Thursday, 15 March 2018

CBT - my therapy of choice

Recently, there's been a lot going on chez nous: Nigel's father died and the twins moved out.
My normal therapy would be to strike out on long walks. But the operation which was supposed to fix my foot got cancelled just before Christmas, so I can only do short strolls.
So instead I'm seeking comfort in an old interest - bird-watching.
The kids say it's okay to be a nerd nowadays - even fashionable - I do hope they're right.
Caroline took me to see fluffy tree sparrows.
Angela directed me to a great place to spot green sandpipers bobbing in the stream.
I dragged Carol, Caroline and Diane on hawfinch safari in a breezy churchyard. 
"Where are you off to?" asked Perran.
"To see hawfinches."
"What? - You going to find them sashaying up and down the fence, trying to attract male finches?"
No Perran.  Not spelt that way.

In fact, I had always wanted to see these brightly coloured finches with a bill that can crack a cherry stone.  Luckily there were some reports  - on twitter of course. 

In the icy weather Caroline and I added siskin and redpoll to the list.

I don't know how to confess this:
I think I may have become a twitcher. 
I can feel my wrist making an involuntary ticking motion each time I spot a new species.

Of course it's not cool.
But when I'm down, it's the kind of CBT I need - Cute Bird Therapy.

Binoculars at the ready

Monday, 26 February 2018

Missing you

So the twins moved out. 
Some, although very definitely not ALL of their gear has gone with them.
Just like a beach during one of those especially low tides at Easter, parts of their bedrooms were exposed that hadn’t seen the light of day in months.

It stimulated in me a primitive urge to clean.  One that I am normally able to overcome. 

But perhaps cleaning would make me feel better.

Faced with the carpet under their beds, the hoover gave an asthmatic wheeze and demanded to be emptied.

It also became obvious that many of the shampoos/skin scrubs and cleansing products which STILL jostled for position on the bathroom shelf never were going to be used again, and could now be recycled.

But just as I had my sleeves rolled up and a black bag gaping, I heard a key in the door.

Perran was home.

“What are you doing here?”
“I’ve got a couple of days’ holiday and we haven’t got wi-fi connected yet.”

I think our central heating may have been an added attraction.
Although obviously I have been telling everybody that it was just that he missed me so much!

However, it’s the weekend and he’s gone again now, and I’m on my way upstairs once more to attack the ‘dust bunnies’ under his bed.
Actually, I’ve just had a good look at them – make that ‘dust rhinos’.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Making it better with sparrows

At the weekend a terrible accident on the M5 made my drive to my parents in Cornwall take 8 hours.  It is lovely to see my parents, but each time there are new challenges brought on by old age.  I was tired when I got back on Monday night.
I spent Tuesday doing my half term marking.
Then Wednesday my lovely friend Angela came to say goodbye before going with her husband to live in Scotland.
Wednesday night we drove to Northumberland, ready for Nigel’s Dad’s funeral the next day.   We arrived back Thursday night. 
And did I mention? - the twins had spent the week when not at work or funerals, gathering their gear in order to leave home and move into a rented flat at the weekend.
So by Friday, I may very well have been depressed and knackered. 
Actually I was mainly stunned.
But as I say, I might have been in a bad way.
Divining this, Caroline asked me if I’d like to go looking for tree sparrows. 
I had never seen a tree sparrow before.
We set off.
The gravel workings had been expanded, which made it difficult to figure out where we were on our elderly OS map.
But we saw a muntjac, and on the gravel pits shovellers, gadwall and a mass of herons.
Then finally, in a hedge, seven beautiful fluffed-up tree sparrows.
The only thing better than the sparrows was Caroline taking me to see them.
Thank you for a good thing in a bad week, Caroline.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Very Last Gift

My friend Carole Heselton writes:
“Perhaps the death of a parent is the last gift they give us.  It’s a chance to reflect on what we ourselves have become and to see the life of our parent led in its entirety, rather than a work in progress.”

Years ago, I heard the advice of the mystic John O’ Donohue that we must grow to know our own death and to befriend it, but I did not quite know what he meant.

Over the last ten days, my father-in-law Maurice has died slowly and comparatively peacefully after a long illness.  There has been time for his children and grandchildren to travel to his bedside and say farewell. 

