Alarm goes off apparently in middle of night; rouse children and do best to cheer them with happy thoughts of This Time Next Week before despatching them into cold dark morning. ( Must make sure that daughter’s breakfast tomorrow consists of more than chocolate from the Advent Calendar.)
After long dog walk with friend (discuss Christmas trees, plasterboard and Homeland), head off to hairdressers in local town in effort to Smarten Up for forthcoming festivities; am Taken In Hand by kindly lady, who a) apparently shares own views on teenage boys, Christmas presents and Wham and b) clearly understands that there is no point asking me How I Normally Style It. End result a considerable improvement, though long-cherished hope that new haircut will somehow transform me into someone else entirely remains, sadly, unfulfilled.
Spend evening wrapping presents and inspecting proposed contents of children’s stockings. Am definitely beginning to feel festive.
First mince pies and mulled wine of year at yesterday’s annual Carols and Crafts Morning; take up usual post at collage table, delegate tricky elements such as Mary and the donkey to quietly competent eight-year-old, and am proudly admiring finished result when man walks past and remarks thoughtfully that It’s Coming On. Crafts followed by Decoration Of Village Christmas Tree on Post Office corner; picture surely worthy of Christmas card as happy children in woolly hats and scarves bustle excitedly round tree while clear winter sun beams down. (Own children meanwhile in bed, in town, and analysing Steinbeck’s characterisation techniques in preparation for this week’s Controlled Assessment.)
Light fire in evening and watch DVD of Working Girl, inspired by recent Guardian piece and wish to show daughter 1980s office life and the point of Harrison Ford. Love it as much as first time, and finally see my Perfect Party Dress, in the $6000 number Melanie Griffiths borrows from Sigourney Weaver.
Elder son off school and on crutches all week with football injury; feel grateful – this week of all weeks – that it was nothing worse, and decide to be perfect and angelic nurse in manner of Cousin Helen in What Katy Did. Suspect that son unlikely to be impressed by references to The School Of Pain or the need for a sick person to be As Fresh And Dainty As A Rose, but do insist on occasional breaks from Xbox to do schoolwork or watch vaguely Improving films (though could perhaps have chosen something slightly more cheerful yesterday than Lord Of The Flies).
Advent Sunday Carol Service this evening; own fondness for its rather serious and austere beauty not shared by rest of family, which at least means can sing at full volume without fear of embarrassment.
Weather and own mood not yet remotely Christmassy, but decide that should at least Make A Start on preparations, and head yesterday to local cathedral city in hope of finding Festive Inspiration. German Markets being assembled in almost every street, and shops clearly moving into full-blown Christmas mode; come home with three items for children’s stockings and determination to do better next time.
Rare family outing, to see latest Hunger Games film, last night; despite much-vaunted recent Refurbishment, local cinema reassuringly unchanged (cash only, photos of Vivien Leigh and Charlton Heston on walls, and reservations sellotaped to seats), and packed with enthusiastic audience; dare to hope that it will still be there for Part 2.
Winter wardrobe practically non-existent, and am currently yearning for The Perfect Party Dress – something a) glamorous b) comfortable and c) suitable for all possible social occasions from now until next spring. Doubt very much that it exists, but feel moved to buy December Vogue at village shop this morning (wearing dog-walking clothes and trying as usual to ignore shopkeeper’s look of polite surprise) – just in case.
Return with paper from village shop and bump into neighbour, who tells me that she is about to take Sunday Lunch round to her (grown-up) daughter’s, and that You Never Stop Looking After Your Children. Can’t help hoping that she is quite mistaken. Own attempt to look after children by suggesting that they could invite friends round here one day is met with general dismay and declaration that It Is Too Old-Fashioned; unsure whether this refers to house décor or prevailing parental attitudes (both of which I prefer to consider perfect blend of old and new), but decide that further discussion unlikely to prove productive, and return to writing e-mail to their Headteacher about retention of Latin in school.
Have own Sunday Lunch in evening, once sons return – muddy but victorious – from respective football matches, then settle down to cry in front of War Horse.
Week begins unpromisingly with heavy downpours and crashing thunderstorms (sister tells me it is lovely and sunny where she is). Do Monday housework, pursued by unsettled dog and thinking about The Home-Maker – surprisingly uplifting book about marriage, children, work, thinking, personal fulfilment, understanding, small town life and shopping; find myself in great sympathy both with husband (who hates his job, despises consumer culture, and loves being at home watching children develop); and wife (who feels imprisoned at home and achieves happiness only when she goes out to work, selling clothes); not at all sure what this reveals about own character, and decide not to pursue question for time being.
