Sunday, 15 January 2017

Snow Day

Snowy walk with Nigel, Jenny, Terry & Boris
For my first three years as a school-teacher, there have been no snow days round here. 
As a mother of school children I particularly loved snow days – climbing back into a warm bed with a steaming cup of tea, watching the goose feathers drifting down outside the window. The whole world came to a standstill – a blessed break in the daily grind.
But now I’m self-employed.  Any snow days will have to be caught up on later, perhaps when I had planned something more interesting!  So I have purchased snow shoes, ski poles and a board marker which operates at sub-zero temperatures.
Last week, however, snow threatened and it was a day when I had no teaching – the perfect snow day. 
But when I peeped out hopefully at first light, there was no snow, so no lie in.  Later, disappointingly, it rained. Finally as the day closed, the temperature dropped and at last, snow fell.
However, it was a meagre amount – not the bringing-life-to-a-standstill downpour I had hoped for.
BUT according to Govia Thameslink it WAS just that.
Nigel was stranded on his commuter train, WhatsApping me sadder and sadder updates and so was Chip with whom I was supposed to be having a meeting that evening.
Call me callous, but their loss was my gain.  When Chip got to her house, she was too tired to struggle out again for a meeting.  When Nigel came home, he didn’t feel like going out for beer with the guys, decided on a night in and lit the stove. 
So finally, I may not have got my snow day, but I did get a snow evening.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New Year unleashed

Usually we are visiting Northumbrian grandparents at New Year, but this year we had returned in time. 
This meant that our children were at last able to escape into the wilds of youthful New Year’s Eve parties.

Pascoe left us on Friday returning to Edinburgh for a  New Year with fellow grad students from around the globe.  They had decided on a meat fondue and apparently ostrich and water buffalo were on offer.  They may have eschewed the humble haggis, but still all trooped out to see the Edinburgh fireworks.

Carenza and Perran both headed in to parties in London with me fretting openly about the risk posed by terrorists and questioning them in detail about their movements. 
I am truly grateful to our brilliant police, who were apparently out in numbers, that nothing went wrong in our country.
And in retrospect, perhaps I should have been more worried about the risk posed by alcohol.  But I think that everybody has now managed successfully to reconstruct their evening and fill in the gaps.

As for us, we were at last able to do something which our children had expressly forbidden before.  We have a DVD of the amazing Spencer Tunick Art Event where hundreds of naked people walked round the Quayside area of Newcastle and Gateshead and formed patterns with their bodies.
When our friends came round for New Year, we set the DVD to play with a notice saying “Can you spot Clare and Nigel?”

But however attentively you watch the DVD, you will not see us.  Because we were not there.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Planes, trains and automobiles

Last Sunday evening, hundreds of candles glimmered as our church held its annual service of nine lessons and carols. 
The readings recreate the wonder of the Christmas Story and everybody joins in to belt out the much-loved carols.
Folks wear Christmas jumpers and Bill gives it some wellie on the organ.
It is one of the landmarks of our Christmas.
Putting up Christmas lights, Cornish style.

We are trying not to be dictatorial parents, but we had spotted the fact that all the offspring might possibly be back for the carol service, and we were allowing a little flame of hope to kindle…
Pascoe was joining us from London, Carenza was coming back from Will’s and Perran was getting a lift from Bristol.
During the day, we got updates from each of them and it began to remind me of a cheesy American film, about people getting home for Thanksgiving/Christmas.
In the end, Pascoe was with us in good time, Carenza slipped into the seat we had saved at the very last moment.  But Perran was still en route – his lift wasn’t ready to set off until quite late.  Plus there was something about a DJ forcing him and his friends to go out clubbing until 6 that morning.    Didn’t quite follow that story.  Don’t think I was meant to.

However, even though we didn’t quite all get to the Carols, everybody was home for dinner, which was brilliant.  Enough to keep me going until we are all reunited once more for Christmas itself.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Some Hope

I guess I don’t give my heart to Christmas completely. 
As we put up the decorations, I think about how long it will take me to fetch them down again on January 6th and moderate my swags accordingly. 
When I buy gifts for the children, they aren’t luxuries.   I try to get useful things that I probably should have bought them anyway.  In our house, Christmas has become the Festival of New Pants.
I buy my Brussels sprouts (and indeed everything else) from Morrisons, not Waitrose – the Christmas meal will be pleasant, but would leave Mary Berry with that puzzled disappointed look we have come to know.
Perhaps I hold back because I’m afraid the festival will let me down. 
Don’t get me wrong, each year Christmas sends me into a complete tailspin of organisational frenzy, but it is partly because we have so many significant family birthdays in December.  And trips to grandparents in Cornwall and Northumberland to arrange.  Not to mention the complications of a Christmas dinner which must cater for a meat eater and a vegan, and every ideological regime in between.
However, I have reached the “no longer care” plateau quite early this year and am even pursuing other exciting projects such as replacing our double-glazing.

And yet part of me is waiting for Christmas to tiptoe up behind me and surprise me with a joyful hug, as it does most years.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Cornish Christmas

There was a hold up.  So when I finally set off for Cornwall, it wasn’t when I’d planned, and when I travelled, the M4 was completely blocked so I had to turn round and go back towards London and set out again on the M3 (should I have put a sat nav on my Christmas list?)
It didn’t feel like a good start.
But although things hadn’t gone to plan, it was certainly educational.

I discovered what happens when Jennie gets tinsellitis.

