Golly Gosh Cafe

tea shop and sanctuary

time

‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to week and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.’ ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

The few offices and shops on the High Street were closed and there was little activity as Maggie and Jan made their way along the narrow pavement, walking briskly, on their way to Golly Gosh for some cosy cheery chat on what was turning out to be a surprisingly autumnal day.

Their attention was drawn to two men exiting the local lawyer’s office; Mr Fraser, always Mr Fraser, was accompanied by a stranger, a younger man. They were deep in conversation as they stood by the side of a black shiny Range Rover parked outside. The younger man’s hand rested firmly on the door handle demonstrating his eagerness to be gone. Mr Fraser waved and smiled in their direction but the stranger appeared to be distracted by his own thoughts and paid them no heed; he opened the door and disappeared into the blackness. As he did so Jan thought she recognised him as the man with the sunglasses and dishevelled hair who’d helped Noah with his kite on a blustery day at the beach. He’d looked different then, more approachable. There had been no time for any meaningful introductions and now she wished she’d at least asked his name.

Mr Fraser was well known in the village; a respected man, not only for his brilliant legal mind, but also a generosity and willingness to share his expertise with individuals for very little remuneration. Rumour had it that sometimes he provided a crucial service to people in need for nothing in return.

Mr Fraser could only be described as the jolliest of men with a cheeky sense of humour that won him friends easily; a raconteur of sorts who held court masterfully whether as an after dinner speaker or in entertaining the few people gathered in the hall for tea after church on a Sunday. He was small and portly in stature with plump rosy cheeks and sparkly blue eyes that looked playfully through round silver-rimmed spectacles. He preferred three piece grey suits with a splash of colour, today in the form of a red handkerchief to match his tie, the colour alternating depending on the day of the week, his mood and what was in his diary. In his waistcoat pocket hung a watch and chain that belonged to his great-grandfather of whom he had endless stories to tell. On occasion Mr Fraser’s silver curly hair got a little wild when a visit to the barbers was due and Maggie had teased him about it only last Sunday. In contrast, his now silver moustache, a remnant from his army days, was always neatly trimmed and tickled when he wished as many ladies as he could ‘happy new year’ or ‘happy birthday’. Maggie had grown fond of this older gentle man particularly over the last eighteen months when she sought his counsel.

This stranger seemed incongruous to his surroundings. He didn’t fit in. Maggie rolled her eyes as Jan, predictably, was drawn to the well-groomed dark head and smart suited appearance not to mention the height and confidence of his gait and the tanned skin. At ease with himself. He knew he looked good. Not that she’d noticed, not really.

There was also something familiar about him; indefinable from the distance and the smoked coloured windows of the vehicle as he drove passed them. She was hardly going to peer in now was she.

Maggie also thought he looked a bit too full of his own importance.

That was the first time she saw him.

The second time she saw him she was in a hurry. Always in a hurry. But she had to make the post office before it closed. She had to post the letter. Her smart working shoes clippety clopped on the concrete and she tried to concentrate on the red postbox at the end of the street. Inside her head a conversation was happening and she feared, for a moment, that she had spoken aloud. Nearly there. People are right. I need to slow down. Make time for myself. Catch my breath. I will. But I need to get this posted. She’ll be waiting for it and I promised her I’d write.

An important letter to an important person and the one she loved most in the world. Her grandmother.

But her beloved grandmother was of the old school. No internet or email for her. No, she preferred to receive mail in the form of beautifully handwritten notes, on ivory paper tucked inside matching ivory with chocolate lined envelopes; to be savoured and opened with care for therein lay fragile secrets. Quintessentially romantic and very sweet and Maggie loved her for it. She also loved that, despite her hurried life, her grandmother’s wishes made her take the time to sit down and write a letter. Like the old days. And Maggie obliged, every month, updating her on her progress and the goings on in the village her grandmother had left many years ago as a young wife and mother.

Maggie’s mind was racing with purpose as she brushed passed him. Had she taken time to notice she would have seen a glimmer of recognition and a smile in his eyes, the floral fragrance she’d sprayed as she left the office playing with his senses and evoking distant memories. But she didn’t want to notice, didn’t want to look, didn’t want to see.

