Realise that this is hardly Headline News, especially in context of everything else at the moment, but just wanted to inform regular readers that have decided For Various Reasons (none bad) to stop diary, at least for time being. May resume later in the year, but very best wishes to everyone in the meantime.
Spend much of weekend in cricket pavilion, helping with pre-season Revamp. Plans for Total Transformation limited slightly by a) Budget b) time c) reality, but make quite impressive impact through two-pronged strategy of a) discarding everything that does not Spark Joy and b) covering remainder with white paint. Under-15s show particular aptitude for removal and destruction of furniture and fittings; local decorator and carpenter add welcome dose of professionalism; and time flies by as we discuss soap-making, Oompah Bands, American supermarkets, and everyone who isn’t there.
Sense of elation at Job Well Done slightly dampened on return home by sight of own photo in organiser’s Facebook update, though children say it’s only my hair, clothes and facial expressions that look really bad.
Daughter becoming anxious about participation in forthcoming School Quiz so watch University Challenge together in preparation. Explain that they may well ask the wrong questions in her quiz as well.
Am instructed at yesterday’s Mothering Sunday Crafts Morning to produce collage on theme of Love. Not sure what it says about me that mind immediately goes completely blank. Eventually settle on random mixture of flowers, hearts and smiley faces, with LOVE spelled out in large letters in rather desperate attempt to prove that brief has been met. Church seems particularly chilly, and participating children and parents younger than ever, but have happy time discussing names, Derbyshire, and left-handedness.
Daughter has Sunday shift at local pub today but indoor cricket nets are cancelled, so after annual breakfast in bed have unexpected pleasure of both sons’ company at Mothering Sunday service. Five-year-old Jasper takes advantage of Vicar’s brave determination to Involve The Children during sermon, and gives congregation full benefit of his views on The Meaning Of The Cross as well as on his mum, his nan and the best way to make cheesy pasta. All the women are given a bunch of flowers, Simnel Cake is shared out, and everyone tells me how much the boys have grown. Return home in cold spring sunshine, fully satisfied that all the day’s obligations have been fulfilled and normal family relations can now resume.
Leave children on sofa watching The Smurfs 2 and head to village hall for Rotary Club Shuffleboard Evening. Familiar gloom at prospect of any form of competitive games lifted slightly by team-mates’ repeated and possibly genuine assurances that they definitely have no ambitions to win anything, but can’t help slightly regretting self-imposed Lenten abstinence from drink.
While 11th Birthday Party Disco thumps away in next door room, organisers explain rules and emphasise that The Most Important Thing Is To Have Fun. Suspect that my appearances at shuffleboard table offer more fun to bystanders and competitors than to my bravely-smiling team-mates, but we persevere enthusiastically and do not come last in every round.
Plans for 2016 already somewhat behind schedule, but am excited by thought of bonus Leap Day tomorrow. Hope that it will allow me to set up new website, finish War and Peace, and write story that will win me £7,500.
Am moving chairs and tables in village hall in readiness for afternoon talk on Rose Growing when two well-dressed women come in and ask for directions to village tea-rooms. On realising that they have already passed it, remark that It Didn’t Look Very Lively; can’t help feeling that their experience of villages on cold February afternoons may be rather limited.
Guest speaker arrives in hall and announces to waiting committee members that a) our village is Very Far Away b) he doesn’t like gardens, gardening, the place where lives, most of the places he has lived previously, or community-based pub quiz evenings c) he has had to borrow a projector which will probably not work. Things fortunately begin to look up when after several minutes of determined conversation I discover a shared fondness for Northumberland and that one of his daughters used to live in the same town as my sister, and his talk turns out to be very good; though there is some distinct Muttering when he observes that in his experience women tend to struggle with pruning as they are Naturally Nurturing.
Go home, make special tea for children to mark the beginning of half-term, light fire and begin to wonder whether I may in fact be the very epitome of Naturally Nurturing womanhood. Plan to prune roses tomorrow.
Tuesday sees first Horticultural Association committee meeting of 2016; plan activities for forthcoming year, compare rumours about village pub developments, and have animated discussion about Curry. Revelation that I will turn fifty the day before our summer coffee morning met with comforting mixture of teasing, reminiscences and wise advice, though find myself not altogether uplifted by comment that You Will Still Always Be You.
