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.
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.
Glorious spring morning. Puppy has yet to grasp concept of weekend lie-in, so have chance to enjoy it several hours before everyone else; stomp round deserted fields, reflecting on value of Parliamentary democracy, resilience of fundamental goodness in face of tragedy and hate, and whether can cook chicken curry for supper again.
Own week has in fact been full of joys, including day in London at fabric painting workshop (birthday present from lovely sister), revival of village friends’ walking group, and Film Night in village hall (Bridget Jones’s Baby – loud cheers from audience as sound and vision eventually coincide, and noticeably raucous laughter at very rudest jokes from WI members behind us). Birds are beginning to nest, children are showing distinct signs of remembering Mothering Sunday tomorrow, and our summer holiday is booked.
Have long believed that best of world is found in everyday actions of ordinary people; recording these in Diary now feels like own small gesture of defiance.
Weather has recently taken welcome turn for the better, so venture into garden for first proper Inspection of the year. Border filled with green shoots, pond filled with frogspawn, lawn filled with holes and half-chewed stalks from last year’s hollyhocks. Puppy chases tail in distinctly unrepentant manner.
Daughter returns from second term at university. Am of course delighted to see her home again, but after quick chat about parties, money, and gender archetypes in classical literature, have to head off for rare Night Out at friend’s 60th birthday celebrations in local cathedral city. Evening is mild and still, and feel strangely young and optimistic as group wanders through Saturday night crowds and into packed cocktail bar. Mood dented only slightly when friend whispers that we have instantly doubled the average age.
Wake up this morning feeling ready for A New Challenge. Unsure a) what b) when c) why.
Begin to regret earlier insistence that daughter should Relish Her Independence at university and not worry too much about contacting us. Finally send rather terse text saying she could actually worry a little, and am rewarded with lengthy Sunday afternoon telephone conversation discussing Club Nights, Latin love poetry and vital importance of separating whites from coloureds.
Own life currently dominated by new puppy, acquired two weeks ago in transparent attempt to plug daughter-shaped hole in home life. Am regularly reminded of children’s toddler years in daily mix of joy, frustration and liking her best when she’s asleep.
Delighted to resume diary after long absence and look forward to renewing blog friendships over coming months.
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.
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.
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.