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.
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.
Apart from slight Technical Hitch with village hall microphone (resolved by son running home for emergency AA battery), Horticultural Association Quiz Evening on Saturday seems to go off quite smoothly, and it is with happy mixture of relief and excitement that I head to Twickenham on Sunday for semi-final of Rugby World Cup. Elder son’s very generous and organised godfather has invited us to join him, and while I am clearly No Expert on finer points of Rugby Union rules (son keeps asking me whether I Understand What Has Just Happened), am fully able to appreciate a) drama of passionately-contested match b) power of 80,000 spectators singing, shouting and cheering their hearts out and c) particularly handsome Argentinian players. Am utterly enthralled by whole experience.
Take children on half-term visit to admire sister’s temporary accommodation; surrounding park looking even more beautiful with trees in glowing autumn colours, and children spend some time taking photos of selves and cousins as though for in-depth Country Life article on eccentric Landed Gentry, before heading off together on bus to nearest McDonald’s. (Adults opt for local pub.)
Return home to find e-mail from friend in America who is visiting family in England next week and wonders whether I can Squeeze Her In amidst my village duties. Prospect of next week and its scheduled mix of jumble sales, almshouse trustee meetings and Gift Aid inspection visits suddenly seems much brighter.
GCSE Revision Evening with elder son. Seems barely five minutes since was attending GCSE Revision Evening with daughter, and heart rather sinks at prospect of undertaking any more Joint and Interactive Revision Activity Tasks in company of other Family Units who all seem to complete required exercises very keenly and without heated arguments under their breath about correct approach to Mind Maps. Fortunately find ourselves amongst like-minded group of son’s friends and their mothers, and have surprisingly enjoyable time; agree that teachers’ recommended methods are probably preferable to own well-remembered exam preparation techniques of procrastination and Vague Reading Without Really Taking Anything In.
To village hall last night for players’ performance of One Man, Two Guvnors. Play much as I remember it from universally acclaimed and sell-out London run, sadly, but manage plenty of genuine laughs thanks to spirited contributions from friend, son’s friend (who has best lines, almost all unsuitably Risqué), and enjoyably unstable scenery.
Spend morning feeling unusually but pleasantly like Banksy as I plaster village with posters to advertise fast-approaching Horticultural Association Quiz Evening.