Ash Wednesday brings my first Pensioners’ Lunch Club duty for some time. Menu, clientele and own fundamental unsuitability for waitressing role remain reassuringly unchanged; explain repeatedly to everyone on every table that a) no, I have not yet moved b) no, really, nobody has yet wanted to buy our house and c) no, I don’t yet seem to have brought the coffee or tea that they asked for several minutes ago. Feel huge surge of relief once it is all over and the Urn is finally emptied; try to explain this to fellow-helper as we walk home and she tells me that she really enjoys her sessions and is very happy to help out when she can and she only wishes she were able to do more.
Feel suitably penitent as head to church this morning. Second Sunday Of The Month means it’s the informal Family Service; various adorable children answer what I consider to be rather difficult questions about Journeys, an eight-year-old plays Morning has broken on the piano, recognisably, and the whole service is over in about forty minutes. Discuss weather, alms ladies and bathroom tiling before heading home in howling wind to help younger son with his Extended Project Qualification work (not quite yet overdue) on legal wigs.
Daughter already home from university for Easter holidays. Appears to be in excellent form but is not quite as excited about my new sink tidy as I had hoped.
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.
Wake from most unsettling dream, in which other family members have done all the chores and shower me with spontaneous gifts of Exactly What I Wanted. Am unable to judge whether this represents auspicious portent as other family members all currently away a) piloting Ukrainian ship on Thames b) waitressing at pub next door c) doing Engineering Taster Course in Shropshire d) at sleepover with unsuitable friend.
Spend some time researching Inspiring Women to interview for new website ; try not to feel too disheartened by article about successful stylish fund manager with several children who spends her spare time baking cakes, doing Pilates and organising national charity campaigns. Own morning not entirely unproductive, however; arrange Rotary Club’s inspection of garden in readiness for summer’s Garden Safari, speak to neighbouring almslady about her broken outside light, and collect particularly impressive pile of dirty washing from children’s bedrooms.
Return from lunchtime walk and realise that have dropped house key somewhere En Route. Retrace footsteps, find key, and feel as intense a sense of achievement as if had just closed a multi-million pound deal.
Glorious spring morning. Puppy has yet to grasp concept of weekend lie-in, so have chance to enjoy it several hours before everyone else; stomp round deserted fields, reflecting on value of Parliamentary democracy, resilience of fundamental goodness in face of tragedy and hate, and whether can cook chicken curry for supper again.
Own week has in fact been full of joys, including day in London at fabric painting workshop (birthday present from lovely sister), revival of village friends’ walking group, and Film Night in village hall (Bridget Jones’s Baby – loud cheers from audience as sound and vision eventually coincide, and noticeably raucous laughter at very rudest jokes from WI members behind us). Birds are beginning to nest, children are showing distinct signs of remembering Mothering Sunday tomorrow, and our summer holiday is booked.
Have long believed that best of world is found in everyday actions of ordinary people; recording these in Diary now feels like own small gesture of defiance.
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.”)
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.
Am instructed at yesterday’s Mothering Sunday Crafts Morning to produce collage on theme of Love. Not sure what it says about me that mind immediately goes completely blank. Eventually settle on random mixture of flowers, hearts and smiley faces, with LOVE spelled out in large letters in rather desperate attempt to prove that brief has been met. Church seems particularly chilly, and participating children and parents younger than ever, but have happy time discussing names, Derbyshire, and left-handedness.
Daughter has Sunday shift at local pub today but indoor cricket nets are cancelled, so after annual breakfast in bed have unexpected pleasure of both sons’ company at Mothering Sunday service. Five-year-old Jasper takes advantage of Vicar’s brave determination to Involve The Children during sermon, and gives congregation full benefit of his views on The Meaning Of The Cross as well as on his mum, his nan and the best way to make cheesy pasta. All the women are given a bunch of flowers, Simnel Cake is shared out, and everyone tells me how much the boys have grown. Return home in cold spring sunshine, fully satisfied that all the day’s obligations have been fulfilled and normal family relations can now resume.
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.
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.
Tuesday sees first Horticultural Association committee meeting of 2016; plan activities for forthcoming year, compare rumours about village pub developments, and have animated discussion about Curry. Revelation that I will turn fifty the day before our summer coffee morning met with comforting mixture of teasing, reminiscences and wise advice, though find myself not altogether uplifted by comment that You Will Still Always Be You.
Helpers’ team at pensioners’ lunch club on Wednesday joined by lady who played my mother in village production of An Inspector Calls twenty years ago; have happy time discussing gardening gloves, worst-ever holiday jobs, and The Shepherd’s Life, which apparently Divided Opinion at recent meeting of WI Book Club. Lunchers seem in fine form, despite blustery dark day and my usual inability to provide requested combinations of tea, coffee, milk and sugar at end of meal. One couple explain apologetically that they will not be able to attend next month’s talk on rose-growing as they will be attending a wedding in Bangkok, and everyone wishes our team leader well for her trip down Amazon next week.
Opening Night of village pantomime this evening. Fortunately for all concerned, own involvement in amateur dramatics now confined to watching, though may allow myself slight bit of Audience Participation as long as children don’t come.