We Cater for Pleasure

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.

End of Term

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.

Summer’s ripening breath

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.

Winning and losing

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.

Summertime

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.

A flowery tale

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.

Days of wine and roses

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.

Home and Away

New week, new month and better than expected weather lead to surprisingly positive Monday mood; go for long walk with friend and determine to Clean The House From Top To Bottom.  Get as far as first child’s bedroom before all enthusiasm evaporates, but carry on in spirit of Dogged Determination, thinking about roses, menopausal rock stars and Rear Window.

Afternoon spent cooking and discussing Themes of Hospitality and Homecoming in The Odyssey with daughter who has AS exam tomorrow; any remaining brain capacity quite exhausted as a result, and am secretly quite relieved when son later rejects offer of Help With His Spanish Revision in favour of cricket nets and Test Match Highlights.

Will be spending rest of week staying with sister while husband takes Sole Charge of household; feel excited for all sorts of reasons, and only concern is What To Pack for week which will apparently include cold rain, strong winds, warm or Very Warm sunshine, and thunderstorms.

Unconsidered trifles

London friend e-mails with nine pages of colleague’s annual Eurovision predictions and says that she is All Agog for next diary instalment.   Delighted by image of busy urban professionals eagerly awaiting news of Pensioners’ Lunch Club, Horticultural Association Coffee Morning and Almshouses Opening Ceremony, and am happy to report that they All Went Very Well. Friend’s performance in The Winter’s Tale was also A Triumph, though cannot help thinking that Players may have rather overestimated village’s enthusiasm for Shakespeare’s late Problem Plays; lady next to me says she preferred their production of  ‘Allo ‘Allo.

Am very grateful for everyone’s reading suggestions after last diary entry. Cannot sadly find any of the recommended books in village library, and current reading consists of Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature (pure pleasure) and Facebook (general bewilderment); younger son particularly horrified that I have joined latter and spends some time trying to find and then Block me, in spite of my repeated assurances that I have joined only in order to ease administration of Tuesday walking group and have not the slightest desire to be his Friend on Facebook or indeed anywhere else.

Feel like spending all my time now looking at images of Chelsea Flower Show or pottering around own garden.  Will freely admit that it is not really a spring garden or a late summer garden, and that it does not look particularly impressive in the autumn or winter either;  but for a few weeks in May and June find that there is no place I would rather be.

Suggestions box

Election Day dawns bright and sunny; despatch children, walk dog and head with undeniable excitement to Village Hall where am pleased to find a) Queues and b) Very Clear Instructions on what to do with ballot papers; confirm over-anxiously with Helpful Young Man that am indeed putting correct papers in correct ballot boxes, then set off to town with pleasing sense of having Played My Part.

Have added Address Book and Reading Diary to blog; realise that latter gives all too accurate picture of self as Grumpy Old Woman, and resolve to find new book that might actually like. Any suggestions very welcome.