Maggie made it just in time and as the postman picked up the mail and she was able to place the precious communication inside the big grey bag. At least that was something ticked off the ‘to do’ list. She could visualise her grandmother; rummaging around to look and find lost spectacles, making herself some iced tea then settling herself in the shade in the garden before opening Maggie’s much awaited envelope with tenderness and anticipation.

Today, of all days, hadn’t been the day she’d expected. Nevertheless she needed to clear her head. The anticipated swelling of grief, associated with an anniversary of the most defining moment of her life, hadn’t arrived. She felt confused, perhaps relieved but definitely not numb. Putting the key in the lock she could do nothing but smile.

She took the stairs two at a time and headed straight to the wardrobe, changing into jeans and warm walking socks, pulling a navy jumper over her head as she made her way downstairs. She hurried, stepping into bright blue wellingtons with bursting yellow suns, grabbed an orange waterproof and slid her arms inside. She made her way along the beach and soon stood at her favourite place beside the waves, wrapping the oversized jacket, his jacket, around her to protect from the wind and light drizzle. It had been a full day and people had kept her busy. Now she needed time on her own; to be.

Maggie stood staring into the distance enjoying the sound of the waves and feeling them splash against her boots. She looked down and saw the sand cover her feet.  It was then the tears were released. Silently she allowed them their freedom.  Memories of what had been and what there could now be. Not for what she’d lost but for the life she’d now gained; filled with potential and opportunity, grace and love.

If she’d only known she was being observed and protected from a distance. A stranger from a house on the hill.

The third time Maggie almost missed him.

Kate had offered her an old fashioned bicycle with a big basket on the front that she used to carry groceries and books from the library.  Maggie enjoyed cycling but couldn’t afford a new bike so thanked Kate for the offer.  This would certainly help perpetuate her reputation and image further.  It even had a bell!  What else could a girl need?  As Maggie pulled the old white bike onto the pavement and opened the gate she heard barking in the distance. But her attention was drawn to the window where Maggie, Sally and Alice stood. Like schoolgirls they giggled and pointed towards the beach, enjoying the show; a man throwing a stick and a dog doing what dogs do. Remarkable.  Is that it?

She noticed that the dog could have been Harry, Mr Crawford’s boxer. But that wasn’t possible because Mr Crawford, the retired headmaster, had died recently and she’d heard someone had inherited his dog.   It was definitely Harry.  Now curious she rested the bike against the wall and stood just for a moment.  That moment turned into five minutes, then ten minutes, rooted to the spot, spellbound.

A summer memory exploded into her mind in glorious colour and excitement; a bouncing dog and throwing sticks, taming kites and chasing the wind, laughter and new friendships, a wonderful voice and dark brown hair, a place in her heart and never forgetting.

He looked up and began to walk towards her and the knot that had dwelt so long in her stomach lost its power and supremacy. It gave way to something else; something new and old, something unknown yet known, something far away but within reach.

She knew him.

Tom.

And she thought her heart might just burst!

childhood things

Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold
You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley ~ Sting

Each stop saw the bus empty and in time there would only be Maggie, Jan and the driver left. They were the last stop and as usual the driver was in no hurry. This really was the most beautiful of places and Maggie was grateful for being in this place at this time. She never wanted to be anywhere else.

She had grown quieter throughout the journey, mulling over the numerous action lists and things that needed to be done, the letter that had arrived in the post that morning lying unopened on the kitchen table, the end of another summer that always left her a little sad.

Maggie leaned against the window and shut her eyes tightly to block out the external distractions and remembered one glorious lifetime ago summer.  Maggie and Jan.  Jan and Maggie.  Inseparable.

A summer of bright red shorts and red satin ribbon tangled in her blond curly hair; yellow cornfields and the wrath of a checked shirted farmer; jumping waves and chasing the wind; running as fast as they could along the beach; climbing and hiding and bumps and scrapes; riding bikes and swings and dizziness and giggles; standing on tiptoes and two  boys they would never see again. A memory of shiny dark to black hair, of golden skin not of these parts, of straight white teeth and a voice and accent that could only be described as posh. She’d never forgotten.  Smiling and eyelashes glistening.

