Sunday, 20 April 2014

Carnivorous eels?

Dan helps Pascoe and Nigel
Pascoe’s next adventure in helping elderly relations concerned Nigel and I – we needed assistance with our garden pond. 
“Will it involve killer spiders this time?” he asked suspiciously.
“Of course not,” we replied, but we didn’t quite meet his eyes  – who knew what was in there.  One friend whose goldfish were disappearing mysteriously had discovered an angry eel at the bottom of his pond.

The lining had ruptured and floated to the top of our pond.  We now had left only two of the magnificent koi carp we inherited seven years ago, and one of those looked sick.  Maybe this was the time to convert it into the wildlife pond I’d always wanted. 
Dan arrived too and together with Nigel, he and Pascoe moved the carp into a huge paddling pool and drained the pond.
What they found in the gungy bottom of the pond was not, however, a huge carnivorous eel.
“Mum,” called Pascoe, and I came out to the wonderful sight of frogs, tadpoles, dragonfly nymphs, and best of all, newts. 
The pond had already begun to turn itself into a wildlife haven.
Pascoe was my favourite person for a bit until he said,
“I’m putting the newts in this bucket in case you need their eyes for anything, Mum.”
Then I got the Macbeth reference – the witches making their spell. 
Thanks Pascoe. 
My new best friend

Now where did I put that poisonous spider?

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Lawn-mower of death

Photo by Pascoe - my hand shaking too much.
Pascoe has been at home with us this Easter, and as a strapping young man with ingenuity and enormous patience, older family members are taking advantage of his presence to get those awkward little jobs done. 
One such task awaited us in Cornwall.  His Granddad needed to replace his large and leaky shed, but there was heaps of stuff in it, including those conundrums – purchasing mistakes.  There were in the shed an unwieldy electric mower, a garden vacuum cleaner and a hedge trimmer which just weren’t useful to my father.   
“It seems a shame to throw them out when they’re in good condition.”
“Don’t worry, Dad, we can take them away with us and eBay or Frecycle them.” (I speak Internet)
After some token protests from my father, Pascoe waded into the depths of the shed after the items.  They were a bit cobwebby so I brushed them down. 
Pascoe got a brush too and turned the lawnmower over to clean it.  I was about to say – “Don’t bother, I’ve already done that,”  when two huge spiders appeared from behind the blades.  They had long black legs and mottled red abdomens.
“False widows!”  I shrieked.
“Oh, they’re no trouble, said my Dad, there are loads of them in the shed.”
Pascoe manfully exterminated the arachnids with fly spray. 
I needed to sit down.  We all went in for a cup of tea.  On our return, Pascoe lifted up the lawnmower to check that the large spiders were dead, but half a dozen more, smaller false widows dropped out of it and started to scuttle off.  There was clearly a nest of poisonous spiders in the workings .  I screamed and ran down the drive.
When I came back, Pascoe was dismantling the lawnmower and spraying fly killer into it.  I began to make “Don’t really want that in the car” noises. 
Dad, however, really didn’t want it cluttering up his shed any more and was reciprocating with “You said you’d get rid of it” noises.
Pascoe was now checking my identification of the spiders using his mobile phone and the web (ha!). 
“Definitely false widows.  But look here – it says their bite has never yet been fatal in the UK, and it’s usually not much worse than a wasp sting.”
“There you go,” said Dad, “You’ll be fine.”
“Dad – it’s a five and a half hour drive home on the motorway.  Have you ever heard of the film Snakes on a Plane?”
Finally I solved the issue by spotting that it was bin day and pushing the lawnmower down the drive to stand next to the bin.  We went out for a walk and when we came back the lawn-mower of death had gone.
“I paid over seventy quid for that,” muttered my father, ruefully.

That was over two days ago and Pascoe is still enjoying creeping up behind me and tickling the back of my neck.   He has learnt a lot of choice new words from me. 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Suddenly Summer

Photo by Hannah Thompson
So we wanted to make sure that we got together as a family over the summer. Over a two-week period of nagging, I extracted term dates from the offspring and we then went ahead and rented a cottage in the UK at a point when we should all have been available.  Then Perran got a Summer job and couldn’t join us.  Then Carenza realised she had exams after what should have been the end of term and would join us later.  Pascoe had succeeded in putting the time aside for us, but even so, when would all five of us be together again?
Seems like the answer is now.  At Easter. 
Offspring have appeared from each corner of the country and taken up residence.  It is as if they had never been away.  I have to keep reminding myself that this is an illusion.  I am no longer here – I am training to teach.  And my children are no longer here – they are studying.  Except that now there is food to be bought, beds to be made up, relatives to be visited.  Just like the old days.

