Thursday, 22 September 2016


I drove Perran back to university today.  On the long journey back alone I heard poems on Radio 4 to mark the Autumn Equinox.
I had plenty of time to think. 
It struck me that our family has reached an Equinox too. 
Grandparents are all ageing, Nigel and I still have maybe a decade of working life ahead.
And the children, although they may often find themselves at home with us are launching on adult life.
For a while Nigel and I are still the fulcrum of our family.
I’ve always enjoyed the Autumn – the briskness in the air, the fiery colours of the leaves, the cosiness of the evening fire.

So can I convince myself that Autumn is as wonderful as Summer?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016


Part of the qualifications for getting a degree should surely be the power to pass on information.
Luckily for me Carenza has gained this skill.
For, on Saturday, it was her graduation, the type of event where one wears a hat and high heels (or at least the Mums do, though not most of the Dads).
In the end, there were very few hats although Will did mention he’d seen some unusual “fascinators”.  I explained to him that these were mortar boards.
Shoes, however, were de rigeur and there was a fair sprinkling of vertiginous heels.
And this is where the bit about passing on information comes in.
Once robed up, the graduands of St Hugh’s process around a mile to the Sheldonian Theatre where the ceremony takes place.
They process accompanied by friends and family.
In their heels.
It seemed that not all the proud Mums had been expecting this and by the time we reached the Sheldonian, not all the tears were tears of sentiment.
Ironically, within the Sheldonian, the junior proctors who were conducting the ceremony were dashing young women in shiny black high heels and sashayed up and down the aisle as if it were a catwalk.  Presumably neither of them had had to walk quite such a long way to the ceremony.

My flat sandals were dowdy by comparison, but at least when it was time to walk back to lovely the reception at St Hugh’s, I was ready!

Thursday, 15 September 2016


On Monday, received an email from the Blood donation service:

“Dear Clare,
This is a reminder that you have an appointment to give blood again on 15 September 2016.”
On Tuesday I received a text saying,
“Your appointment to donate is in 2 days. If you can’t make it please tell us now so we can offer it to another donor.  Thank you.”
On Thursday, another text.
“Hi.  To help keep you well please remember to drink plenty of water before you come to give blood today. We look forward to seeing you later, Many thanks!”
So, with my bladder creaking like a well-filled hot water bottle, I drove up to the designated church hall.  Last time there had been a problem with parking, so I was not surprised when I saw a woman in day-glo directing traffic.
I wound down my window.
“Sorry,” she said, “It’s been cancelled.  There’s building work going on elsewhere in the church and it’s making the hall too dusty.  Perhaps you’d be kind enough to book another appointment.”
After the long suspenseful build-up I actually felt disappointed.
However, I now had an hour to myself that I hadn’t thought I would get.
I could do anything, go anywhere.
Only thing was, it would have to be somewhere with a loo.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

On Fire

Eversheds were throwing a launch at the Museum of London for the amazing Fire! Fire! exhibition which they have sponsored.
Nigel was invited and asked if he could bring me as a guest.
The stories about the Great Fire of London have always captivated me.
Did Charles II really organise the fire in order to demolish the crowded city?
Was it really fewer than ten people who died?
Thing is, Perran and Carenza are home.  They have been a shortage item in my life for such a long time, it’s hard to pass up on spending time with them.
Just at the moment, a night in can be tremendous fun.
“They’ve got a great range of original documents at the exhibition,” said Nigel, “And crockery and metalwork that got burnt in the actual fire three hundred and fifty years ago.”
So I went.  The reception was generous with drink, canap├ęs and good company.
The exhibition was intriguing – it told the story of the Great Fire clearly and colourfully.
And when we finally got home, we discovered that the children still were not back from their various social engagements.
All in all, a good decision then.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Last Blast

Last blast of the school holidays for me is the Greenbelt festival. 
This year was one of the best – Josie Long, James Acaster, The Barely Methodical Troupe, Vanessa Kisuule all blasted it.
At the open-air communion, thousands of us were led by 20 kids, the Archbishop of Canterbury and a host of kazoos.
All weekend, I wandered the festival, sometimes with Nigel or other mates, but often on my own – it’s the kind of place where people strike up conversations easily and help each other out.
The best bit was on the last night when Ster, a senior steward, hurried up to me in the dark and said,
“Your purse has been handed in, Clare.  You can pick it up from the information desk.”
I hadn’t even had time to realise that I’d dropped my purse.

When I collected it, I didn’t bother to check the contents – they would be fine -  this was Greenbelt.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Down to Earth Diet

Following Nigel’s angina earlier this year our diet has shifted again.
We have to avoid salt, trans-fats and saturated fats even more ardently than before.
Plus Carenza gave up meat (though not fish) at the start of the year.
Perran is vegan (which, as I keep forgetting, includes a ban on honey).
Pascoe has given up meat and can’t eat milk products. 
I, like Carenza, am a simple pescetarian.
Obviously, family catering has become a little complex.
My simple solution is to serve up garden soil. 
Much wholesome food (chocolate, marmite, gravy) is brown, and so is soil.
If served slightly damp, soil can be moulded into any shape so diners can sculpt a replica of the food they would most like to be eating.

Only snag – check carefully for earthworms before serving  - goodness knows whether they are high or low in cholesterol.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016


I have discovered a way to feel immoral without actually technically doing anything wrong. 

1                     Go camping in Cornwall.
2                     Have a great time.  Talk loudly and heartily about fresh air and sleeping well.
3                     Check the weather forecast.
4                      Discover that torrential rain is forecast for just when you will be taking down your tent next morning.
5                     Go very quiet as you imagine driving all the way back to Hertfordshire with a car full of wet stuff and spending the following day drying it out.
6                     * Bottle out and book Saltash Travelodge
7                     Take the tent down a day early.

* The immoral bit.
This is the second time I have done something similar and each time I have felt guilty about following my head rather than my heart and deserting the campsite early.
That evening, Carenza and I walked into Saltash to admire Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s amazing rail bridge across the Tamar.  I said to Carenza, “It’s not raining yet.  Maybe I made a mistake, bottling out early.”
But the following morning, as we toured the grounds of Cotehele House in the pouring rain, I knew that even though I may have lost the moral high ground, at least I had been right to pack up early.
If only I had been equally decisive about the journey home.

I had misgivings about leaving  Cornwall at lunch time on a High Season Friday, but did it anyway and spent eight hours crawling along in heavy traffic.  Perhaps Divine Justice was punishing me for my flaky attitude to camping.