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.
Leave children on sofa watching The Smurfs 2 and head to village hall for Rotary Club Shuffleboard Evening. Familiar gloom at prospect of any form of competitive games lifted slightly by team-mates’ repeated and possibly genuine assurances that they definitely have no ambitions to win anything, but can’t help slightly regretting self-imposed Lenten abstinence from drink.
While 11th Birthday Party Disco thumps away in next door room, organisers explain rules and emphasise that The Most Important Thing Is To Have Fun. Suspect that my appearances at shuffleboard table offer more fun to bystanders and competitors than to my bravely-smiling team-mates, but we persevere enthusiastically and do not come last in every round.
Plans for 2016 already somewhat behind schedule, but am excited by thought of bonus Leap Day tomorrow. Hope that it will allow me to set up new website, finish War and Peace, and write story that will win me £7,500.
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.
Weather crisp, bright and beautiful. Head to town in search of shin pads, Lord of the Flies and school trousers (Skinny Fit) with a pleasant if entirely unjustified feeling of brisk New School Year efficiency. Arrive early for daughter’s final school Progress meeting, and stand in sunshine chatting rather wistfully to her friend’s mother, who works in Tesco’s and says that she has been watching all the parents buying Value duvets and kettles recently and can’t quite believe that This Will Be Us Next Year.
Daughter has recently started part-time waitress job and I am doing my bit to help by a) telling her all the things that Annoy me when I’m being served and b) reading extracts from recent TripAdvisor reports (she has also read them and assures me that she was not the Local Teenager who poked the bread to confirm it was gluten-free). Am reminded of own youthful part-time jobs and can’t help feeling very relieved that they were never subject to online review.
Have all sorts of September resolutions to be better and brighter in every way. The boys say they are Actually Going To Work Hard This Year.
We shall see.
Not sure that I can blame recent hopelessness of diary-keeping entirely on school holidays, which children now seem to manage very well without noticeable maternal involvement – though do somehow still feel that normal life is On Hold until new term begins.
Have recently returned from second trip away with family; eschew more obviously teenage-friendly destinations in favour of remote cottage in North Yorkshire surrounded by sheep and cattle, and six miles from nearest shop, and am relieved that after surprisingly sunny week of walking, throwing stones in rivers and visiting Yves St Laurent exhibition holiday is pronounced Better Than We Thought It Would Be. Younger son fortunately avoids public use of what he fondly considers to be a Northern accent and confines his mimicry urge to rather unsettlingly accurate versions of my own musings on What Family Holidays Were Like When I Was Young.
Back home to find farmers already ploughing the fields, garden looking distinctly faded, and evenings undeniably Drawing In. Feel overwhelming desire to visit Dreamland.
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.
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.
Wake up to light dusting of snow. Put out food for garden birds, make soup for friend recently discharged from hospital and take dog for walk, with pleasing conviction that have become bountiful life-affirming Earth Mother; illusion soon shattered on return when realise that elder son has forgotten packed lunch.
Friend remarkably cheerful, given circumstances – though agree that Much Could Be Written about her hospital experiences. Her eldest son appears (surely at least a foot taller than when last saw him) and makes elaborate and delicious coffee for us before driving his mother to distant physiotherapy appointment. Feel there is much to be said for older children.
Evenings now noticeably lighter, and snowdrops and hellebores beginning to appear in garden, but decide in view of relentlessly cold weather forecast to postpone all thoughts of spring, and embrace winter with evening of food, fire and The Musketeers.
Return with paper from village shop and bump into neighbour, who tells me that she is about to take Sunday Lunch round to her (grown-up) daughter’s, and that You Never Stop Looking After Your Children. Can’t help hoping that she is quite mistaken. Own attempt to look after children by suggesting that they could invite friends round here one day is met with general dismay and declaration that It Is Too Old-Fashioned; unsure whether this refers to house décor or prevailing parental attitudes (both of which I prefer to consider perfect blend of old and new), but decide that further discussion unlikely to prove productive, and return to writing e-mail to their Headteacher about retention of Latin in school.
Have own Sunday Lunch in evening, once sons return – muddy but victorious – from respective football matches, then settle down to cry in front of War Horse.
Breakthrough Breast Cancer Coffee Morning in village hall; arrive in scruffy raincoat, clutching slightly burnt lemon drizzle cake, and find everyone else in glamorous pink apart from one lady who had been expecting the market and nipped out in her gardening clothes to buy sausages. Feel immediate bond, and spend next hour with her discussing trees, melanoma, and food-shopping in France. Joined by another new lady who asks me how old my children are, then says that she Feels For Me.
Conduct umpteenth double-checking of questions and answers for Horticultural Association Quiz Evening tomorrow. Am unreasonably plagued by fear of challenges – though question master assures me that he will take A Firm Line – and feel compelled to find at least three authoritative sources for each answer. (Wonder, not for first time, whether lack of job means that am perhaps Losing Perspective.)
Looking forward to half-term; as I told the lady this morning, the children are Actually Not That Bad.