Sister has sold house, and after various complex manoeuvres is house-sitting for charity landlord of vast but neglected country mansion until she and family find Dream Home. Cannot resist opportunity to inspect, and head off to ____shire in manner of Jane Austen heroine to find mansion, park and surrounding village looking exactly like set of BBC costume drama in soft evening sunlight, and delicious Taste of Greece supper from Lidl waiting in servants’ kitchen. Spend happy evening exploring corridors and discussing Madagascar, petits fours and fridges.
Following day visit mother-in-law in residential home; run through customary conversation, several times, and am just showing her photos on my phone (mostly Selfies of younger son) when smiling young woman enters lounge with drums and castanets and announces that it is time for their Musical Afternoon. Escape is impossible, so spend next hour singing along to Music Hall and Country Classics (everyone else is word-perfect), and listening to animated debate on who did the best version of I Love You Because (conclusion: Jim Reeves). Am surprised to find how much I enjoy it, and by the time the kindly kitchen staff bring round cups of tea and slices of Swiss Roll feel rather disconcertingly at home.
Return to own home in time for normal collage duty at church Harvest Crafts morning. Vicar tells me that ____shire is Quite The County Nowadays, but own county not looking bad at all on these glorious autumn days.
Rain returns, wetter than ever. Tuesday walking group opts for coffee and scones in friend’s kitchen, sons’ football matches are cancelled Due To Waterlogged Pitch, and local newspaper board outside village shop advertises “Floods Special”. Think about using enforced indoorness to catch up with undone Admin and spend many happy hours getting irritated with everyone’s political comments on the internet.
Kindly gentleman rings up from The Almshouses Gazette to check details of article recently submitted about new village almshouses; seems rather disappointed that lady cutting ribbon in photo of opening ceremony is a mere 98 and not our oldest resident (who is 101 and was born the day the First World War broke out), but we agree that a picturesque story cannot be allowed to overrule Facts.
Autumn has now officially arrived, and next few weeks promise plenty of Village Life in form of coffee mornings, quiz evenings, jumble sales, Harvest Craft Activities, village players’ performance of One Man, Two Guvnors and Adult Halloween Disco to raise money for village nursery (Fancy Dress Optional). Advertisement has also appeared at the bus stop for Christmas Crafts Fair but am studiously ignoring it.
Weather crisp, bright and beautiful. Head to town in search of shin pads, Lord of the Flies and school trousers (Skinny Fit) with a pleasant if entirely unjustified feeling of brisk New School Year efficiency. Arrive early for daughter’s final school Progress meeting, and stand in sunshine chatting rather wistfully to her friend’s mother, who works in Tesco’s and says that she has been watching all the parents buying Value duvets and kettles recently and can’t quite believe that This Will Be Us Next Year.
Daughter has recently started part-time waitress job and I am doing my bit to help by a) telling her all the things that Annoy me when I’m being served and b) reading extracts from recent TripAdvisor reports (she has also read them and assures me that she was not the Local Teenager who poked the bread to confirm it was gluten-free). Am reminded of own youthful part-time jobs and can’t help feeling very relieved that they were never subject to online review.
Have all sorts of September resolutions to be better and brighter in every way. The boys say they are Actually Going To Work Hard This Year.
We shall see.
Not sure that I can blame recent hopelessness of diary-keeping entirely on school holidays, which children now seem to manage very well without noticeable maternal involvement – though do somehow still feel that normal life is On Hold until new term begins.
Have recently returned from second trip away with family; eschew more obviously teenage-friendly destinations in favour of remote cottage in North Yorkshire surrounded by sheep and cattle, and six miles from nearest shop, and am relieved that after surprisingly sunny week of walking, throwing stones in rivers and visiting Yves St Laurent exhibition holiday is pronounced Better Than We Thought It Would Be. Younger son fortunately avoids public use of what he fondly considers to be a Northern accent and confines his mimicry urge to rather unsettlingly accurate versions of my own musings on What Family Holidays Were Like When I Was Young.
Back home to find farmers already ploughing the fields, garden looking distinctly faded, and evenings undeniably Drawing In. Feel overwhelming desire to visit Dreamland.
Long, long school term finally staggering to a close. Spend evening with husband and sons at school’s Sports Presentation Evening; undeniably thorough reports on every fixture of past academic year are fortunately interspersed with silly videos of teachers lip-syncing Troublemaker and endless puerile banter between PE staff, so do not feel entirely out of place.
Bump into childhood friend in queue for interval wine, and am rather taken aback to discover that she has recently become a grandmother; find it equally hard to picture friend’s mother (forever fixed in my mind as epitome of casual Seventies glamour) as a great-grandmother, and quite impossible to imagine myself now being of any use whatsoever if confronted with a small baby; but delighted that friend, daughter and not entirely planned granddaughter all seem to be Flourishing.
Have planned to go away for a few days tomorrow with family; weather prospects for Friday distinctly gloomy, and children showing tendency to mutter that they Just Want To Stay At Home And Relax, but nonetheless remain confident that a little adventure will do us all A Power Of Good.
Perfect weather for the Annual Horticultural Association Coach Outing on Thursday, and everyone’s polite muttering about lack of air-conditioning in our Luxury Executive coach is soon forgotten at first sight of Great Dixter; house, gardens and surrounding countryside all looking stunning in July sunshine, and find it impossible not to smile at complete strangers when confronted with such glorious Technicolor exuberance. Am, childishly, excited to bump into well-known Head Gardener down one narrow path, and tell him (no doubt to his great relief) that The Gardens Are Looking Good.
