Thursday, 20 April 2017

Why Take a Holiday?

Photo by Will
Sometimes when you are trying to get your work up-to-date, cancel the milkman, engage a helpful neighbour to empty the letter box, it feels like the last thing you need is a holiday. 
On top of that, Nigel and I both felt washed out following a long-lasting cold virus. It was hard to summon the energy.
However, for Easter Nigel had booked a house in Penzance where Pascoe, Perran, Carenza, Will & Dan were to join us.
For a week we tramped the cliffs swathed in blackthorn blossom, bought the freshest fish, foraged leaves and blossoms from the hedgerow, ate round the kitchen table and spent the evenings reading.
When I came to pack for home, I found myself staring at the nasal spray and cough sweets in my drawer.  For a moment I couldn’t think why I had them there. 

That was when I realised just how much good the holiday had done us.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Stick Men go on Holiday

Photo by Adri, Singapore
Since my post about endangered stickmen, I have received good news from Adri in Singapore about the care being taken of Stick Men and Women there and was feeling quite optimistic about the future of the species.

However, a recent holiday in Cornwall has re-awakened my worries about these accident-prone little chaps.  
Whereas Singapore public transport offers them a sanctuary, this is what happened to a Stick Man on a Cornish bus.

And at the sea-side, if there is an accident to be had, then Stick Men seem to have it.







It’s just a good job that we humans would never get into all the trouble that these stick men do when we visit the sea-side.

Perhaps it might be safer for them to stay at home.

Monday, 10 April 2017

I found Jesus at the Garden Centre

Garden Centre statuary is fascinatingly naff. 
It is rare to find a beautiful, simple form produced carefully in good quality material.
I started snapping some prime kitsch at the weekend.
I spotted Greek goddesses suffering from the usual wardrobe malfunction;

Buddhas smiling tolerantly at plaster kittens.

Then finally….was I really seeing this?  Jesus, resplendent in fake marble, sacred heart and all.

It was, after all, Sunday.

Then it occurred to me:-
Garden centres are quite large organisations. 
Perhaps everybody wonders who keeps buying in the weird statues, but nobody knows.  Perhaps in fact, nobody is buying them. 
In our irreligious age, perhaps the deities have spotted where it is that people flock to on holy days and have decided to establish a presence there – in the garden centres.
And from the garden centre, they can find their way into people’s hearts and homes. 
It is a cunning plot to restore religion to the nation.
The only thing that might foil it would be if somebody started to produce garden statuary that was both in good taste AND affordable.

That would definitely put the kibosh on it.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

A City at Second Hand

The town where you attend university will be forever significant to you. 
That street corner is the place where Somebody first held your hand, that bridge is where you and your friends whistled the Ride of the Valkyries  so loudly one night that you woke the neighbourhood.  That second-hand book shop is where you bought the little calf-bound copy of Thackeray.  
The town is a map of your youth.
But I also expected to have some sort of a relationship with the cities where my children were at university. When Pascoe went to Norwich I looked forward to getting to know the city.  I would have a confident grasp of its layout, know good places to eat, be familiar with its heritage. 
When he gained his degree and moved on (all of five minutes later), I felt like shouting “Wait! I’ve barely scratched the surface of Norwich.”
And now, as Perran comes to the close of his studies, we are facing the end of our romance with Bristol.  When we visited last month, it was important to take our leave of old haunts – Pero’s Bridge, the murals of Stokes Croft, Banksys, vintage shops on Park Street.

But vibrant Bristol just wouldn’t lie down.  Instead, it presented us with a whole new area to explore – the heritage area of the docks where we went aboard the replica of Cabot’s ship and Brunel’s SS Great Britain. We had a great time, and I suspect that Bristol will never become a city of memories for us – we shall go on visiting.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Airbeds and Karrimats

When Carenza held her 22nd birthday party here both local and university friends came along. 
She had warned us that two or three might stay over.  On Sunday, we found ourselves frying up sausage sandwiches for thirteen people.  Seeing the tessellation of airbeds and karrimats on the floor in the sitting room reminded me of when we were at that stage. 
A year out of college, Nigel and I married and set up home near his parents in the North East. But we vowed that geography would not part us from our university friends.   We thought nothing of piling sleeping bags into our cantankerous mini and driving to the South East for a get-together.
The most memorable was at Annabel’s where around a dozen of us youngsters were bedding down for the night and promptly ran out of toilet paper.  People quickly became ruthless in appropriating any shred of paper that might serve and it all got a bit Lord of the Flies. This was my earliest and arguably most important lesson in hosting. Always check the paper supply.
We thought these communal weekends would go on for ever, but a little thing eventually made it too difficult.  In fact, several little things – a number of us had children. 

However, now that most of our children have moved on, we are back to slinging sleeping bags in the car and going camping and glamping together again, happily sharing a yurt or tepee.  Have to remember the loo roll though.



Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Waving to Infinity

When I lose a glove I feel annoyed. 
Where should I look for it?  Do I really have to buy a new pair?
Should I retrace my steps to look for it?
But then, when was it I lost it exactly?  It’s hard to be sure.
Losing a glove has been an entirely negative experience.
Until now. 
But last weekend, spent in the beautiful Peak District has given me a change of heart.
When you lose a glove in a beautiful place, some other walker will find it and put it up high so you can spot it when you return for it. 
In practice you will probably never return, but it has the happy side effect that your abandoned glove is now waving at a beautiful view.

 I have to leave the Peak District and go back to work in the crowded South East, but my glove will remain, gazing out for evermore at green hillsides, Spring lambs and budding oaks.
Kinda “There is some corner of a foreign field that will be forever England.”

Now all I have to do if I feel stressed in nose-to-tail traffic is to imagine slipping my hand back into that glove in its resting place on a bucolic gatepost and for a moment I shall be there.

(Although all grey, all the gloves in these photos were actually found separately.)



Friday, 17 March 2017

The Cake Conspiracy

Even a weird European chocolate wrapper proves unexpectedly tempting.
Something is afoot in the world. 
There are certain signs that something is taking place.

 1. Our team won the inter-church quiz and the prize was Thornton's chocolates.
2.       I went into school to teach Latin.  My pupils had just had domestic science and were each carrying a tub of warm cheese scones.  Several were kind enough to offer them to me.  (Clearly I must appear undernourished….or maybe I was just drooling slightly.)
3.       In came nice Mr P . He was carrying a massive piece of iced carrot cake. His mother had made it to share with his colleagues, but it now needed eating up. My pupils and I are nothing if not obliging.
4.       Then to Hilary’s for church house group.   But house group was having a shared meal.  In the face of the mouthwatering dishes that my friends had prepared, my resolution  crumbled like shortcrust pastry.
5.       The most recent happening is my discovery of a crushed box of Belgian chocolates in our bedroom.  We bought them for Nigel’s parents but he failed to deliver them and appears to have trodden on them instead.  We can’t give them away now!

Have you guessed?

Yes, I am trying to lose weight.
No wonder I am rubbish at dieting.
It is completely not my fault.
The whole world conspires against me.

Perhaps for Lent, I should give up trying to diet.