I learnt that Fiona and Izzie would rather take a country walk in the pouring rain than go Christmas shopping.

And that Mark felt the woods were safer than Marks and Spencer at this time of year.

And I found that Mum and Dad could be Lord and Lady of the Manor, if only granted the chance by the NT.

So really, it was all worthwhile.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Lazarus Gave me a Dead Leg

“Tonight Will and I are going to see Lazarus, the David Bowie musical” announced Carenza. 
“I wish I could go.” I was feeling sorry for myself as my plans for the weekend (visiting elderly parents) had fallen through. 
“You can.  We’ve got a third ticket.”
Wow.  Am cool and trendy.
Thought long and hard about what one wears to a David Bowie musical.  Realised how cold it was and put on an OAP jumper instead.
When I got there, even the venue was edgy – a big marquee by Kings Cross.  Will bought us each a prosecco and spotted an actor from Game of Thrones at the bar.
“Was he very short?” I asked.
“Not that one,” said Will.
The seating was clever too – the chairs were raised high to allow leg room for the lanky.  Unfortunately I am not lanky and was able to swing my legs like a prematurely-aged six year old on an outing with her parents.  Except that, (meanly, I thought) Will and Carenza wouldn’t let me sit between them.
The music was great, and the performances stunning. However, to praise Lazarus further would be disingenuous.  The plot was so confusing that I wasn’t even sure whether I should feel sad or happy at the end.  There was the odd moment of lucidity when one character explained the plot to another, but apart from that….
I wasn’t even able to fidget restlessly in my seat as my feet weren’t on the ground.  Two hours without an interval seemed quite long.
Then bizarrely on the way home on a dark city street, I kicked something soft.  It landed with a thud. I made the mistake of looking to see what I’d kicked.  It was the most enormous frog I have ever seen.  What was it doing on these mean streets on a November night? 
In spite of my boot, it was still alive, although injured.  It stared at me with an unblinking beady eye.  What to do?  Should I finish it off?  But what with?  And what if it wasn’t fatally injured? 
A coward, I left it, probably prey to an urban fox.  But the look it had given me stayed with me.  Didn’t this remind me of some fairy tale?  What if I had just been cursed by a magic frog?
The next day I woke up with a pain in my outer left thigh.  A week later, I had developed deep vein thrombosis.  Not in reality, just in my mind.  It was when I reached down and felt that my skin was numb that I panicked.  (I think it had been numb all along, but I’d been feeling through corduroy trousers which is a similar sensation.)
I googled the symptoms of DVT. 
Never google symptoms. 
Reassuringly I didn’t have the common symptoms.  Then I read the caveat which said, “Only half of those who have DVT experience any symptoms.”
There was nobody home so I drove myself to minor injuries. 
“We can’t help you – DVT isn’t a minor injury.”
I looked miserable.  They suggested I ring 111 and tell them I was already at a hospital and the 111 people might then ring the hospital I was already at and arrange for me to see a doctor there.
I rang the 111 people.  They wanted me to examine my leg over the phone.  I explained that I was in a public waiting room and couldn’t take my trousers off.
“Go to the loo.”
I crouched in the overheated loo with my trousers round my ankles, attempting not to make contact with the much-used toilet seat while they asked me questions, often ones that conjured unwelcome images, such as,
“Are you bleeding a lot?”
At the end of all that, they were pretty sure it wasn’t a DVT but I ought to see my GP.  When I finally got out of the loo, I had that swimmy feeling which means you are about to faint.  I sat in the waiting room with my head between my knees for a while.
But nobody was home and nobody was going to come to rescue me.  I would just have to pull myself together and get home somehow. 
And that was when I remembered the curse of the frog.
In the end, I had to hope that the poor frog had limped to safety, because my own fate was not as dreadful as it could have been – I didn’t have DVT.  Instead, the uncomfortable seat at Lazarus had pinched/bruised a nerve and it should feel better after some weeks.

So although seeing the David Bowie musical made me feel young, cool and trendy, I am not sure it was worth it as I now have a limp and am possibly living under a frog curse.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Socially Inappropriate Sign Store

Jackie being importuned by an elf.
Last weekend, we went to a large craft fair with Nick and Jackie.
Support local makers – not the economy of China.
We saw everything from a crocheted toilet roll cover (washable) to exquisite silver jewellery.
But our favourite was the Socially Inappropriate Sign Stall (our choice of name, not theirs).
I’ve mentioned these  homely signs before in my blog – they say things like “Live, laugh, love”, or “My Kitchen, My Rules”, and are charming and humorous the FIRST time you see them.
At the craft show, there was a stall jam-packed with these sweet little sayings.  I was about to pass by, but a large sign caught me eye. 
“I love you even more than CHEESE.”
Who would ever hang that up on their wall?
And there were more. 
Gently I back-pedalled.
The stall was run by a couple. 
                He could cut wood into little rectangles and hearts.
                She could do cutesie handwriting.
Unfortunately, neither of them could produce a bon mot.
No wonder there was so much stock on display – nobody would ever buy these.
After perusal, my favourite was the stalkerish:
“I may not be the most important person in your life, but when you hear my name, I hope you smile and say ‘That’s my friend.’”
But Nick, who had also paid the stall close attention, had spotted an even better one:
“Sometimes I laugh so much that the tears run down my legs.”
Perhaps I should suggest to the stall-holders that they go crochet some toilet roll covers instead.