Appear to have no village duties this week, and refuse to think in any detail yet about Christmas (unlike younger son, who has already compiled long and rather specific Wish List and gives regular updates on days, hours and minutes remaining until The Big Day); am very much looking forward to doing Nothing In Particular.
On Toy Stall duty at annual Jumble Sale in village hall. First half-hour almost complete mayhem as dedicated bargain-hunters pounce, but gradually begin to make out individual faces and even manage occasional conversation with customers about Makka Pakka or poppies or Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award. Several say, rather surprisingly, How Much They Love This Jumble Sale; though do feel quite pleased myself when I discover complete 1970s Puffin set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books (50p).
Daughter analysing Wendy Cope poem for homework; dig out own copy of Serious Concerns and spend happy few minutes discussing favourite poems and Young Man who apparently gave me book in 1992.
Heavy rain in evening does not seem to stop fireworks round village, but stay firmly inside with dog and watch The Apprentice. Can’t help feeling that village Horticultural Association does a rather better job of organising coach trips.
Half-term visit to sister and family. Sister is married to my husband’s brother which means a) cousins should probably not marry each other and b) we have same mother-in-law, now – very happily – resident in Care Home next door. She seems very pleased to see children, though takes some persuading that elder son is not already In The Services; tells him he really should join The Navy, and younger son The Police Force (no suggestions for daughter or self).
Sister and I return for further visit on following day and sit with mother-in-law in Lounge; care assistant passes through and says she is somehow reminded of that saying If The Devil Should Cast His Net Now He Would Get A Good Haul. Five minutes later, are joined by another resident who fixes us with beady stare and says If The Devil Should Cast His Net Now….
Rest of stay spent very happily walking, eating, talking, admiring sister’s new tortoise and playing silly Halloween Party Games with great enthusiasm.
Spend yesterday standing in for Verger at wedding in village church; Verger currently on Holiday Of A Lifetime and has sent me message from Australia saying that she hopes It All Goes Smoothly – which naturally has effect of making me more anxious about arrangements than ever. Anxiety not helped when no sign of bridegroom, Best Man or ushers ten minutes before wedding due to start; guest helpfully tells me that groom is Definitely Around as had posted pictures of his breakfast beer-drinking on Facebook that morning. Vicar throws off cassock and is about to storm into pub when Wedding Party finally arrives – all except bride, who eventually makes appearance forty minutes late, by which time organist’s repertoire and my conversation with bridesmaids both rather drying up. But service lovely, Happy Couple very happy, and everybody smiling as they emerge into warm afternoon sunshine.
And feel happy and smiling myself after spending evening at friends’ birthday party.
Much of Saturday spent in village hall. At coffee morning am put in charge of selling Specially-Printed Church Tea-Towels (Ideal Christmas Gift! Easy to Post!). Am informed in friendliest terms by absolutely everyone that unfortunately they already have a Specially-Printed Church Tea-Towel, and so do all their daughters, second cousins, and old friends in New Zealand – though some are kind enough to buy yet more. Am left with ample leisure to chat to new young organist, helping out with Quality Bric-a-Brac on next table; discuss DIY, Kazakhstan, and wedding music choices (next week’s bride has apparently asked for The Bit From Braveheart When She Dies).
Evening devoted to much-anticipated Horticultural Association Quiz Night, which to great relief All Goes Well; slight panic in Island-Hopping Round when are loudly informed that we have Got Them The Wrong Way Round, but luckily this refers to order of questions 9 and 10 rather than respective roles of Corsica, Elba and St Helena in life of Napoleon Bonaparte. Children help out with marking and scoring, need for tie-break question narrowly avoided, and, best of all, everybody helps with putting away tables at end (often feel that Village Life consists largely of washing up and moving furniture).
Had planned to spend today earning £1000 by writing prize-winning essay for Persephone Books competition but think will just read yesterday’s newspaper instead.
Breakthrough Breast Cancer Coffee Morning in village hall; arrive in scruffy raincoat, clutching slightly burnt lemon drizzle cake, and find everyone else in glamorous pink apart from one lady who had been expecting the market and nipped out in her gardening clothes to buy sausages. Feel immediate bond, and spend next hour with her discussing trees, melanoma, and food-shopping in France. Joined by another new lady who asks me how old my children are, then says that she Feels For Me.
Conduct umpteenth double-checking of questions and answers for Horticultural Association Quiz Evening tomorrow. Am unreasonably plagued by fear of challenges – though question master assures me that he will take A Firm Line – and feel compelled to find at least three authoritative sources for each answer. (Wonder, not for first time, whether lack of job means that am perhaps Losing Perspective.)
Looking forward to half-term; as I told the lady this morning, the children are Actually Not That Bad.