Sally Cronin: Author, Poet, and Blogger, is my Guest Author with her latest, Life is Like a Mosaic
Sally’s latest release is LIFE IS LIKE A MOSAIC
I’m so happy to be able to present Sally Cronin to you today on what is her second visit here.
Instead of my usual interview with Q&A, Sally thought it would be fun to share a short story with you: Miss Lloyd’s Robin.
We hope you enjoy it.
Miss Lloyd’s Robin
By Sally Cronin
It is fair to say Miss Lavinia Lloyd was not the most popular teacher in the girl’s grammar school she had taught in for over thirty years.
Those who had the dubious pleasure of being taught by this strict and unyielding educator came away with the distinct impression medieval torture apparatus would have been Miss Lloyd’s punishment of choice for infractions of her personal code of conduct, which were frequent. Her attire never varied and consisted of a mid-calf grey skirt, white buttoned up blouse, charcoal cardigan, thick black stockings and lace-up leather shoes that squeaked as she walked up and down between the desks.
There was one girl in particular who drew the critical eye of Miss Lloyd far more than any other. Sharon Dawson had flaming, unruly red curls that resisted any attempt to restrain them. This clearly got on Miss Lloyd’s nerves and she would grimly throw rubber bands on to the unlucky Sharon’s desk with a command to ‘tie back your hair girl’.
Sharon, to be fair, got more than her share of teasing from her classmates, but being the constant focus of Miss Lloyd’s criticism almost broke her spirit, and at age sixteen she threw in the towel and went off to work in Woolworths. Miss Lloyd was overheard in the corridor voicing her opinion to the headmistress that the girl would never amount to anything.
Eventually Miss Lloyd retired in the late 1970s and former students were invited back to share a glass of sherry and memories of her time at the school. Suffice to say it was a small gathering bearing witness the end of an era.
At age 85, Lavinia Lloyd lived a solitary life in a semi-detached Victorian house, left to her by her parents, with a spacious back garden which was lovingly tended and a haven for wildlife. At odds with her relationship with her own kind, she lavished loving care on the garden birds putting out scraps each day and homemade suet balls which she hung from a cherry tree in the middle of the immaculately maintained lawn.
Over the years, with successive generations, Lavinia developed a fondness for one bird in particular which was the robin. Possibly, the similarity between this solitary and pugnacious species and her own nature created this affinity, but there was no doubt the small red-breasted birds responded. As they were territorial, the one currently responsible for her back garden would follow her around as she weeded and changed the plants each season. No doubt hopeful for a worm to be exposed, or on occasion a luscious fat spider to scuttle between the plants being uprooted.
Lavinia would often sit at the wrought iron table in the morning sunshine with a cup of tea and biscuit and be joined by the resident robin, who would be rewarded with some crumbs and a rare smile.
In the winter of 2005 the cold and wet seeped in early and stayed for weeks, often with an arctic blast that froze the water in the bird bath and iced the path down the middle of the frost covered lawn.
One such morning in late January, Lavinia donned her ancient waterproof jacket and her wellington boots, gathered a bag of food and a hammer and gingerly made her way across to the bird table. Having deposited the scraps she hung a new fat ball to the branch of the cherry tree and smashed the ice layer that had formed on the surface of the bird bath water. She noticed her friend, the robin, waiting on the table by the back door and hurried forward intent on getting another fat ball for his personal enjoyment.
She felt her foot slip on the icy path and desperately tried to maintain her balance as it rose to meet her rapidly. Her head hit the edging of the path and everything went black.
It was only a few minutes but with a sharp stab of pain in the region of her right hip; Lavinia opened her eyes and took a deep breath of frigid air. The pain was excruciating and it took a minute for her to focus on the little ball that appeared to be hopping up and down in front of her. When her vision cleared, she observed it was the robin engaged in an agitated dance.
Despite appreciating the limitations on both understanding and ability to carry out the instruction, Lavinia in her famed authoritarian tone uttered the words ‘Get help!’
The postman, who had rarely seen the occupant of number 13 Wisteria Lane, except when delivering a packet too large for the letterbox, was just putting the electric bill through the door when he was beset by a frantic little bird desperate to get his attention.
Flapping his arms in panic, he hurried down the slippery path to the gate and onto the pavement, only to find he had been followed by his assailant. Being an animal lover and not wanting to harm the robin, he stood quite still and held out his hand. The bird settled on his palm for a moment and then flew away around the side of the house. Intrigued the postman followed, opening the side gate and through to the back garden where he saw Lavinia lying in a heap on the path.
He rushed over and gently touched the old woman’s hand and found himself firmly gripped in return.
‘I’ll be right back. I am going to phone an ambulance.’ Hurriedly he disengaged his hand and rushed through the open back door into the kitchen, spotting a phone on the counter.
An hour later, and with her house secured by her rescuer and the keys safely deposited in a handbag he found in the hall, Lavinia lay on the examination table in the emergency room of the local hospital. She shivered despite the blankets having been placed carefully over her and the effects of the strong painkiller administered on arrival. It was not long before a consultant arrived to view the X-ray ordered on her arrival and accompanied by a nurse he came over to deliver his diagnosis.
