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.
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.
To village hall on Friday evening for postponed Horticultural Association talk on Growing And Showing Daffodils, carrying as contribution to advertised Refreshments my batch of mini-quiches, which husband says Definitely Look Home-Made. Speaker knowledgeable but friendly, and regales us with inside tales from The Daffodil Society (highly competitive but much less cut-throat than The Chrysanthemum Society, apparently) and numerous photographs of completely perfect specimens grown from £10 bulbs. Chair reminds everyone about our Annual Quiz Evening in a fortnight’s time, and I do my best to give impression that question-setting is at suitably advanced stage (have almost completed one round).
Football season now in full swing and am allowed to attend son’s match this afternoon on strict condition that I Don’t Say Anything. Do not, naturally, obey, but make some effort to be less Vocal than usual, and enjoy listening to seasoned co-supporters’ very definite views on every aspect of the game. Own knowledge of football remains rather rudimentary, but am at least able to explain with some confidence to one player’s grandmother which way our team are shooting.
Read daughter’s copy of “The Great Gatsby” and wonder whether I have finally found my perfect novel.
Perfect weather for the Annual Horticultural Association Coach Outing on Thursday, and everyone’s polite muttering about lack of air-conditioning in our Luxury Executive coach is soon forgotten at first sight of Great Dixter; house, gardens and surrounding countryside all looking stunning in July sunshine, and find it impossible not to smile at complete strangers when confronted with such glorious Technicolor exuberance. Am, childishly, excited to bump into well-known Head Gardener down one narrow path, and tell him (no doubt to his great relief) that The Gardens Are Looking Good.
Return trip takes us through one ridiculously picturesque village after another, and we make afternoon stop in particularly charming town where I buy plasters, book about Homer, and a solar-powered hula girl model. Man from Head Office has meanwhile been despatched to fix coach’s air-conditioning, and we travel home in cool Executive comfort and general agreement that it has been A Lovely Day.
Spend yesterday doing best to resist Siren Call of garden and make some headway on overdue deskwork (efforts to resist further village duties having proved almost wholly futile). Decide that my confident observations to son about “Romeo and Juliet” in preparation for his Controlled Assessment on Monday might carry more weight if I had actually read the play, so do so, and find own intermittent concerns about teenage relationships usefully Put Into Perspective.
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.
London friend e-mails with nine pages of colleague’s annual Eurovision predictions and says that she is All Agog for next diary instalment. Delighted by image of busy urban professionals eagerly awaiting news of Pensioners’ Lunch Club, Horticultural Association Coffee Morning and Almshouses Opening Ceremony, and am happy to report that they All Went Very Well. Friend’s performance in The Winter’s Tale was also A Triumph, though cannot help thinking that Players may have rather overestimated village’s enthusiasm for Shakespeare’s late Problem Plays; lady next to me says she preferred their production of ‘Allo ‘Allo.
Am very grateful for everyone’s reading suggestions after last diary entry. Cannot sadly find any of the recommended books in village library, and current reading consists of Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature (pure pleasure) and Facebook (general bewilderment); younger son particularly horrified that I have joined latter and spends some time trying to find and then Block me, in spite of my repeated assurances that I have joined only in order to ease administration of Tuesday walking group and have not the slightest desire to be his Friend on Facebook or indeed anywhere else.
Feel like spending all my time now looking at images of Chelsea Flower Show or pottering around own garden. Will freely admit that it is not really a spring garden or a late summer garden, and that it does not look particularly impressive in the autumn or winter either; but for a few weeks in May and June find that there is no place I would rather be.
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.