Sunny spring weather for yesterday’s walk with friends; discuss election posters (lack of), asparagus (glut of), and flirtation (joys of). Arrive at half-way point to find selected pub still closed, but landlady fortunately recognises us from Cricket Club Bingo and opens up specially. One friend remarks that she had taught landlady’s husband at school; another that she used to babysit for him and his elder brother. All stare rather contemplatively at our drinks.
Conversation turns to imminent village production of The Winter’s Tale, which we reassure friend will All Come Right In The End despite some doubt over whether all roles have actually been cast, and a total current running time of about five hours; are all rather relieved that Players appear to have abandoned romantic visions of Shakespeare In The Garden after particularly ill-fated production of Twelfth Night in the downpours of 2012 – though someone suggests that The Chairs In the Village Hall remain the greatest barrier to audience enjoyment.
Theatrical theme continues today with daughter’s school trip to see Lysistrata. Struggle to think of less suitable play for teenage girl to see in company of Headteacher, but it will no doubt prove very Educational all round.
Start reading through rather daunting pile of Prospectuses brought home by daughter after recent University Admissions Information Day. Pleased to note that every single university in United Kingdom is a) World-Class b) Cutting-Edge c) held in particular regard by prospective employers and d) situated in or near the best city in the country for students. (Though only one apparently Provides You With Everything That Allows You To Be All That You Can Be, rather in style of Bleu de Chanel advertisement that has unreasonably infuriated me for last few Christmases.)
Weather warm, sunny and spring-like (though all forecast to change in time for sons’ first cricket match of new season tomorrow); hang out washing in happy consciousness of its great literary tradition, admire emerging tulips, think about making a birthday cake, and vow to be much more diligent Diarist from now on.
Deeply-ingrained habit of starting weekdays with Today programme rarely has positive impact on mood or outlook, but am intrigued amongst all the sadness this morning to hear about survey linking personalities to geographical regions, and decide to try out Personality Quiz myself. Am awarded lowest score on Agreeableness and highest on Neuroticism, and advised that I might be suited to living in Oxford; forced to conclude that a) online quizzes are harder to manipulate than magazine versions of youth, in which I always emerged as Ideal Friend or Perfect Partner and b) I should probably not apply for any jobs which involve Psychometric Testing.
Am however ideally qualified for unpaid village roles by combination of availability and guilt, and find myself yesterday as new trustee at Board Meeting of local Almshouses charity. The Vicar chairs with the crisp efficiency of someone who a) attends lots of meetings and b) wants to get home and see her baby granddaughter; other trustees talk knowledgeably about charity rules, social need and accessible stopcocks; while own contribution is limited to excusing myself from Grand Opening of new almshouses as it clashes with Horticultural Association coffee morning.
Have mounting piles of Deskwork so spend morning cleaning kitchen and thinking about Twitter, cooking, E Nesbit, and why it doesn’t at all feel as though it will be Easter next week.
Am finding it difficult to work out whether time goes a) very fast or b) very slowly. Still slightly reeling from realisation that at next General Election all three children will be eligible to vote, receive e-mail from school about Friday’s Solar Eclipse and possible Selfie Danger; have only vague memories of the pre-smartphone 1999 eclipse (much of that era is rather a Blur), but life with only one small toddler does now seem very very distant.
Village life meanwhile remains somehow timeless, and annual cycle of events is beginning all over again: Mothering Sunday Crafts (done), collating of Horticultural Association Annual Schedule (to be arranged), first outdoor Cricket Nets (2nd April – probably in the snow). Receive letter from Rotary Club sub-committee confirming involvement in biannual village Garden Safari in June and asking whether am planning Additional Attractions for visitors; feel that it will be quite enough of a challenge trying to make garden presentable to outsiders, but wonder whether could list Tortoise, who proved major hit in 2013 (slightly redeeming herself for having previously chomped through most of flower-bed).
Spend lunchtime not listening to Budget, and thinking about International Day of Happiness on Friday. Am planning – rather aptly, I feel – to spend it with friend visiting from America.
Pensioners’ lunch club on Wednesday particularly busy, and after usual struggle to serve teas and coffees in required combinations am quite relieved to find myself on train to London to attend first-ever Literary Party. Arrive at destination far too early, and am reluctant to tramp round streets of Bloomsbury in unaccustomed Heels, so end up sitting at nearby bus stop and watching busy Londoners; wonder whether should perhaps be using time profitably to make Astute Observations in manner of Virginia Woolf but concentrate instead on being unnecessarily anxious about meeting New People.
