Someone to watch over me
Some twenty five years ago, whilst an apprentice at the National Trust, my very dear friend Elaine, begged me to accompany her, whilst she had her palm read. She was about to make a huge life changing decision to emigrate to the Far East, so I willingly went along to lend my support.
This was no Gipsy Rose Lee on a coastal promenade, it was just a little white haired, old lady in her kitchen. All very normal. I sat in the lounge, reading a newspaper, whilst Elaine had her consultation. When she came out, I think she was satisfied with the advice, and it had all appeared to go well.
'Why don't you go in? You may as well as you're here,' she said.
Shrugging my shoulders, I trundled into the kitchen, with no other thoughts, other than I could think of better ways to spend a tenner.
And so we sat opposite each other, and this lady took hold of my hands across the table, and unbelievably I felt a rush of energy from her.
'So you want to be the next Beatrix Potter do you?' she asked.
I shrugged again, I wasn't about to give her any clues. So I didn't answer.
'Dammit Elaine!' I thought, 'how could you have talked about me?'
Believing that Elaine had somehow divulged some crucial information about me, I just put on a nonchalant face, and acted as if I didn't know what she was talking about, as she reeled off my hopes, dreams and my aspiration to be a children's illustrator back to me.
She was however very aggravated, and eventually explained that someone was in the room with us. (Not that old chestnut).
An old man (What a surprise), did I know anyone that had died recently? (No).
Had I had a special relationship with a man? (Not that I can think of).
She described him as a large man, dressed in navy dungarees (Can't think of anyone who would wear dungarees)!
Unperturbed, she invited him to speak to her.
Well he dispensed plenty of advice, told me to keep painting, to get my paintings into a little gallery maybe, somewhere like Chester, a walled town maybe, or Cumbria, he saw me running a little coffee shop with my paintings on the wall. She told me that he watched over me, all the time, and he was often looking over my shoulder as I drew.
All very interesting, not, as I had no idea who she was referring to, so I left the room thinking what a waste of hard earned money that was. However, Elaine categorically denied even talking to the old lady about me, which did trouble me.
Speaking to my mum a few days later, I relayed my account of the reading, condemning it as nonsense and an utter waste of money. Explained how she had let this gentleman 'come through' to speak to me.
'Absolutely no idea who it was,' I said, 'Some chap in navy blue dungarees.'
There was an awkward silence, then:
'Lisa, your grandad ALWAYS wore navy blue dungarees, and you wanted to be so like him, so he bought you a pair too ... don't you remember?' She asked.
I felt a chill down my spine, of course he did. How had I forgotten that? It was just so long ago, but slowly it all came back to me over the following days, as I recalled all the long walks we took (he taught me the names of every wildflower and tree), shelling peas and beans together, and many happy hours spent in his greenhouse, potting plants, pansies and geraniums remind me of him. I remembered with fondness our special bond, even though our relationship was sadly cut short. Even now, I cannot walk past a geranium without rubbing it's leaves, and that aroma just takes me back to when I was five years old.
Just knowing he was watching over me, I certainly didn't want to disappoint. I worked hard to break into publishing, filing every rejection letter and ignoring every door shut in my face for over eleven years ... until I finally got my break. I kept going, not just because I was ambitious, determined and totally single minded, but because I always believed I would get published, because HE believed in me.
I still have that belief, even with this new venture. As we launch Fox & Boo ... I want him to hang around and I want him to be proud.