The Minnie Stories
When I was a kid, growing up in north east London in the 1950s, my world wasn’t very big - well at least not the world around me. In those days we didn’t travel much…..my dad never learned to drive ‘til he was in his late 30s, and even then, he never had a car! We didn’t really need one - we went on buses and trains everywhere we needed to go: and as I said, that wasn’t very far anyway.
All the family - well all Mum’s side of the family - lived fairly locally. Dad’s were a real adventure train ride away, in Liverpool, and that’s where we went once a year, on holiday! Otherwise, we learned young which number trolley bus to get to which auntie’s house... I bet you’re much too young to even know what a trolley bus was, aren’t you!?
No, it wasn’t a tram, it didn’t run on tracks in the road, though it did have sort of metal arms connecting it to overhead power……..and come to think of it, that’s probably what I imagined God was - I could never see him as an angry old man with a long beard; my God wasn’t a person at all, more a big central energy, like the bus garage where the overheard wires came from! And we were like the trolley buses – we could sort of go where we wanted on the road, but if we got disconnected from the power supply up above us, we couldn’t really get anywhere!
Funny how your mind comes up with these things when you’re a kid, isn’t it? Maybe it’s because we don’t have much information then, so what we do have we put together really creatively!
But then again, we’re all different, aren’t we? I always used to see pictures inside my head, then get a feeling about them, then I’d say something to myself about it.
And I probably still do that; like when I go into the offices, or to Mrs Vernon’s, or to Mrs Webb’s, my lady in Fulham, who recommended me to Mrs Vernon…….I see how the place looks when I arrive, then in my head I see how it will look when I’ve done it. Then I get a feeling of needing to make things better, and I say to myself
“Right Minnie, get on with it!”
Then when I’ve finished, and I see the outside now matches what I saw inside my head, I get this lovely feeling , and I say to myself
“Well done, girl!” (Girl, already!! Who am I kidding?)
But some people don’t seem to see things at all, not even the outside things, let alone the inside ones! Jack was like that - he would’ve happily lived in a total mess if I’d let him, and never noticed!
Luckily we had a small spare bedroom, which we made into Jack’s ‘study’, where he had piles of books all over the place, old newspapers with articles he was keeping “for future reference”!, jackets hanging on the back of the door, sweets and chocolates and video boxes and CDs and photos and loose change on the shelves, in front of more books….!
Later there was a printer, and all his computer bits and pieces piled up on the floor by his desk, which was also covered with note pads, and jars of pens. And under the desk there was a wastepaper basket – and all round it, all over the floor itself, crumpled up balls of paper he’d thrown at the basket, and missed! And just left them where they landed…..!
And he never noticed this mess, or if he did, it just wasn’t important to him….which was maybe why he didn’t tidy it…..after all, we’re only driven to do what’s important to us, aren’t we?
Whereas he knew that it was to me………so we had a kind of agreement - I wouldn’t say anything or nag him, and then every three or four months I was allowed to go in and clean and tidy it!
Jack did understand how I felt about it - because he was all about feelings…..and I think that’s where our Rachel gets it from.
So you see what I mean, then……we’re all different inside; and I think that changes how we see the world: it’s almost like we’re on the same planet but with completely different maps of it!
Or maybe even like we have similar maps, but all the place names are in different languages from each others’……! Which makes you wonder sometimes how people ever manage to understand each other at all! We’ve all got our own maps, and we think everyone else should be using the same one, seeing things our way, speaking our language, believing what we believe!
Which maybe could be why not only small misunderstandings happen but also terrible things - wars, terrorists, religious persecutions……..it could be, couldn’t it? On the other hand, if we could catch misunderstandings early enough, and respect everyone’s unique maps……then who knows?
I remember when I was twelve or thirteen; we were living in a flat off Lordship Park at the time. It was a very hot July night - so hot, it was hard to sleep. And even with all the windows wide open, there wasn’t a breath of air. It was a very quiet neighbourhood….the Victorian houses were mostly lived in by retired people, and quite a few by Hassidic Jews, an ultra-orthodox sect, who kept themselves very much to themselves, the men in their big black hats, long beards and side curls, and long black coats, the women with their wigs so they wouldn’t attract male attention apart from their husband’s.
