Thursday, 29 May 2014

Meet the Great Grandparents

Meet the Great Grandparents
 Pascoe can tell you that the reward for reaching maturity is to be considered trustworthy by members of older generations.  And that the consequence of this new esteem is…horrible jobs.

Recently he has braved poisonous spiders in his Cornish grandparents’ shed, and got up to his armpits in mud to mend his parents’ (our) pond.

The other day he met up with with his father at the home of his Northumberland grandparents.  No horrible jobs were scheduled.

But on spotting Pascoe, his grandfather decided that he needed the loft clearing.  Nigel and Pascoe girded their loins.  At least life-threatening fauna were unlikely to be involved this time.

In trip after trip, they heaved out boxes of junk and treasure, including the tools and chemicals that Granddad used to use for DIY. 
Nearing the end of the task, Pascoe levered out yet another  box of chemicals from behind the water cistern.  By this time, he had passed the point of curiosity, and was about to sling them when Nigel noticed that two large brown plastic canisters had names on the lid.  Familiar names.
“Pascoe, I think this could be….”
It was.
Pascoe was meeting his great grandparents. 
In ash form.
There followed an interval of thoughtful silence und unasked questions.

It was decided that they would be scattered from the local bridge into the Tyne which goes down into the sea, the same sea that carried them from England to their life’s work in Africa, and home again to retirement in Surrey.

One last job to be done for them.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Bank Hol

I used to love days out.  They were my contribution to educating my children.  I would speed-read museum information boards and regurgitate them in a form appropriate to whatever age my children  were at the time. 
If we were out on a country walk, I’d point out the flowers and birds, whether or not anybody was listening.
And we couldn’t afford a café lunch for all five of us, so the prelude to any outing was a sandwich-making epic.  I have broken the world speed record for tuna baps.
Nigel and I have continued to visit museums and galleries and to tramp off on edifying country walks,  Nowadays, we even sit down to lunch in the café, instead of heaving a backpack full of sandwiches for miles. Yet it has been somehow hollow since the children left.
But on today’s trip to Fishbourne Roman Palace, I got out my camera and notebook enthusisatically, and even purchased the children’s version of the guidebook.  As we watched a re-enactment of Celtic fighting, I videoed it on my camera.
“The kids will love this,” I said to myself.
Of course, I didn’t mean our children, I meant the children that I shall be teaching next year.  I looked up to see Nigel grinning to himself. 
“I know,” I agreed.  “I’ve found more children”.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Woman in Parliament

Bored by my inability to get everything in the frame,
a uniformed policeman kindly offered to take our photo.
My children are growing up and their interests are taking a more definite shape.  And so are those of their friends.
Dan, who has appeared regularly in this blog, currently has an internship at Westminster.  Nigel and I were completely chuffed to be taken by him on a tour of the Houses of Parliament.
In the House of Commons, we traced with our fingers the places where the despatch boxes had been rubbed shiny by the elbows of politicians.  In the House of Lords, we put on our sunglasses to view the gilded throne of the monarch, so magnificent it is almost camp.  We touched, with our own hands, the dent where Black Rod has damaged the door to the Commons with his vigorous knocking.

Emily Wilding Davison's broom cupboard.

Best of all was Dan's favourite spot  - the broom cupboard where Emily Wilding Davison concealed herself overnight so that the 1911 Census was forced to record that there was a woman in Parliament.
All around us was Puginesque detail, gilded, painted and carved, but we spent the most time photographing one another in the cleaners' cupboard.
Thanks for a wonderful evening, Dan.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Exclusive Club

Currently, at Oxbridge there is an outcry against men’s private drinking clubs and the way power is brokered there, while women are admitted only as sex objects. 
However, over the last few years, I have been delighted to discover an exclusive club for middle-aged women, where men are not admitted and where woman speaks only to woman.  I was there again at Cambridge University on Saturday night. 
The context was an extraordinary student production  of Euripides’ devastating tragedy, “The Trojan Women”.  All this was at close quarters in the tiny space of Corpus playroom.  Bethany and I happened to notice that Carol Ann Duffy was in the row in front, but in a very British way, we left her unmolested.  However, I should say that I love her poetry so much that it is actually pinned to my kitchen cupboards, so I did kinda yearn to speak to her.
The production was so intense that I wept.  Afterwards, I had to ask young Bethany, “Are you alright?”
She could only nod.
“What you’re feeling right now – that’s catharsis.”
Reeling from catharsis myself, I went to the ladies’ loo.  When I came out of my cubicle, Carol Ann Duffy was there, queueing as a middle-aged woman must.  I had my two minute conversation with her after all.  Her daughter had been one of the actors.
“Amazing production.”
“Yes, wonderful.”
Nor is she the first well-known woman I have met under similar circumstances.  So there you have it. Our exclusive club.   How soon before privileged young males start to complain about being excluded from the women’s  loos where the Wise Women hang out?

Monday, 5 May 2014

Easter tree

At Easter, we always dragged a branch of something or other into the house, decorated it with blown eggs that we’d marbled and fluffy yellow chicks with tiny beady eyes. 
This year, the dragging-the-branch-in bit went well.  During a walk in the woods, we snapped off a substantial hornbeam twig, still in bud and Pascoe carried it home. 
Then it stood in a bucket in a corner of the kitchen with family members saying to me “I expect  you’ll be putting up the Easter tree soon,” and me saying, “Yep, just as soon as I finish this dissertation/filing/lesson preparation.” 
Nothing happened for several days until just before Easter when I got back from my parents and discovered that Nigel and Carenza had sorted it.  Carenza had arranged the eggs, Nigel the chicks.  It looked positively Pascal. 
About a week ago, Nigel started to say, “You’ll be wanting to take that Easter tree down soon.” “Yep, I agreed, just as soon as I get get round to it...”
But this time, it wasn’t really the lesson preparation or the filing that was holding me up: I just didn’t want to get rid of Carenza’s handi-work.

But then the green hornbeam leaves, now fully out, began to wilt.  I packed the eggs into their boxes, watched by indignant chicks, and threw the branch out. 

I guess I’d better stop clinging on to Easter and start looking forward to the summer when my offspring will return.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Home help

When Perran and Carenza were taking their GCSEs, ASs, A2s, I tried to make sure that the food was good and that the house felt comfortable.  After all, for once they weren’t going anywhere.  

At the end of last term, Carenza arrived back when I still had three weeks of my second teaching placement and my dissertation to complete.

True to her upbringing, her first act was to bake a cake and to decorate it with a cheering message.   Accompanied by Nigel, she then went on to hoover and dust the whole place.  When Will came to visit her, he cooked for us too.  It was great to be so taken care of.
Well done, chaps.  Many, many thanks. 

Oh.  I forgot to say – you know I told you I only had one dissertation to do, well I think I might have another one to do over the summer holidays.  Honestly, I do….