Catching of happiness

Am finding it difficult to work out whether time goes a) very fast or b) very slowly. Still slightly reeling from realisation that at next General Election all three children will be eligible to vote, receive e-mail from school about Friday’s Solar Eclipse and possible Selfie Danger; have only vague memories of the pre-smartphone 1999 eclipse (much of that era is rather a Blur), but life with only one small toddler does now seem very very distant.

Village life meanwhile remains somehow timeless, and annual cycle of events is beginning all over again: Mothering Sunday Crafts (done), collating of Horticultural Association Annual Schedule (to be arranged), first outdoor Cricket Nets (2nd April – probably in the snow). Receive letter from Rotary Club sub-committee confirming involvement in biannual village Garden Safari in June and asking whether am planning Additional Attractions for visitors; feel that it will be quite enough of a challenge trying to make garden presentable to outsiders, but  wonder whether could list Tortoise, who proved major hit in 2013 (slightly redeeming herself for having previously chomped through most of flower-bed).

Spend lunchtime not listening to Budget, and thinking about International Day of Happiness on Friday. Am planning –  rather aptly, I feel –  to spend it with friend visiting from America.

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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.

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.

Art, Life and Vision

After rather raucous Girls’ Curry And Bingo Night at cricket pavilion on Friday, set off to London yesterday for rendezvous with friends from long-lost world of work.

Make quick detour to Virginia Woolf exhibition at National Portrait Gallery. Find it interesting and moving (exchange sorrowful glances with complete stranger as read final letters), and resolve to extend own knowledge of Bloomsbury beyond current rather shallow fondness for artistic book-filled interiors.

Meet friends in Green Park and sit in warm September sunshine, talking as usual about more or less everything – though perhaps with more emphasis on care homes, will-writing and the importance of comfortable shoes than when first met nearly twenty years ago. Have booked Afternoon Tea at The Wolseley as special treat and spend very civilised couple of hours among the Finger Sandwiches and Pastries.

Darkness has fallen by time we eventually emerge, and London buzzing with Saturday night crowds as make way back to station. Train carriage home filled with boys and mothers loudly discussing football;  feel that Normal Life has resumed.

Good companions

Monday morning walk with friend; discuss Parish News, alliums and largely unsuccessful attempts to interest teenage children in Family Outings at half-term. Discover that will both be on holiday in more or less same place at more or less same time in August and provisionally arrange to meet for Beach Picnic. Feel duty bound to reveal advice in newly-acquired guide book that chosen place should at all costs be avoided in July and August, but we agree not to let this worry us.

How To Be A Heroine and current discussions about English Literature syllabus prompt me to dig out own reading diary, laboriously recording all books read from early teens to twenties, in order to discover The Books That Shaped Me. Memories of dusty classics and Penguin paperbacks and sporadic waves of enthusiasm for particular authors come flooding back;  I was apparently shaped by improbable mixture of Anthony Trollope, P G Wodehouse and early Margaret Drabble.

Testament of Friendship

Try to Keep Brain Active while doing domestic chores by listening to Improving Programmes on Radio 4. Today’s Five Hundred Years of Friendship massages own intellectual pretensions very satisfyingly with plentiful references to Aristotle, Erasmus and Sir Francis Bacon.

Elder son returns from school with request to go to friend’s party at weekend – friend apparently defined for these purposes as Someone Who Gets On The Bus. Son slightly affronted by my suggestion that “friend” implies at least basic threshold of a) acquaintance and b) liking. Reflect that teenagers’ world often seems more alien to me than Aristotle’s.

Evening phone call from one of my closest friends, visiting from America, happily provides today’s best definition of friendship.

Reassurance

Along with untameable hair and inability to tie shoelaces properly, younger son has inherited my tendency to worry pointlessly about unimportant matters. Today’s worry is impending cross-country race at school. Try to explain that It Is Not The End Of The World if he puts in a disappointing performance, but can see he does not believe me. Suddenly reminded of own ten year old self, baffled by mother’s suggestion that other people perhaps had bigger worries than being told off by Miss Smith for lack of name tape on school socks.

Put aside melancholy reminiscences with some vigorous housework and long walk with friend; discuss flooring, jeans, and the surprisingly colourful pasts of many older ladies in the village. See a group of them as I return home, piling into a car with much teasing and merriment, and feel for once quite optimistic about ageing.

Son returns from school full of renewed enthusiasm for P.E. in general and cross-country in particular. Realise, with relief, that he is in fact very different from me.