Return trip takes us through one ridiculously picturesque village after another, and we make afternoon stop in particularly charming town where I buy plasters, book about Homer, and a solar-powered hula girl model. Man from Head Office has meanwhile been despatched to fix coach’s air-conditioning, and we travel home in cool Executive comfort and general agreement that it has been A Lovely Day.
Spend yesterday doing best to resist Siren Call of garden and make some headway on overdue deskwork (efforts to resist further village duties having proved almost wholly futile). Decide that my confident observations to son about “Romeo and Juliet” in preparation for his Controlled Assessment on Monday might carry more weight if I had actually read the play, so do so, and find own intermittent concerns about teenage relationships usefully Put Into Perspective.
Set off yesterday in search of Sale Bargains in effort to extend summer wardrobe (existing three pieces proving no match for surprisingly extended period of properly hot weather). Soon discover that everyone else has already had exactly the same idea, and spend some time rifling through sparse and untempting clothes rails in shop after shop with increasing despondency until finally arrive, hot, red and flustered, in small boutique down side street, where I ask kind owner if she has anything which will make me look like a carefree and effortlessly stylish Italian signora out on an evening stroll. Am so delighted by the outfit which she eventually manages to create that I decide to overlook fact that it does not actually contain a single Sale item.
Wear new outfit to cricket field in evening. Hopes that village under-15s might repeat their unexpected (and quite possibly unprecedented) victory last week soon fade at sight of opposing team, all uniformly twice the height of Our Boys and accompanied by very expensive equipment and serious-looking fathers. After scoring more runs than seems quite decent, they proceed to bowl with a determined ruthlessness that quickly reduces home team to its final two batsmen. Support from the pavilion now becomes increasingly vociferous, and when batsman number 10 (previous career best 1) somehow manages to hit a four, home supporters erupt in a frenzy of applause and cheering that clearly leaves opposition completely bemused; even though the inevitable defeat follows shortly afterwards, and we hear one opposition father remarking to his friend that Well, That Wasn’t Too Difficult, boys walk home with their Heads Held High and a happy sense of Team Spirit.
Catch end of Wimbledon highlights at home, and are soon completely gripped by match between Serena Williams and Heather Watson; disappointment at final result softened by noticeable graciousness of victor. Agree that That is how real winners behave.
Temperatures are rising and Tuesday walking group heads to beach for swimming, sunbathing or (in my case) fully-clothed paddling at water’s edge. Generous and capable friend arrives with freshly-baked muffins and cafetière of coffee for us all, and we discuss Greek economic situation, summer dressing, and the many advantages of being middle-aged – though rather suspect that we have more advantages than most.
Village Garden Safari at weekend generally adjudged A Success; slightly nervous before arrival of first visitors on Saturday, but soon get into the swing of boasting about the roses, apologising for the vegetable patch, and trying to explain why we generally call tortoise Tortoise (visitors are not impressed by this). Everyone very friendly and kind, and full of helpful suggestions for Slug Control.
Much talk about Heatwave tomorrow. Daughter is attending university open day and will have to battle with London Underground, and sons as usual seem to have several demanding sporting events apiece. I plan to do very little indeed.
Organiser of forthcoming village Garden Safari rings to congratulate me on prominent photo of self, husband and garden in this week’s local paper, apparently appearing above photo of local MP who will also be opening garden to public. Am forced to point out that standards of local journalism are perhaps not all that they could be, as no press photographer has visited us since previous Safari two years ago; though am of course greatly relieved that we have not had to repeat our awkward pose with trowels and rictus smiles among the peonies.
Preparations for Safari pleasantly interrupted yesterday by visit from nephew who has finished first year at university and is leaving bike with us over summer. Slightly disconcerted to discover that actual teaching for year stopped some time in March, and spend some time discussing Value For Money, as well as Roman Britain, music festivals in Czech Republic, and interesting perspectives on our local cathedral city afforded by his part-time job in its McDonald’s. Wave goodbye to him at bus stop as primary school disgorges excited children and exhausted parents from annual PFTA Summer Fayre and am struck by how distant my many years of Children’s Tombola or Hook-A-Teddy duties now seem.
Enjoyed reading my lovely friend’s post on inspirations for gardening, and spend some time thinking about influences on own garden; narrow it down to all the books, magazines and blogs I’ve ever read, and all the beautiful places I’ve ever visited, and realise that I might have been slightly over-ambitious trying to encapsulate all of this in a small plot regularly trampled by dog, tortoise and ball-playing children; though still hope that one day it will magically combine the best of Sissinghurst, Christian Dior’s Garden and my late mother’s lovingly-tended Herbaceous Border.
Spend happy few days staying with sister and family. Have offered to Make Myself Useful while sister Juggles children, work, mother-in-law, imminent house move and organising the Church Fête, and hope that my talking to her incessantly while she continues to do all the above will have made All The Difference.
House sale proceeding rather faster than anticipated, and sister’s family will be renting for some time until new house is found; this does not stop us making forays into surrounding villages and towns in hope that Perfect House will somehow magically appear, but succeed only in realising how beautiful everywhere looks on a sunny June day.
Leave sister making prototypes of jungle animals for monthly Children’s Activity Morning in village library, and return home in time for lunch party organised by friend in honour of her son’s 21st. Relieved on his behalf to confirm that this forms only part of his birthday celebrations and have merry time sitting in rose-filled garden, talking about Network Rail, children’s names and cat cafés, and trying to ignore his rather Loud second cousin at next table explaining at length to his companion why the bottle of wine I brought was Not Great.
Weather continues to be sunny and bright, poppies are blooming in garden, and daughter’s exams finish at lunchtime. Feel that housework today may be rather Cursory.