Sunday, 15 October 2017

Generation Sandwich

Being in the Sandwich generation leads me into absurdity.

To my children, I seem “unutterably old”.
At least, that’s what Perran said when I asked if I might go with him to a Mr Scruff gig.
I try not to tell too many back-in-the-day stories as I hate to see the incredulity on their faces.
I can’t possibly have been the girl who danced in the street during a thunder storm, or who experimented with home-made fireworks and set off all those fire alarms.

Yet to my parents, I am forever young.  
When my mother leans on my arm for support, she doesn’t realise that my back hurts.  She thinks the walking stick in the boot of the car is a spare for when she forgets hers, not an aid that I use when I go walking.

But there are advantages to being in my mid-fifties.  
At my age people are reported to be at our most content.  We have achieved some of our goals and relinquished our most unrealistic ambitions.

Better enjoy the view from the top of the hill while I’m still at the summit. 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017


Mark and Adri were coming to lunch with their offspring, Thea and Ben.

Adri texted, “What would you like us to bring?”

My fingers hovered over the key pad.

The designated reply, in accordance with Middle Class Politeness is
“Just bring yourselves.”

On receiving it, Adri and Mark would scratch their heads and probably resort to flowers.

All seemed so dull.

I found myself typing,
“I have always particularly wanted my own tapir.”

ADRI:  “That may be difficult to arrange at such short notice.”

ME:     “You are crap guests.”

In fact, they thoughtfully brought a clematis to cover up our unsightly exposed fence.

But then, a week later, a package arrived by post.
I had ordered nothing and could not think what it might be.

Inside was a beautifully carved and painted wooden tapir.

Adri and Mark, thank you so much.

And particularly thank you for not sending a live specimen.  I understand caring for them can be ...tricky.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

University Reunion

As we drove up the A1 for the reunion, I said to Nigel,
“I can’t believe that all that time, next to our hall of residence, there was that great big orchard and we never scrumped the apples.”
“I suppose we were too busy with our friends.  Well, the apples should be ripe now.  And there are carrier bags in the boot.”
“We’ll get some after the reunion.”
We had a companionable dinner with old friends.  The next morning we attended chapel and then over breakfast, Rosie suggested we collect the key and climb the stairs to the tower. 

I have thirty-three year old photos of a whole gang of us standing up there in front of the low parapet, arms round each other, our hair blowing in the strong wind. But nowadays only four of us were allowed up at a time and a metal bannister stopped us from accidentally toppling over the edge.

When we looked out over the view, there were more changes.  Beneath us our redbrick college still glowed and its grounds stretched out green.  But beyond, in nearly every direction, new buildings were going up, including a whole new village called Eddington.  I felt like a creature from a bygone era.

Afterwards, amid embraces and farewells, we went back to the car park where there had once been a sheep field, and drove away.

“Darn it,” I said, “I forgot to pick any apples.”
“Well.  Clearly then, some things never change.”

I reconnected with Andrea Skevington who also has a blog. Her amazing poem about spiders has resonated with me in the days since.  You can find it here:


Now - photo by Rosie

Now - Photo by Rosie

Friday, 22 September 2017

Fencing Champion

A mere fraction of our fence
For over two years now, we’ve been in our new home, and all this time, we’ve been staring out at a featureless rectangle of grass bordered by sinister dark green shrubs.

Finally we found some nice landscape gardeners who were able to drill out some old foot-deep concrete, lay a patio and dig out a pond for us.  They also removed the laurels as we requested.

And now the dominant note in our garden is very much “Fence”.  We have unbroken wastes of wooden slats to gaze at.  We could not have more fence, even if we had joined Fenceflix and ordered the boxed set of Fence.

This Autumn we have gathered a fantasy football squad of new shrubs – some gold, some silver, some with berries, and have ranged them along the Fence.  We have planted them what seems like an unrealistically huge distance apart to allow for growth.  So we still have a pretty much unimpeded view of Fence.

Perhaps in three or four years’ time, when our little elaeagnuses and pittosporums have heightened and thickened, I shall turn to Nigel and say, “You know, I really miss seeing our fence.”

But I don’t think so.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Anyone for dinner?

Strata of saved dinners are stacking up in the fridge. 
Cannellini and spinach is piled on veg moussaka, is heaped on bulgar with peppers.
Why are the meals uneaten?
Does it represent a breakdown in communication between the cook (me) and the consumers (Nigel and Perran and Carenza)?
In fact, it is a symptom of a few weeks which have been busy and uncertain, but for the very best of reasons.
Perran and Carenza have both recently started work and they are in response mode. 
Some days they plan to come home, but work mates propose a drink, and it’s a good idea to join in. Purely for professional reasons, of course.
And then, there are old friends who have also ended up in the London area.  It’s great for them to be back together again.  Purely for social reasons, but no less important.
As a result of this, the fridge abounds in cling-filmed plates.
Plus, I have recently developed a highly sophisticated system which I use to regulate supply and demand –
at 5.30pm I WhatsApp – “Who will be home for dinner and who wants dinner keeping?”
And the twins hold up a finger in the wind and reply.

And if they get it wrong, another ratatouille joins the heap.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Starting Work

Carefree, earlier in the Summer
There’s a nip in the evening air and the nights are drawing in.  Term has started and I am madly preparing lessons.
But it’s only when I take a peep at FaceBook that I realise what I have forgotten to do. 
When the children started primary school I took a photo of them with forced smiles on their tiny worried faces. 
When they went along to big school, the same story – little faces peeping out from massive blazers.
However, over the last couple of weeks, both Perran and Carenza have started jobs in London and I didn’t take the pictures!  First day at work.
How could I have been so remiss?
This time round, they ironed their own shirts and bought their own blazers and they look somehow more grown up than me now. 
I’m not sure they would have let me line them up on the doorstep for a happy snap. 

But as they stepped out into the next stage of their lives, I could recognise once again that same old brave but slightly apprehensive smile.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Welcome Home, Carenza

The train journey back from our lovely holiday in Orkney was a little melancholy.
But the gold at the end of the rainbow was that Carenza was returning home after three months’ solo back-packing in South East Asia.
I had never met anybody at an airport before and neither had Will.  My only experience was watching Love Actually far more times than I care to recount.  Will, who came too, had more experience – he had seen the Gavin and Stacey episode where they return from honeymoon.
“The Mum makes this stupidly huge banner, then she forces the Dad, who’s embarrassed, to hold the other end at the airport…….What’s that you’re carrying, Clare?”
“Um.  A banner.  I’ve rolled it up to make it portable.”
“Looks quite… large. How big would you say it was?”
“Kitchen table sized.”
To do him justice, when we reached Airport Arrivals, Will barely put up a fight as I placed the stick in his hand.  He also held up his own discreet and beautifully made banner.
Many people who came through the gate crowed with delight at the large pink banner.  Blonde girls seemed particularly to like it which was a good sign.
However, it clearly ruined some people’s day – those who were being met by relatives with less sizeable banners expressed their disappointment  resentfully.
For quite a long time we stood there at the ready. 
“I’m beginning to get banner burn.”
“Yep, my banner hand’s gone numb.”
But when Carenza finally arrived, the banner didn’t matter at all. 

After she had diplomatically expressed appreciation for our art efforts, we rolled up my banner , thrust it in the bin and went home with our girl.