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!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Storm Eleanor


I come from Cornwall where the weather’s important.
It’s important for farmers when they take in the harvest.
It’s important for fishermen so they don’t sail right into a storm.
It was a common practice for a fishing village to have a communal barometer in the harbour.

But there are also more traditional ways of telling the weather.
If the swallows are flying low, it means it will rain.
If a piece of dried seaweed becomes slimy it means high humidity.
If a fir cone opens up its scales, it means fine weather.
If the cows are lying down, it means rain.
And my personal favourite:
If you can see clear to St Austell clay tips it means it’s going to rain.   If you can’t see St Austell clay tips, it means it’s already raining.

But for the violent forces of Storm Eleanor, just passed, only one piece of weather lore would do.
And it was discovered by my Uncle John, who wasn’t even Cornish.
He said:
“You can tell if it’s very windy indeed….the seagulls will be flying backwards.”

Traditional weather forecasting at Betty's Bothy, Orkney, last summer.




Monday, 1 January 2018

Review of the year

The media have been reviewing the year just gone.
E.g. The Year in Politics.
The very thought is exhausting. 
I can review the last fortnight maybe.
Our dishwasher broke just before Christmas and we imagined a cruel God laughing at us.
Then John the Appliance Superhero arrived, gave the device some sort of Heimlich manoeuvre and out popped a pistachio shell. 
Carenza WhatsApped "Can you imagine a more middle class item to find in your dishwasher pipe? "
Dan apparently could and nominated a single Bendicks bittermint, a Kettle chip or a maths tutor.

Christmas en famille - v good
Boxing Day Walk with chums - v muddy
Lunch with new friends - v companionable

Then to Northumberland.
In spite of snow and ice Nigel managed to take his parents on two outings, including the seaside, wheelchair and all.
However we then snatched failure from the jaws of success when our parked car slid backwards down the steep icy drive and into the garage door.

And how did we spend the last moments of 2017?
With our friends, playing charades.
Which takes us right back to The Year in Politics - you can't have more of a charade than that.

Pascoe, Josh and John - reunited on Boxing Day

Friday, 29 December 2017

Book Group Envy

I recently received proof that Carenza is a proper grown up lady. For some mums this would have happened when their daughter turned twenty-one, for others when she started work.
But for me it was when she announced that she and her girlfriends had formed a book group.

I admired their maturity and applauded their first choice - The Power by Naomi Alderman.

But then I saw a photo of them.

Why doesn't my book group look like this?



I have begun to experience Book Group Envy.
On the bright side, we have superior life experience....and weight. And volume.

Not sure whether these are the criteria by which one is supposed to judge a successful book group but they are certainly qualities which I shall henceforth be promoting.
Card seen in Oxfam.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

How to get straight to the top without New Year Resolutions

Feeling slightly seedy after Christmas feasting, we are easy prey for the New Year’s Resolution.

We will make a promise to eat less/exercise more/ read improving literature/ take up fretwork.

The aim is to become better people.
The result will be that most of the forthcoming year will be clouded with a nebulous sense of failure.

So I’m asking you to think first.
There is a simpler way of doing this.

Next time you are ordering something on the Internet, or registering for an organisation, take a look at their drop-down list of titles – some of them contain the full range of options, from Ms to Viscountess.
You can select any one you like – the cursor does not contain a lie detector.

I sometimes choose Brigadier – to have attained such heights without serving a distinguished career in the army!
Then the person delivering my package will look at me with respect, for in their eyes, I am a brigadier.

The only time I regretted it was when we moved house and I lost some Tate tickets I had ordered months before.  Sue and I arrived at the ticket desk where I was confident I could explain myself:
“I bought two tickets in the name of Clare Hobba…”
“Nope – no record of a purchase in that name.”
Sue and I exchanged a worried glance – we had both travelled in specially.
I tried Nigel’s name and even my middle name, but they still did not recognise my purchase.
Finally, the woman squinted at me sternly:
“You didn’t call yourself Princess Cynthia Hobba did you?”
“Erm.  Yes.  That was very likely me.”
“What is your address?”
Dimly, I gave my current address – not the previous one from which I’d ordered the tickets.
More stern staring, even after I’d explained.
“I’m very sorry I gave a false name.  I shall never do it again.”


“Nor a false title, nor a false address…” muttered Sue in the background.

Monday, 25 December 2017

God With Us

At Christmas, we have only two firm family traditions.
On Christmas Eve we attend the beautiful sung evensong at St Albans Abbey – or The Annual Festival of Coughing, as we call it.
On Christmas morning we go to our own church, St Luke’s.

At quiet moments in the services I pray for people I know who are sad, ill or bereaved.  Then I move on to considering the year ahead and praying that God be with us.

And this year, I have already received a blessing.
Let me tell you the story:

This morning we attended our church.  SO MANY people we knew were there for Christmas.  And so were their children, grandchildren, aunts and uncles. 
We circulated around the church to exchange the handshake of peace with everybody. 

We processed up in front of everybody to receive communion.
Then back again.  
In front of everybody.

But it was not until I got home that the pants which had been caught up my trousers in the wash fell out onto the floor.

As I say – a blessing.