New People turn out to be charming, friendly and welcoming; everyone seems to be distinguished journalist, author or academic (many are all three), but am soon put at ease and discuss trains, funerals and husbands as though with perfectly normal crowd. Publisher makes warm and gracious speech; prize-winning essayist, who looks about same age as own daughter, reads poetic extracts from essay on Katherine Mansfield; there are photos, flowers and kind words aplenty , and I would happily have stayed longer if not for a) worry about return train and b) increasingly acute pain from shoes.
Weather here still disconcertingly lovely, and plan to spend afternoon in garden once have finished admin, ironing and proof-reading Horticultural Association Schedule. May allow myself some slight literary day-dreaming.
Spend some time yesterday evening trying to think of intelligent and inspiring answer to Woman’s Hour request for The One Piece of Advice You’d Give Your Daughter. Actual advice to daughter to a) stop working b) watch Emma and c) marry Mr Knightley suggests that such an answer may be some way off.
Preparations for Horticultural Association AGM on Friday proceeding apace; scheduled speaker on Growing And Showing Daffodils now unable to attend, but friend manages to find last-minute replacement happy to speak about Poisonous Plants. Cannot avoid slight sense of déjà vu as begin to draft report on The Association’s Activities in 2014, but hope that AGM audience will find marked similarity to last year’s report reassuring rather than otherwise.
Return books to village library, unread and late; librarian as always kindly and understanding but conscience remains burdened as Problems With The New System preclude payment of 42p fine. Make last-ditch attempt to encourage sons’ reading with book marked Unsuitable For Younger Readers.
Universal agreement around village that today is A Lovely Day (Although That Wind Is Still A Bit Chilly); am confidently informed that the weekend will be Glorious.
Yesterday’s attempt to combine orthodontist trip with Family Day Out in local cathedral city much brightened by unexpected encounter with student nephew and his visiting brother in Waterstones; do not resist Pavlovian urge to ply them both with food, and head to one of several Mexican restaurants nearby for A Proper Meal (nephew takes photo of vegetables to show his mother). Discuss travel, McDonald’s, Twelfth Night, and the difference between burritos and enchiladas (none of us knows); wonder, not for first time, whether aunts have the very best role in family life.
Rejection from final publisher concludes short-lived ambition to write Brilliant Bestselling Book. Surprised to realise that am not too disappointed, and spend happy time day-dreaming about all the other exciting things that I might quite possibly do in future. Am very glad in meantime that own experience of provincial life bears as much resemblance to the relentless unpleasantness of The Casual Vacancy as my literary career does to J.K.Rowling’s.
Children seem to have flurry of tests, mock exams and Controlled Assessments this week; despatch them to school with well-meaning but no doubt useless advice, and resolve to do Something Nice to compensate at half-term (only outing so far scheduled is to Orthodontist).
Regular Tuesday walk with friends; discuss work, star-gazing, and rumours (almost certainly untrue) about Russian Oligarchs moving into village. Dramatic Society have made rather Brave choice of The Winter’s Tale for their next production, and friend is very excited to be playing Shepherdess and Gentleman Number Three.
Catch end of The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds and then watch Inside The Commons; cannot quite resist drawing parallels between the two.
Wake up to light dusting of snow. Put out food for garden birds, make soup for friend recently discharged from hospital and take dog for walk, with pleasing conviction that have become bountiful life-affirming Earth Mother; illusion soon shattered on return when realise that elder son has forgotten packed lunch.
Friend remarkably cheerful, given circumstances – though agree that Much Could Be Written about her hospital experiences. Her eldest son appears (surely at least a foot taller than when last saw him) and makes elaborate and delicious coffee for us before driving his mother to distant physiotherapy appointment. Feel there is much to be said for older children.
Evenings now noticeably lighter, and snowdrops and hellebores beginning to appear in garden, but decide in view of relentlessly cold weather forecast to postpone all thoughts of spring, and embrace winter with evening of food, fire and The Musketeers.
Bus to town this morning very late, giving unknown lady at bus stop ample opportunity to confide all current worries. Make what I hope are helpful suggestions, and we are just boarding bus when she suddenly asks whether I used to be a lawyer. Rather horrified to have been so precisely identified, and vow to be much more mysterious and enigmatic from now on.
Am joined on return journey by rather lost-looking German student, keen to spend day exploring England (she has been in London, but we agree that that is not at all the same thing). Discuss various possible itineraries, I apologise for gloomy weather, and we do our best to spy typically English sights through misted-up windows.
Take younger son to watch Village Pantomime in evening. Story, jokes and Dame all comfortingly familiar, lots of enthusiastic song and dance routines, and plenty of Audience Participation, especially in second half (bar does brisk trade during interval). Congratulate parents, grandparents and everyone else I see, and walk home in crisp cold night singing Chapel of Love. (Son walks ahead.)