Ash Wednesday brings my first Pensioners’ Lunch Club duty for some time. Menu, clientele and own fundamental unsuitability for waitressing role remain reassuringly unchanged; explain repeatedly to everyone on every table that a) no, I have not yet moved b) no, really, nobody has yet wanted to buy our house and c) no, I don’t yet seem to have brought the coffee or tea that they asked for several minutes ago. Feel huge surge of relief once it is all over and the Urn is finally emptied; try to explain this to fellow-helper as we walk home and she tells me that she really enjoys her sessions and is very happy to help out when she can and she only wishes she were able to do more.
Feel suitably penitent as head to church this morning. Second Sunday Of The Month means it’s the informal Family Service; various adorable children answer what I consider to be rather difficult questions about Journeys, an eight-year-old plays Morning has broken on the piano, recognisably, and the whole service is over in about forty minutes. Discuss weather, alms ladies and bathroom tiling before heading home in howling wind to help younger son with his Extended Project Qualification work (not quite yet overdue) on legal wigs.
Daughter already home from university for Easter holidays. Appears to be in excellent form but is not quite as excited about my new sink tidy as I had hoped.
After several years of voluntary and freelance work, have acquired actual paid job at local university. Job is admittedly a) writing minutes of management meetings rather than carrying out ground-breaking intellectual research and b) for grand total of two days per month, but am nonetheless quite excited by the novelty as I head off early yesterday morning. Kind friend offers me lift from village, along with her colleague who lectures in plumbing and electrics; spend journey discussing amateur dramatics, secondhand cars, and the number of females on his course (five out of 180).
Gender balance appears rather better among university management team. Shuffle into my allotted place in board room and do best to follow several hours of detailed discussions on wide range of Confidential Matters. Academics all tap away at laptops while eating bananas; I scribble in notebook while eating biscuits. Am not entirely sure what they make of me.
Write up minutes at home despite dogs’ best efforts to distract me in manner of particularly demanding children. Reward myself for hard day’s work with Endeavour on catch-up and the Great British Sewing Bee.
Spend yesterday avoiding wretched weather and accumulated emails about Church Telecoms Mast with completely delightful day of Culture and friends in London.
Go first to new John Ruskin exhibition with regular group of favourite ex-colleagues. Own prior knowledge of John Ruskin rather more limited than it should be, but am quickly impressed by his beautiful drawings and his extremely Strong Views on everything from lawyers to railway stations (very much against both). Balance one hour of exhibition-viewing with three hours in the coffee shop; discuss personality disorders, camper vans, Marie Kondo and more or less everything else. All feel much better.
Head to V & A to meet American friend and husband who have decided to celebrate wedding anniversary in London. Friend arrives looking exactly the same as when we first met more than 35 years ago, though wetter. Leave husband to wander around the Cast Galleries and medieval silver, and immerse ourselves in absolutely spectacular Dior exhibition . Feel slightly underdressed in utilitarian raincoat and comfortable shoes. Retrieve husband and head to charming restaurant in Notting Hill for dinner; discuss children, parents, monkfish, the polarisation of politics, and whether academics or business people have happier lives.
Reflect on journey home home that life of ex-lawyer with older children, access to London, and a fine collection of friends, must be the happiest of all.
Am always surprised by number of different ways in which winter weather can be utterly miserable. Take dogs for cold, sleety, windy walk and am struck by number of determined-looking joggers we meet. Very glad that own New Year’s resolutions are strictly of the Do More Nice Things And Read More Good Books variety.
Other goal for New Year is (finally) to sell house; chances of achieving this are currently somewhat reduced by fact that have taken it off market, but are planning to try again in spring when weather will be lovely and what our estate agent calls The B Word will be completely resolved to the whole country’s delighted satisfaction.
Younger son is visiting sister at university for weekend, and husband is at work; so have several hours to myself in which could a) catch up on housework b) catch up on deskwork c) stick nobly to my New Year’s resolutions.
Daughter decides that she wants to do a City Internship next summer, and spends hours at laptop a) completing psychometric tests b) explaining why her recent work experience in village pub and on organic farm in Norway make her ideally placed to advise major international corporations on M&A, corporate restructuring and capital markets c) trying to find out what M&A, corporate restructuring and capital markets might conceivably entail. Do best to help by buying weekend Financial Times from admirably unphased village shop owner, and reminiscing about own short-lived and somewhat improbable City career at tail end of 1980s. Am confidently informed that it is All Very Different Now.