One glorious summer in childhood; one treasured memory.

Maggie’s enjoyment of nostalgia was to be short lived as Jan interrupted, landing herself with a bump into the free space beside her. Multi-coloured shopping bags full to bursting, spread out and now resting on their knees. Jan’s excitement clearly reflected in the break-neck speed chitter-chatter. Maggie found it hard to keep up.  Oh for a little quiet. But it was not to be.

Let’s drop in to Golly Gosh for a quick cuppa … and I can show Sally my holiday things!

Maggie.  Forced to let go of the memory.

ghosts

A person who has no-one would be well advised to cobble together some passable ghost.  Breathe it into being and coax it along with words of love.  Offer it each phantom crumb and shield it from harm with your body.  ~ Cormac McCarthy, The Road

She had to go back. To decide.

The rattle and hum of the city took her by surprise and she couldn’t help but compare its pace to the gentle steady rhythm of the small town she’d lived in the last two years. She was struck by how bright everything was; shiny and superficial, busy and impersonal, focused and without interaction. Souless. She looked around and wondered why she’d found this all so exciting, so vibrant and so full of opportunity. But she was younger then, less cynical. Now it irritated and set her teeth on edge, making her want to scream out for the quiet. Just for a minute she wished it would all stop.

Sally didn’t like indecision and the untidiness going on in her head. She preferred certainty and order but over the last two days her thoughts seemed chaotic and devoid of any real formation or structure; hard to separate. Conflicting options buzzing and blazing loudly; a blend of tinnitus and fast cars, dazzling zig zag lines and bright headlights making her feel out of control.

She fought back the memories of a past life: the pressure; the image and perfection; the hours of endless meetings and networking; the competition and unrealistic deadlines; the fighting to be heard and never feeling good enough; the big money that made her feel nauseous; the hate and deceit and false relationships; the insomnia and pretence and hiding the exhaustion; no time for food or a social life; stress and profound loneliness.

Her frown deepened and she knew her mood was different here.

Emptiness and noise. Ghosts and shadows. Almost broken. But not quite. She remembered.

One moment had made her realise life was about choices and in that moment her present became her past. A leap of faith some people call it. An awakening.  In the beginning she had no-one. Until, out of the blue, Kate arrived. Thank God for Kate and for the safety and sanctuary she eventually found in Golly Gosh and its people.  But Golly Gosh seemed a long way off now, almost surreal.

Time was running out and a decision had to be made by the end of the week. To carry on or move on.

What’s it to be Sal?

She felt burdened by the weight of her decision because she knew life wouldn’t be the same.  This was no longer transitional and self-serving, something for her to do, a project to focus on to get her back on her feet.  It wasn’t just about her.  Her decision involved lots of people; all with gifts and talents, idiosyncrasies and foibles, bad days and good, grumpiness and gratefulness.

Tears slowly tickled down her cheeks and she felt her heart would burst with emotion; letting go and possibilities and risk.  She smiled remembering the small place by the sea and the conversations; privileged to be trusted with innermost secrets, heartache and joy.  She realised that in serving she had found her special place.  Love and reciprocity.

She reached for a tissue, blew her nose and wiped her eyes.

I need to be home.

Vulnerable and out of her depth she knew she had work to do.

 

autumn

How beautifully leaves grow old.  How full of light and color are their last days.  ~John Burroughs

The softness of newly fallen red and gold and brown leaves, slippery under wellington boots that playfully rustled and kicked and swept on the way to school.   The feel of a new navy blue trenchcoat still to be softened and moulded, a buckle fastened tightly, the scratchy borrowed scarf and the hood tied under her chin to protect against the cold wind and rain, chapping at her face.  A brown leather satchel on her shoulders bobbing up and down and gloves dangling but still attached.  Her hand holding on tightly to the young man at her side.

I’m going to be late and I’ll get into trouble!

You’ll be fine.  I’ll explain.

It would be a typical exchange.  One who worried and one who tried not to.  Nothing would change as they grew older.