‘Hello Miss Lloyd, my name is Mr. Harkness and I will be your surgeon today. You have broken your hip and we will need to replace the joint. It will be a long recovery but we hope to have you walking again within a few weeks.’
Lavinia nodded resignedly; all she could think about was who would look after her birds and in particular her robin who had saved her life.
It was the next day before she was sufficiently back in the real world, although feeling a little euphoric from the post-operative pain medication. Carefully she opened her eyes and saw a nurse approaching with her trolley. The woman looked vaguely familiar. Perhaps in her early forties, with flaming red hair tucked in to a white cap and as she moved closer, Lavinia could see the name tag which read ‘Sister Grantham’. The name certainly didn’t sound familiar but the red hair stirred memories of long ago but for the life of her she couldn’t remember why.
‘Good morning Miss Lloyd, how are you feeling?’ The sister checked the monitors and gently lifted Lavinia’s arm to attach the blood-pressure cuff.
Satisfied with the readings she put the equipment back on the trolley and placed a button in Lavinia’s left hand and wrapped her fingers around it.
‘If you feel the pain is getting too intense, or you need anything just ring this buzzer and I will be over to check on you.’ With a last gentle touch on the elderly hand clutching the buzzer, the nurse walked away.
Over the following two days Lavinia became accustomed to the kindness she was shown and in particular by Sister Grantham. She felt tearful on occasion and was not eating her meals which despite the reputation of hospital food were quite appetizing. Lavinia did reflect it might be all the years of ingesting school dinners that had coloured her opinion. Her distress was noted and one morning her now favourite nurse sat down next to the bed and took her hand.
‘Are you experiencing too much pain Miss Lloyd, or is there something else upsetting you?’
Tears ran down the elderly woman’s face which were wiped away gently.
‘It’s my birds, it’s so cold and I feed them every day and I am so worried about my robin, he will wonder where I’ve gone.’ She paused and looked at her companion. ‘He saved my life you know.’
‘I notice you live in Wisteria Lane which is not far from my home, and if you like I can pop round before work and leave some food out for them if you tell me what they like to eat.’
‘Oh would you?’ Lavinia squeezed the sister’s hand. ‘The side gate is unlocked and if you take the keys in my handbag you can open the back door and you will find seed and home-made fat balls in the cupboard under the sink.’
‘Are you sure you are okay to let me enter your house, I am happy to buy the bird food.’
‘Not at all, I trust you completely; you have already been so kind.’
Several weeks later, following a month in a rehabilitation nursing home, Lavinia was finally able to go home. Sister Grantham, who had been feeding the birds daily and making sure the house was secure, brought her two older sons around to move Lavinia’s bed down to the sitting room so she didn’t have to navigate the stairs until fully recovered. There was a toilet downstairs and the district nurses would be in to help her wash and dress for a few weeks until she was fully mobile.
There was a touch of spring in the air and Lavinia held tightly to the arm of her friend as they carefully made their way into the back garden. A patch of sun warmed the spot where her wrought iron table and chairs were waiting with some new brightly coloured cushions. Leaving Lavinia safely ensconced with a view of the busy bird table, the nurse went back into the kitchen to collect two cups of tea and some biscuits. Having placed these on the table she heard the telephone ringing and went back into the house. After spending a few minutes talking to the district nurse about the visiting schedule, she stepped out of the back door. She smiled at the sight of her former patient sitting with her hand resting on the table with a robin perched on her palm, pecking happily at some biscuit crumbs.
Carefully, so as not to frighten the bird, she slipped into the other chair unnoticed by the other occupants so intent on each other.
After a few minutes the Robin flew off to examine the treats on the bird table and Lavinia turned to her companion.
‘Thank you so much for all you have done, I don’t know how to thank you.’ She paused as she looked at the woman beside her. Red hair cascading down to her shoulders unpinned from beneath the restrictive uniform cap.
‘Oh my goodness, I know who you are.’ Lavinia placed a hand over her mouth and tears rolled down her cheeks. Sharon took her hand gently in her own and handed over a tissue.
‘It was a long time ago Lavinia, and I’m very happy with direction my life has taken and the lovely family I have around me.’ She smiled, ‘but you will have to learn to put up with my unruly hair from now on.’
The two women sipped their tea contentedly and laughed as they were joined by the robin determined to enjoy any biscuit crumbs on offer.
Sally, what a lovely, touching tale. Just goes to show you should never assume anything about anyone…
Thanks so much for sharing this with us.
Let’s Find Out About
Sally Cronin Bio
Sally Cronin is the author of fifteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another fourteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry.
Her latest release, Life is Like a Mosaic: Random fragments in harmony is a collection of 50 + images and poems on life, nature, love and a touch of humour.
As an author she understands how important it is to have support in marketing books and offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities in the Café and Bookstore on her blog and across her social media.
Her podcast shares book reviews and short stories https://soundcloud.com/sallycronin
After leading a nomadic existence exploring the world, she now lives with her husband on the coast of Southern Ireland enjoying the seasonal fluctuations in the temperature of the rain.
Sally’s Buy links and Social Media
Buy Links – Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B099X29LTD
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B099X29LTD
Blog/Free Book Marketing: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com
Book Page and Reviews: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019-2021/
Thanks so much for being my Guest Author, Sally. It has been a pleasure hosting you once more. Good luck with your books and writing. Jane x