My love of rhyming verse comes from my father’s mother, Dora May Norman (nee Hitchcox). I have many fond memories of family parties where grandma Dora would read us a poem about one of her children or neighbours. I would love it when my uncles Michael and John would then return the gesture with a clever poem of their own to mark the occasion. It seemed wrong that no one from my household was contributing something, so in my teens, I began to write a few verses myself. I don’t have any of these… which is just as well, but I am most grateful to my grandma Dora for her inspiration. I am also grateful to her daughter Wendy and granddaughter Janet for putting together two little booklets of Dora’s poems before she died.
One of the poems in Dora’s first booklet echoes, or rather, pre-empts not only my love of rhymes but also my extraordinary culinary skills and penchant for staying in pyjamas all day (when I can!)
My Velvet Dressing Gown
I have a velvet dressing gown.
It’s shabby, but it’s red,
And it cosily enfolds me
When I creep out from my bed.
When I look out of the window
And see rain pelting down,
I breathe a little paeon of praise
For my warm dressing gown.
Then I hurry to the kitchen,
Turn the radiator high,
Warm the milk and make the toast
And tea – but no – I lie.
Actually while the toast is burning
And the milk is bubbling o-er,
I read the ‘obits’ to see which folk
Aren’t with us anymore.
And then when breakfast’s over
And I’ve mopped up milky mess,
I think, “if I were sensible,
I’d go and bathe and dress.
But it’s so warm and cosy here,
I’ll drop a line or two
To my far-distant children first.”
This I proceed to do.
Then just as thoughts and pen flow on,
I hear the doorbell ring,
And I curse the velvet dressing gown
And the comfort it can bring.
If only I had bathed and dressed,
Then I could play the part
Of a neat, well-ordered housewife
Who is dressed right from the start.
And sometimes it is Marlene,
But she’s so very nice,
She doesn’t make me feel ashamed
Although she’s caught me – twice.
She just comes into the kitchen
And sips a cup of tea,
And pretends that she prefers me
Dressed in velvet negligee.
But nothing seems to cure me.
I might do the same tomorrow,
And someone else might ring the bell
To my great shame and sorrow.
For when another morning dawns
And temperatures are down,
The first thing that I’ll reach for
Is my VELVET DRESSING GOWN.
Dora May Norman (1902-1988)
Peter Norman, Albert Norman, Joyce Hitchcox, Nancy Hitchcox, Edna Hitchcox, Donald Douglas, John Douglas. Middle Row: Jean Hensley (with son Ian Hensley), Dora Norman (with Wendy Norman), Richmond Hitchcox, Violet Hitchcox, Alf Hitchcox (with Elizabeth Hitchcox), Ruth Douglas (with David Douglas). Front Row: Barbara Hensley, John Norman, Alison Hitchcox, Robert Douglas.