An unexpected memory from a long time ago interrupted Kate’s thoughts; a special day and the only time she could ever remember her big brother taking her to school.  She knew then he’d always be there for her and he was, for as long as he could be.

Since she was little, autumn had been Kate’s favourite time of the year.  There was no other season that reminded her of her mum so vividly than autumn with its vibrant colours.  Beautiful autumn, the transition from summer to winter, transforming the grey concrete roads and pavements into a carpet of blended colour, simply irresistible.  How her mum had watched everyday as the leaves fell, knowing that winter was on its way, and that this autumn would be her last.

Kate had never known her brother’s favourite season.  But she was certain if he’d had one, it would surely have been summer.  She couldn’t help but smile at the thought and knew, instinctively, that he’d agree.

She was doing lots of remembering lately and gave herself a talking to.  This self-indulgence had to stop!  Perhaps it was the celebration of her beautiful niece’s birthday or the shiny happy face of her great-nephew Noah or the fact that their lives had been turned upside down ten years ago or was it the earlier conversation she’d had with her best and oldest friend in the world that was the trigger.

Hidden emotions of a last autumn.

Unusually Kate had given herself permission to be alone today and now understood what it was about solitude that the woman in the corner seemed to like so much; quietness and a time to think and look around you. She observed the comings and goings, overheard snippets of conversations but always seemed to miss the punchline just before the laughter erupted.  She witnessed seriousness and hope etched in the faces of those around her and she realised, again, that everyone has a story to tell.

A boy in red and white with blond hair caught her eye in the distance, further down the beach.  He was flying a kite.  Her heart lifted and kicked.  But Noah and Auntie Jan weren’t alone.  The wind was too strong for them to control the kite and she watched curiously as the stranger stepped in to help.  Running and laughing together; chasing.

Well, that’s tonight’s conversation taken care of.

Her brother popped into her head again.  Mischief maker.  She smiled.

sharing

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile. ~ Mother Theresa

It was a stunning day and she was glad she’d made the effort to get out of the cottage and take the short walk along the beach that brought her predictably to her beloved Golly Gosh with its heart shaped pebbles.

She sat in her usual spot watching Sally and Alice bustle about making everyone feel welcome.  She’d come to recognise that people became friends here.

My it was bright; almost too warm and she wished she’d ordered a cool drink instead of her usual Earl Grey.  There was always time.  This was progress.

She squinted her eyes as the glare bounced off the big wide open shuttered windows and streamed into the room.  She followed it as it came to rest on the silver heads of two older ladies out for their regular Sunday afternoon tea. After church perhaps?  She’d seen them often and they’d always been kind enough to acknowledged her but intentionally didn’t pursue conversation, somehow sensing her awkwardness.  As one shielded her eyes the other relaxed as the warmth spread over her back; maybe today she’d take her cardi off.  They listened intently to one another the way only old friends can before throwing their heads back and roaring with laughter; glasses off and wiping sparkly eyes.   It warmed her heart to watch and one couldn’t  help but wonder what their younger versions were like.  They reminded her of her mother.

Suddenly the presence of happier times flooded her memory: sunshine and laughter and driving in the car with the hood down listening to favourite tunes and sunglasses and summer dresses and a light tan; mum and learning to ride a bike and the endless school summer holidays and winters with White Fang and Secret Seven adventures.  Life with purpose; relaxing and free.

Right from the start she’d thought of this place as her shelter.  How she’d needed the peace and quiet.  She liked Sally and Alice and had come to enjoy their gentle company over the months.  She’d never felt like a stranger and it was Sally’s special gift.  People always left feeling better; talking, listening, being.  And Alice, lovely Alice, baked the best cakes in the world!

Her thoughts were interrupted as colourful bags burst through the door and like breaking glass the laughter of shopping girls shattered the calm of the place. But it wasn’t disturbing, rather it was refreshingly curious. She admitted a renewed sense of nosiness and that was a good thing; an indicator that her mood was lifting. Who couldn’t be drawn into their world of fun and hope. Well that’s what it appeared.  At once she was envious of their knack of happiness.  And wondered if she could catch it.