After several years of voluntary and freelance work, have acquired actual paid job at local university. Job is admittedly a) writing minutes of management meetings rather than carrying out ground-breaking intellectual research and b) for grand total of two days per month, but am nonetheless quite excited by the novelty as I head off early yesterday morning. Kind friend offers me lift from village, along with her colleague who lectures in plumbing and electrics; spend journey discussing amateur dramatics, secondhand cars, and the number of females on his course (five out of 180).
Gender balance appears rather better among university management team. Shuffle into my allotted place in board room and do best to follow several hours of detailed discussions on wide range of Confidential Matters. Academics all tap away at laptops while eating bananas; I scribble in notebook while eating biscuits. Am not entirely sure what they make of me.
Write up minutes at home despite dogs’ best efforts to distract me in manner of particularly demanding children. Reward myself for hard day’s work with Endeavour on catch-up and the Great British Sewing Bee.
Spend yesterday avoiding wretched weather and accumulated emails about Church Telecoms Mast with completely delightful day of Culture and friends in London.
Go first to new John Ruskin exhibition with regular group of favourite ex-colleagues. Own prior knowledge of John Ruskin rather more limited than it should be, but am quickly impressed by his beautiful drawings and his extremely Strong Views on everything from lawyers to railway stations (very much against both). Balance one hour of exhibition-viewing with three hours in the coffee shop; discuss personality disorders, camper vans, Marie Kondo and more or less everything else. All feel much better.
Head to V & A to meet American friend and husband who have decided to celebrate wedding anniversary in London. Friend arrives looking exactly the same as when we first met more than 35 years ago, though wetter. Leave husband to wander around the Cast Galleries and medieval silver, and immerse ourselves in absolutely spectacular Dior exhibition . Feel slightly underdressed in utilitarian raincoat and comfortable shoes. Retrieve husband and head to charming restaurant in Notting Hill for dinner; discuss children, parents, monkfish, the polarisation of politics, and whether academics or business people have happier lives.
Reflect on journey home home that life of ex-lawyer with older children, access to London, and a fine collection of friends, must be the happiest of all.
Head reluctantly to town for long overdue eye test. Am so relieved that a) testing now almost entirely based on machines rather than own flustered responses to squiggles on red and green patches b) eyesight has not deteriorated as much as feared over past few years c) am not pressed too hard on number of hours per day I spend on screens – that can even manage rather thin smile when handsome young optician tells me that my long sight is because I am getting older and that he feels quite relaxed using this language to me because I am in my fifties and not my forties.
Kind friends invite me to watch new Mamma Mia film with them at local cinema. Can think of nothing nicer than watching films with friends, and thoroughly enjoy spending the evening with them; but unfortunately can’t prevent myself from sharing a small selection of my Thoughts on the film afterwards and now cannot see any reason why they would ever ask me to join them again.
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.
In the midst of conversation about Instagram filters, identity politics and Sunday’s tea and cake fundraiser in Scout Hut, friend asks whether I was planning ever to resume Mrs Ford’s Diary. Explain that recent “Best Picture” Debacle at Oscars had reminded me of very similar incident at village Tennis Club’s Annual Wine and Wisdom Evening a couple of years ago, and that worldwide interest in former might well indicate unmet appetite to read about latter. Am worried that diary resumption might put me under pressure to be Funny on regular basis, but after friend reassures me that she frequently did not laugh at previous entries, decide that I Will Do It.
(If all else fails, will just copy lines from relevant day in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4. 7 March 1981: “Finished War and Peace. It was quite good.”)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.