Put aside rather fond memories of pinstriped suits, champagne bars and inappropriate office behaviour, and accompany husband on thoroughly satisfying outing to local tip.
Head reluctantly to town for long overdue eye test. Am so relieved that a) testing now almost entirely based on machines rather than own flustered responses to squiggles on red and green patches b) eyesight has not deteriorated as much as feared over past few years c) am not pressed too hard on number of hours per day I spend on screens – that can even manage rather thin smile when handsome young optician tells me that my long sight is because I am getting older and that he feels quite relaxed using this language to me because I am in my fifties and not my forties.
Kind friends invite me to watch new Mamma Mia film with them at local cinema. Can think of nothing nicer than watching films with friends, and thoroughly enjoy spending the evening with them; but unfortunately can’t prevent myself from sharing a small selection of my Thoughts on the film afterwards and now cannot see any reason why they would ever ask me to join them again.
Return from remarkably relaxing Package Holiday with husband and younger son in Mallorca. Flights undelayed, hotel very comfortable, food plentiful and not cooked by me; spend days swimming, sunbathing and reading rather eclectic selection of books without interruption. Try to convince self that this lifestyle would eventually pall.
Younger son so delighted to be on a holiday Like Normal People that almost forgets to be embarrassed in our company – at least until final evening, when we decide to sample hotel’s poolside Entertainment and, in sympathy for multilingual Italian singer (former contestant in The Voice Croatia) doing her best to rouse somewhat inert clientele, find ourselves singing along to chorus of Take Me Home, Country Roads rather more loudly than strictly advisable.
Pouring rain that greeted us on return yesterday afternoon now replaced with bright sunshine. Take dogs for long walk in freshly washed golden fields; collect garden harvest of plums, mulberries and runner beans; and decide to draft intercessions for tomorrow’s Family Service at some later stage.
Find myself suddenly overwhelmed by urge to Write. Contemplate a) great Victorian-style novel as cathartic response to gloomy events of last twelve months b) becoming Voice of Reason on Twitter and c) (briefly) catching up with overdue correspondence on village almshouses. Reject all, and, with some trepidation, decide to resume Diary.
Not entirely sure what Diary will record; after loss of father, and in contemplation of second child heading to university in the autumn, have decided to embark on New Life in nearby university city, and have put house On The Market. House-selling process so far proving good for Light Social Comedy but poor for actual Results, so may well be chronicling the ins and outs of Village Life for some time yet.
Looking forward to The Next Stage.
To London on Friday to meet a) internationally acclaimed fashion designer at opening of her new exhibition b) daughter in search of dress for end-of-term ball. Sons insist that I Actually Blow-Dry My Fringe For Once in honour of occasion; feel that unaccustomed effort was entirely worthwhile when two separate people at museum ask whether I too am fashion designer. (Feel grateful that they do not see me afterwards, puffing in increasingly crumpled fashion around hot streets of central London, or battling to eat healthy takeaway oriental salad box with chopsticks on park bench.) Dress-buying mission unexpectedly straightfoward, and have time for good discussion with daughter about Manchester, Cicero and Romania before we head home in separate directions; am surprised at how normal this seems.
Son playing cricket for village Second XI on Saturday; team quickly dismissed by superior opposition, and whole match over by time tea is normally served, but nobody seems unduly worried, and have pleasant time chatting to former village postmistress about beards, childbirth, and changes in village since 1953.
Weather continues to be warm and sunny so head for sandy beach yesterday; husband swims, I paddle, everyone eats chips and generally Makes The Most Of It just in case. Read delightful “Miss Buncle’s Book”, and see that sunshine is forecast all week.
Wake from most unsettling dream, in which other family members have done all the chores and shower me with spontaneous gifts of Exactly What I Wanted. Am unable to judge whether this represents auspicious portent as other family members all currently away a) piloting Ukrainian ship on Thames b) waitressing at pub next door c) doing Engineering Taster Course in Shropshire d) at sleepover with unsuitable friend.
Spend some time researching Inspiring Women to interview for new website ; try not to feel too disheartened by article about successful stylish fund manager with several children who spends her spare time baking cakes, doing Pilates and organising national charity campaigns. Own morning not entirely unproductive, however; arrange Rotary Club’s inspection of garden in readiness for summer’s Garden Safari, speak to neighbouring almslady about her broken outside light, and collect particularly impressive pile of dirty washing from children’s bedrooms.
Return from lunchtime walk and realise that have dropped house key somewhere En Route. Retrace footsteps, find key, and feel as intense a sense of achievement as if had just closed a multi-million pound deal.