Many parts

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.

Speaking And Listening

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.

Nature and nurture

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.

Turn again

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.)

Saplings

Younger son touchingly excited by early morning Snapchat reports of snow nearby, but winter’s arrival in village marked only by heavy sleety showers. Go for long and extremely muddy walk with group of friends; discuss schools, puppies, and preparations for this week’s Village Pantomime (all apparently at rather Fraught stage).

Afternoon spent planning Horticultural Association programme for forthcoming year with fellow Committee members; overall result rather similar to Horticultural Association programme for current year, but do spend considerable time discussing new classes for spring and summer shows which will a) make colourful display in village hall b) attract new entrants and c) give Committee members an unfair advantage (Treasurer particularly excited about his Sweet Peas this year). Struggle as usual to think of original yet inviting titles for Flower Arranging classes; own suggestion of commemorating Waterloo or Magna Carta met with wholly deserved derision.

Reading material so far this year good but sad book about marriage and good but sad book about children; wonder whether should perhaps try something good but happy next.

Entente

While sons spend yesterday happily honing vital life skill of Doing Nothing, daughter and I set off on train for dose of London; have good time looking at people and shops, and even manage Culture in form of Saatchi Gallery and French film. Atmosphere in cinema one of studious reverence, even before film begins, and within first few minutes man in front of us asks his gently murmuring neighbour If He Will Please Be Quiet; suspect he would not have enjoyed Paddington at local cinema last week.

Have been asked to write Intercessions for today’s Family Service and as usual leave it until last minute to search for The Right Words (which seem more than usually important this week); relieved as always once it’s all done, and have good chat with vicar and retired church warden about sleep, village housing trust, and teenage boys’ hairstyles.

Rest of day spent cooking,ironing and commiserating with younger son about all the Foulers on opposing football team; home life now seems completely Back to Normal.

Time and Patience

Spend much of day in determined effort to improve both house and self by listening to War and Peace  while stripping layers of paint off younger son’s bedroom door (project started some time in 2011). Find myself soon quite Immersed, and have difficulty dragging myself away from Battle of Borodino and Prince Andrei to make children’s tea.

Bump into friend at village shop and agree that we will get to grips properly with new term Next Week.

Old and new

Another glorious sunny sparkling morning; go for long walk with dog and conclude that a) 2014 has – from entirely selfish point of view – been Quite A Good Year b) connecting with people via blogging has been its biggest unexpected pleasure and c) I definitely need new walking boots.

Not yet quite ready to emerge from post-Christmas routine of eating, reading and watching old films with children, but am beginning to look forward to new year; plan to be better person in every way and have elegant, interesting and cultured life to match new Persephone Diary.

Hope that 2015 will be a good year for everyone.

To eat, and to drink, and to be merry

Christmas lunch on Tuesday with group of village friends; long walk to pub in next village gives at least partial excuse for three hearty courses and copious Sparkling Rosé (selected as brewery apparently Late With The Prosecco Delivery). Much discussion of disappointing end to widowed friend’s first new relationship; all offer to subject any future candidates to gruelling process of Group Vetting, but friend says that she will be spending 2015 not worrying about men and instead concentrating on self, sons and training to run first Marathon before her 50th birthday. (Own 50th birthday beginning to appear on horizon but urge to run Marathon still mysteriously absent.)

Christmas lunch on Wednesday with father and sister in London;   converge on restaurant at St Pancras with bulging bags of Christmas presents, study the long menu carefully, and all choose exactly the same thing. Discuss holidays, House of Commons and kale.

Horticultural Association Christmas Dinner on Thursday; sit with some new recruits and discuss Pakistan, camping and law courts. Vice-President gives short speech of thanks at end, slightly vague as to everyone’s name, but sense of general goodwill almost palpable and he is greeted with warm applause.

Children’s term now finished; plan to spend tomorrow decorating tree, festooning house with holly and ivy, and studying Christmas Radio Times.

Looking forward

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.