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.
After very happy and very lazy few days of Christmas celebrations, feel restored in body, mind and spirit, and distinctly Mellow; wonder vaguely whether I might be altogether nicer and calmer person if my life always consisted of reading, playing with Christmas presents and watching Agatha Christie and Shaun the Sheep.
Begin vaguely to contemplate inevitable return of Normal Life and start drawing up usual list of pleasantly unrealistic ambitions for forthcoming New Year; have considerable sympathy with Katherine Mansfield’s two wishes for 1915 (“to write, to make money”), and fantasise about being cool and Modern cook; but, for now, turn, as I always do at this stage of Christmas, to late mother’s 1961 Constance Spry Cookery Book to find recipe for Devilled Turkey Bones.
Pensioners’ lunch club on Wednesday particularly busy, and after usual struggle to serve teas and coffees in required combinations am quite relieved to find myself on train to London to attend first-ever Literary Party. Arrive at destination far too early, and am reluctant to tramp round streets of Bloomsbury in unaccustomed Heels, so end up sitting at nearby bus stop and watching busy Londoners; wonder whether should perhaps be using time profitably to make Astute Observations in manner of Virginia Woolf but concentrate instead on being unnecessarily anxious about meeting New People.
New People turn out to be charming, friendly and welcoming; everyone seems to be distinguished journalist, author or academic (many are all three), but am soon put at ease and discuss trains, funerals and husbands as though with perfectly normal crowd. Publisher makes warm and gracious speech; prize-winning essayist, who looks about same age as own daughter, reads poetic extracts from essay on Katherine Mansfield; there are photos, flowers and kind words aplenty , and I would happily have stayed longer if not for a) worry about return train and b) increasingly acute pain from shoes.
Weather here still disconcertingly lovely, and plan to spend afternoon in garden once have finished admin, ironing and proof-reading Horticultural Association Schedule. May allow myself some slight literary day-dreaming.
Younger son touchingly excited by early morning Snapchat reports of snow nearby, but winter’s arrival in village marked only by heavy sleety showers. Go for long and extremely muddy walk with group of friends; discuss schools, puppies, and preparations for this week’s Village Pantomime (all apparently at rather Fraught stage).
Afternoon spent planning Horticultural Association programme for forthcoming year with fellow Committee members; overall result rather similar to Horticultural Association programme for current year, but do spend considerable time discussing new classes for spring and summer shows which will a) make colourful display in village hall b) attract new entrants and c) give Committee members an unfair advantage (Treasurer particularly excited about his Sweet Peas this year). Struggle as usual to think of original yet inviting titles for Flower Arranging classes; own suggestion of commemorating Waterloo or Magna Carta met with wholly deserved derision.
Reading material so far this year good but sad book about marriage and good but sad book about children; wonder whether should perhaps try something good but happy next.
Week begins unpromisingly with heavy downpours and crashing thunderstorms (sister tells me it is lovely and sunny where she is). Do Monday housework, pursued by unsettled dog and thinking about The Home-Maker – surprisingly uplifting book about marriage, children, work, thinking, personal fulfilment, understanding, small town life and shopping; find myself in great sympathy both with husband (who hates his job, despises consumer culture, and loves being at home watching children develop); and wife (who feels imprisoned at home and achieves happiness only when she goes out to work, selling clothes); not at all sure what this reveals about own character, and decide not to pursue question for time being.
Appear to have no village duties this week, and refuse to think in any detail yet about Christmas (unlike younger son, who has already compiled long and rather specific Wish List and gives regular updates on days, hours and minutes remaining until The Big Day); am very much looking forward to doing Nothing In Particular.
Much of Saturday spent in village hall. At coffee morning am put in charge of selling Specially-Printed Church Tea-Towels (Ideal Christmas Gift! Easy to Post!). Am informed in friendliest terms by absolutely everyone that unfortunately they already have a Specially-Printed Church Tea-Towel, and so do all their daughters, second cousins, and old friends in New Zealand – though some are kind enough to buy yet more. Am left with ample leisure to chat to new young organist, helping out with Quality Bric-a-Brac on next table; discuss DIY, Kazakhstan, and wedding music choices (next week’s bride has apparently asked for The Bit From Braveheart When She Dies).
Evening devoted to much-anticipated Horticultural Association Quiz Night, which to great relief All Goes Well; slight panic in Island-Hopping Round when are loudly informed that we have Got Them The Wrong Way Round, but luckily this refers to order of questions 9 and 10 rather than respective roles of Corsica, Elba and St Helena in life of Napoleon Bonaparte. Children help out with marking and scoring, need for tie-break question narrowly avoided, and, best of all, everybody helps with putting away tables at end (often feel that Village Life consists largely of washing up and moving furniture).
Had planned to spend today earning £1000 by writing prize-winning essay for Persephone Books competition but think will just read yesterday’s newspaper instead.
Morning spent helping on the Horticultural Association table at the village Friday Market; market sadly in one of less successful phases, and number of customers only slightly exceeds number of helpers, but we have happy time buying each other’s plants and discussing ghosts, gypsy tart and customised Rolls-Royces.
Return home to find double treat of plant catalogue and latest magazine from Persephone Books , fuelling long-cherished fantasy of house filled with Bloomsbury-inspired textiles and Intellectual Conversation while old-fashioned roses bloom in garden. Decide to Make Dreams A Reality and recklessly order three new books.
Inspired by news that Persephone Books are publishing a new edition of “The Diary of a Provincial Lady”, re-read own battered Virago version for umpteenth time and am struck by disconcerting similarity of own life to heroine’s. Decide that recording own life in similar style might be useful step on desired path to literary immortality as would a) Build My Online Presence (apparently essential requisite for aspiring authors) and b) add new dimension to my writings (mostly comprising emergency ghost-writing of Year 7 essays and own Horticultural Association updates for the Parish News).
Relieved to find that setting up blog much like online supermarket order and proudly manage to do so without input of teenage children. Find comfort in lack of superfluous words and anonymous semi-detached style, though according to teenage daughter Sylvia Plath felt something similar – which is not entirely reassuring.