddaughter! It is no exaggeration to say that every day since then I have seen my daughter’s face as she held her still-born baby. The shock, the pain, the heartache but somehow I could see the acceptance. I held my Granddaughter, my perfect little Granddaughter who had somehow just fallen asleep for ever.
What followed was just a nightmare. A funeral. A small white coffin. Holding my daughter up whilst we buried her daughter.
How on earth was Chloe going to get through this. How could I help her through this. It was my job, no my aim in life, to make everything ok for my children. How could I have let this happen? How could I have stopped this from happening? How could anyone have stopped this happening? How can anyone help Chloe now?
Over the coming months I shed tears by the bucket full. Every time I closed my eyes I saw my daughter’s haunted face; I saw my perfect but sleeping Granddaughter and my heart was breaking. How on earth was Chloe going to get through this pain and heartache?
However, get through this Chloe did. She got through it day by day. What I could see though was a girl who was sad from the core. There was no happiness in her. My beautiful daughter was completely broken. I was broken.
Meanwhile, Mother Murphy’s Tearoom opened. Chloe found the strength to come and be with us for the open day. She came to celebrate our 1st birthday at the tearoom. But still she was broken. Still her heart ached for her lost babies and how she ached to be a mum.
Over the next few years there followed more miscarriages. More pain, more heartache, more tears.
Then in 2018 Chloe told me she thought she was pregnant. Only a few days. Pregnancy tests followed. Yes, it was true, Chloe was pregnant. My only thought was that I could not bear any more heartache for my daughter.
With the past history, Chloe was going to be monitored and monitored during this pregnancy. There was nothing extra that could be done because there were no known medical reasons for the previous losses. So, day by day, we held our breaths as the pregnancy developed. 6 weeks, 12 weeks. First scan, second scan. Everything looked perfect. Chloe had the most awful morning sickness, which everyone told her was a good sign. Regular scans followed, along with heartbeat monitoring. 20 weeks and the scan showed that the baby was another girl. A small baby on the scan, but the pregnancy was going perfectly otherwise.
I think I probably stopped breathing at this point. I could not concentrate. I ate chocolate. I ate cake. I ate more chocolate. I ate more cake. I could not sleep. I could not craft. But the tearoom still had to be run.
I was under strict instructions from Chloe that I could not tell anyone that she was pregnant. I did wonder how she was going to hide the growing bump but I understood her concerns. Of course, there were a few people I told in the tearoom. Ok, so I told lots of people. Chloe had a bit of a laugh at the idea that I had not told anyone, but I did not, of course, tell anyone on the wide, wide world of facebook, so really I had not told anyone.
Over the next few months, I have to say that the tearoom was probably my haven. I had to bake, I had to organise crafts, I had to talk to people, I had to listen to people’s concerns, I had to be a shoulder to cry on when they needed it, I had to laugh with people. Inside I was a mess. There were times when I cried, many, many times. I cried because I was scared. I was scared that something would happen and my daughter would have to go through terrible heartache again.
Eventually, a date was set for induction at 38 weeks. Everything was perfect except for baby being a bit small. Scans were carried out every two weeks. As the time progressed and baby stayed small, the induction date was brought forward to 13th December, just about 36 weeks.
Wednesday 12 December I travelled down to Halifax. The train journey was a bit of a blur. Oh my mind was running in overdrive. Jim had long since stopped expecting any common sense from me and he was just amazing dealing with my anxiety. He held me and ignored my tantrums. He wiped my tears and did everything he could to reassure me. Only one thing was going to reassure me though.
So 13 December came. We took Chloe into the Calderdale Royal Hospital. Induction medication was given in the manner it is given! I started to crochet a blanket as I waited with Chloe. I was going nowhere until this labour was over. Not one for praying usually, I can tell you that I prayed hard that night. I am sure that everyone in the tearoom (who did not of course know that Chloe was pregnant or being induced!) was praying and waiting. Jim was holding the fort and I was giving regular updates. The blanket was growing but that was the only thing progressing. 24 hours later, Chloe’s waters were broken. The labour room was full of every piece of equipment you could imagine. The consultant was not expecting anything to go wrong but as she put it, “we are prepared for everything”.
As things suddenly progressed, standing next to me the nurse pressed the emergency button and the room was suddenly filled with about 100 people (or so it seemed). “One more push and she will be here”.
Then she was here. No suction, no help, no respirator. This perfect, perfect, pink, tiny breathing baby was in her Mother’s arms. Yes I cried. But this time the tears were of joy, relief and love.
I have the most amazing photo of Chloe holding her baby and the love in her eyes is amazing. Minnie Violet is just perfect. Chloe is just perfect.
That night, I slept like a baby.
This is a tale of sadness, heartache, tears and love. Most of all though, this is a tale of one girl’s determination, strength and endurance to become a Mother. I have no doubt that Chloe will be the most amazing Mother and, if little Minnie Violet loves me half as much as I loved my Grandma, than all will be great.
It is also a tale of the support, warmth, thoughts and concern that a whole group of people who have never even met Chloe gave us. I keep saying that we created our tearoom to be a place in the community where everyone could come along, feel safe, feel loved and feel needed. I did not fully realise until this last few months that the tearoom and our wonderful customers are also providing that love and support to me. Thank you.
Behind this story of course there is a tale of hope and love. Chloe never once gave up hope that she would become a Mother.
Now we have our miracle baby Minnie, we can start to build new memories. The grief for the lost babies will never go. With tiny steps, one day at a time, Minnie will help Chloe to smile again and, one day in the near future, I hope that I will see my daughter laugh like she used to laugh, something I have not seen for a long, long time.
So, going back to November 2012 when I was making smiley face biscuits, I vowed never to make those biscuits again until there was a baby to celebrate with. In the tearoom when we open again in January, there will be smiley face biscuits. I am sure there will be tears when I make them but tears of both joy and sadness.
The song this week just has to be, "You've Got A Friend" by James Taylor.