Helpers’ team at pensioners’ lunch club on Wednesday joined by lady who played my mother in village production of An Inspector Calls twenty years ago; have happy time discussing gardening gloves, worst-ever holiday jobs, and The Shepherd’s Life, which apparently Divided Opinion at recent meeting of WI Book Club. Lunchers seem in fine form, despite blustery dark day and my usual inability to provide requested combinations of tea, coffee, milk and sugar at end of meal. One couple explain apologetically that they will not be able to attend next month’s talk on rose-growing as they will be attending a wedding in Bangkok, and everyone wishes our team leader well for her trip down Amazon next week.
Opening Night of village pantomime this evening. Fortunately for all concerned, own involvement in amateur dramatics now confined to watching, though may allow myself slight bit of Audience Participation as long as children don’t come.
Sister has booked Bargain Short Break in holiday village not far from Paris and asks if I would like to join her. Tussle with conscience about abandoning domestic duties in pursuit of own selfish pleasure proves mercifully brief, and soon find ourselves on suburban bus amongst tired Parisian commuters on cold and dark Friday evening, in search of New Experiences. Have both decided to Travel Light, and in our black coats fondly imagine that we blend in seamlessly – though can’t help noticing how young all French people are these days.
Holiday village proves almost empty and luxuriously comfortable; are both so entranced by unimaginable ease of life where have only ourselves to worry about that spend weekend doing little but talking and reading, venturing only to local supermarket and pool complex for occasional swim (brief) and sauna (lengthy); by the time we head to city yesterday morning are in almost unprecedented state of relaxation. Paris beautiful as ever in pale winter sunshine, and joys of walking alone Seine and through endless lovely streets made all the sweeter by thoughts of normal Monday morning routines. Visit Pompidou Centre for required dose of culture and Merci to make us feel Hip, and indulge happily in perennial fantasy of new life as intellectual but stylish Parisienne nipping out from chic city-centre apartment for animated philosophical discussions with polo-necked neighbours at local café.
Arrive home late and am touched by definite signs that children have Missed me. Realise that own actual life is really Not Bad At All.
After very happy and very lazy few days of Christmas celebrations, feel restored in body, mind and spirit, and distinctly Mellow; wonder vaguely whether I might be altogether nicer and calmer person if my life always consisted of reading, playing with Christmas presents and watching Agatha Christie and Shaun the Sheep.
Begin vaguely to contemplate inevitable return of Normal Life and start drawing up usual list of pleasantly unrealistic ambitions for forthcoming New Year; have considerable sympathy with Katherine Mansfield’s two wishes for 1915 (“to write, to make money”), and fantasise about being cool and Modern cook; but, for now, turn, as I always do at this stage of Christmas, to late mother’s 1961 Constance Spry Cookery Book to find recipe for Devilled Turkey Bones.
Tell children yesterday that am going to local cathedral city to Make A Start On Christmas Shopping; foolishly ask whether there is anything I can get for them while I’m there, and spend much of morning in Boots staring in some bewilderment at men’s haircare products. Get rather flustered trying to stuff various apparently essential items of school uniform into own carrier bags in Marks and Spencer under watchful eye of otherwise idle shop assistant at till; she says she is very glad that she doesn’t have to touch Some People’s Bags (which, she tells me, look as though they have been Used For Carrying Potatoes).
City not yet particularly Christmassy, and while the dreaded Christmas Soundtrack is blaring out in some shops, buskers outside are still sticking to slightly out-of-tune versions of “Let Her Go“. Manage to find quite a few things that I would like, buy one small item for my daughter, and can only hope that retailers are not mistaken in their clear belief that colouring books for adults are the answer to everything.
Happy evening watching candidates on The Apprentice produce terrible children’s birthday parties on a budget of £2000 apiece.
To London yesterday for periodic rendezvous with former colleagues. Bump into lady from village who is off to meet family in local town; family now includes, she thinks, about 22 great-grandchildren, with two more due in February, along with a great-great-grandchild. Feel, unusually, rather lost for words.
Am as always delighted to be in London, despite wet and windy November weather and noticeably increased Police Presence at station; am somehow reassured by sight of one elderly lady’s determined efforts to get views of particularly burly officer on best Underground route to her destination. Meet friends near site of office building where we first worked together some twenty years ago; try not to see recent demolition of building as in any way metaphorical.
Head to Sir John Soane’s Museum which none of us ever quite managed to visit in many years of working almost next door. Find it interesting but strangely depressing, and am not sure that even promise of catacombs’refurbishment in 2016 will tempt us back; are all relieved to settle down for an afternoon’s talking about everything in nearby café, and while, sadly, we cannot actually Put The World To Rights, feel, as usual, much better afterwards.