There is deep sorrow for his parting, but gladness at an end to his suffering.

For a long time, as he was incapacitated by Parkinson’s disease, his successful career and his energetic charity work have seemed to lie in the unreachable past.

However, now is the time to get all these accomplishments out and admire them once more.

But at this time of stock-taking, I can see that Maurice’s greatest achievement is not his deeds in themselves, but that there are people who will want to recall them – people who loved him while he was alive and will miss him now he is gone.

In seeing this, it helps me to know more of the kind of death I would wish for myself and should work towards.

Thank you Maurice.

Sunday, 28 January 2018


Since last August, there has been a plastic tub on our kitchen floor, collecting the water that came through the ceiling.
It started off as a shy dribble of droplets. 
Any attention from anybody and it would discreetly dry up.
Twice we thought roofers had mended it and paid them handsomely.
Each time, the leak waited until their vans had disappeared into the distance, ladders jangling wildly, before it reappeared.
In the last couple of months, however, it has gained confidence and has become a gushing, bubbling cascade, appearing EVERY time it rains.
We changed roofers and were impressed by the expertise and diligence of our current crew.
“It’s done,” they said, “That leak won’t trouble you any more.  If you could just BACS us, we’ll be back in the morning for the scaffolding.”
Luckily, that very night, it rained heavily.
Like a mafia boss, drunk on his own importance, our leak forgot to play hide-and-seek and poured in.
I discovered the water on the floor using my sophisticated leak detection technique – I walked into the kitchen in my stockinged feet.
When he returned, the roofer scratched his head, “Well, I suppose it could be the window that’s leaking.”
We had new windows installed a year ago.
Using a hose, he proved it was definitely the window.
So, Leak, I have you running scared now.
All we have to do is get the window people back.

Whom, needless to say, we have already paid in full.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Interesting Device

Living with grown-up offspring is not at all like living with little children.

The other day, I popped into the bathroom and came to a standstill.
There on the side of the bath was…a device.
I did not recognise it, but then, I’ve led a sheltered life.

Could I deduce what it was for?
In shape it was tall and thin with a nozzle at one end and a hand grip at the other.
On the side was the brand name – NiceFeel.
There was a button with settings – Normal, Soft, Pulse.
Gingerly, I put it back down.

How to deal with this?
I decided that I would just leave it where it was. 
The owner would soon spot it and put it away.

Twenty-four hours later, it was still on the side of the bath.
Perran was even in there washing his face as if there was nothing the matter.
I could stand the suspense no longer.
“Perran….what is that thing on the side of the bath?”
“Oh – that’s my oral irrigator – it’s for flossing your teeth but with a high-powered jet of water, instead of  tape …look!”
“Oh.  Okay.”
“I swear by them.  In fact, this is my second one – my first wore out. Here.”
He pulled another similar device from the bathroom cupboard.
“If it’s broken, why have you kept it?”
“Not sure how to recycle it.”
“Well, your Dad’s an expert on recycling waste electrical items.  Why don’t we just leave it for him on his bedside table?”
*             *             *
7pm: Nigel has arrived home and gone upstairs to change.

Startled voice from upstairs:  “For Pete’s sake, what on earth is THIS?”

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Weekend Stew

When the twins fell back to earth after graduation / gap year , they landed at our house.

Office hours plus commute means they are not home much. 

Fortunately very many of their friends have ended up living and working nearby in London. 
So weekends are particularly unpredictable. I have joked about installing an enormous cat flap.

On the bright side, I have developed a new cuisine - Weekend Stew.

I got out my cavernous witch's cauldron from its semi-retirement at the back of the cupboard and I stew up beans, onions and root vegetables and frankly anything else in the fridge that appears to be on its last legs. I make it delicious with olives and capers, or garam masala, or smoked paprika, and serve with a hillock of brown rice.

Weekend stew divides up between any number of diners. It can be heated up at 3am when one returns from a party. It can be stretched to accommodate guests.

Only problem is I'm tiring of it. Yesterday I'm sure I caught the black-eyed beans staring at me reproachfully as I surreptitiously heated up a pizza. 

However in a few weeks the twins plan to be gone - off to rented bliss - and our weekends will become predictable once more.

So for the moment, Weekend Stew it is!