Which again proves how different people are even in the same religion - because they were as far from my beliefs as a Japanese Geisha woman’s!
So, this particular night, the quiet is suddenly smashed into a thousand pieces by, of all things, a jukebox! We look out of the window, my Dad and me, and in the middle of the road, there’s two young black men, who recently had moved into the house opposite.
They must have been some of the first Jamaican immigrants to come to England, and certainly were the first I’d ever seen. And now they’ve carried this jukebox out into their little front garden……. and they’re dancing! Right there in the street!!
Well, dad and me, we absolutely love it….! It’s fun, and lively, and loud, it sounds like sunshine; and we can’t help jigging to it ourselves, up there at our window!
And then we see this little Hassidic man come out of one of the other houses; he’s got his big black hat on, even though he’s got his long black coat over his pyjamas!
And we watch him shuffle slowly up to the guys who are dancing in the road. When the record that was playing ended, and the jukebox was searching for the next one, we hear him say to the Jamaicans
“Please…..der children are trying to sleep; it’s t’ree o’clock in the morning, already. Do you tink mebbe you could please turn der music a little qvieter?”
We waited, as the Jamaican men considered this. Then the bigger one turned to the little Hassidic guy, and said
“Hey man - why don’ you go back to your own country!”
And the next record started playing, and they carried on dancing, as the old Jewish man slowly turned, and shuffled wearily back into his house.
What made me think of that now, after all these years? Well thinking about it, it was probably the very first time I saw that ‘different maps’ thing actually happening……. The Jew and the Jamaicans, all immigrants - but two of them believing they had a right to be here, they were British subjects: the other from a race so used to always being moved on, he believed he only had the right to not make waves, keep his head down.
Different beliefs……and I look back now, all these years later, and think how sad it all was - and still is…….because they were all ’outsiders’; all persecuted for their differences.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people weren’t so frightened by coming across maps in a language they don’t understand, but instead got together to translate them?
Personally, it gives me as much pleasure discovering how people are special in their own ways, as it does having the joy of sharing what we have in common!.
After all, the way I look at it is, sure, we’re billions of people, with our billions of different maps……..but in the end, they’re all of this same one world we live in, aren’t they?
Introduction To The Story Collection
The Minnie Kerchevsky Stories
Real wisdom can often be found in the most unlikely places....not from teachers, coaches, professors and so on, but from ordinary people who have their own life experiences to draw on to help others.
Cleaning Up Your Act is a collection of the stories of one of these very special people.........
Minnie Kerchevsky is a so-called ‘ordinary woman’, a cleaner, a 'daily', with no pretensions, no super-ego... just a desire to make things better in any way she can; helping those around her to “clean up their acts” in her own unique and heart-warming way!
Minnie believes that what stops us being happy is thinking we don’t have choices - and that feel-good is a state of mind we can always choose to be in!
So in ‘Cleaning Up Your Act’, we gradually learn about Minnie’s own life and events - and how she dealt with challenges and learned how to see raindrops as sunbeams in disguise! - interwoven through the stories she shares about the people she impacts with the homespun wisdom that is the essence of who and how she is, because of who and how she has been.
Each of us has met Minnie, or someone like her, in our lives... and if we haven’t, we’re the poorer for it - so here’s our chance to put that right!
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So here’s the secret of how to do this:-
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TLC…… THE TENDER LOVING CARE OF TEACHING, LEARNING, AND THE CHILD.
When I was a child, there were two constants in my life….I loved learning; and I hated school. The two were apparently incompatible – with a couple of notable exceptions.
In my Primary school it was George Breeze, the music teacher. The first time I had a lesson with him I sat reluctantly at the piano, waiting for instructions, Instruction! But he simply asked me what I wanted from music, and what it would be like when I got it. Sharing that with Mr Breeze crystallised it in my own head, and also made me feel comfortable…..in rapport with myself as well as with him.
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© NEW OCEANS 2012