 I look at the weather forecast.  It’s going to be cloudy.  It might rain.  There’s a chill breeze.  But whatever it says, as a family, our summer is now.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

No Snow

Snow Days - so good they used to go on all night.
I had a date with snow.  My plan was that some time during the spring term there would be a snow day when it was impossible for me to drive to school and I could get on with my PGCE work.  Oh, and take a magical walk in the local wood. 
It never happened.
Floods meant that on several occasions I had to turn back and take a circuitous route to school but things never got so bad in our area that there was a complete shutdown as there is on a snow day.  And for that I should be grateful.  Grateful also that I never had to set off with a shovel and sleeping bag in my car because snow had been forecast for later.
The hedges are white now, but it is what we call in our family “blackthorn winter” – the sloe bushes put out profuse white blossom early in the year, often on the heels of snow.   So the white in the hedgerows is a herald of spring, not a remnant of winter. 
So it looks as if the risk of snow is over.

And I’m a day behind with my PGCE work.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Daughter Rediscovered

We’re on our way today to retrieve our beloved daughter from her second term at university.  Carenza’s term is much shorter than her brother at Bristol whom I will continue to miss for another three weeks.  As my friend Jenny said of her own daughter, “For all the time they’re away, they might as well be signed up with the Open University as Oxbridge.” 
But it hasn’t felt like a short time.  I have been happy all week knowing we would get Carenza back this weekend.  I have heard it said that when there is a baby in a room all eyes are drawn to its movements like a candle flame, or a fire in the hearth.  I feel the same about my much older children.  Having them back home will re-animate our now-quiet house.
Frankly, I have thought about getting a pet to replace them.  I thought a cat might work, rewarding yet somewhat unreliable and with the potential to be moody.  My offspring, if they are reading this, are expecting me now to say that a cat could never replace them, but actually, the main problem is I’m allergic to cats.
And I’m only teasing.  
How could a cat ever replace them? 

For a start, cats cannot wash up, or wield a hoover….

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Shoop Shoop

This is the longest I have ever left it between blogs.
“Oh”, you might say, “I suppose that now the children have left home, you have nothing to write about.”
The truth is, so much has happened that I haven’t had time to shape it into words.
I have visited Perran in Bristol and Pascoe in Edinburgh; attended a couple of job interviews; had a nasty cold; picked up my Classical Greek again; seen a few of the friends I’ve been missing.
And, as a constant bass level of busy-ness, I’ve been preparing and delivering lessons in subjects and with age groups that are new to me. 
Looking back, the maddest thing was teaming up with the four classics teachers in the school where I am on placement to deliver a synchronised dance to the Shoop Shoop Song by Cher to 800 over-excited pupils as part of a charity day.    Coming in the middle of everything else, it barely even made me nervous.

But it has left lasting scars – even finding a space to rehearse was a masterpiece of subterfuge.  Now, whenever I see a “meeting in progress” sign on the outside of a shut office door I will know that inside there is a chorus line of Latin teachers shoop-shooping away.

Saturday, 15 February 2014


Carenza's birthday at uni.
We’ve been restraining our parental instincts in order to give the twins some space at uni.  On their birthday recently, we didn’t invite them home nor did I arrive on either of their doorsteps with cake and candles. 
But on the Friday evening just after their birthday, Carenza turned up at our house.  She had put a few history books in a bag and caught a train home.
We went for a country walk on Saturday morning and spent the afternoon with our books in front of the fire.  Compared with the pressure cooker of college life, dull domesticity  obviously looked attractive to Carenza, just for a weekend.
However, although Carenza was mostly stretched out dozily on the big red sofa, her social faculty was alert and she always had one eye fixed on her texts, tweets and facebook.  Arguably, her mind was still at college, but she had managed to teleport her body home for free food.   But quite soon, her schoolfriend Cara appeared and out they went together, and our nest was empty once more.  

Carenza went back to uni just after Sunday lunch.  We were really pleased she’d come to see us.  Maybe we didn’t need to have bent over backwards to give her space.  Or maybe she felt able to come home BECAUSE we gave her space.