Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Downsize de-clutter

Downsize de-clutter
As we wait patiently(!)  to exchange contracts with our vendor, we are busy shedding things we don’t want to take with us.
I was about to leave for a weekend walking with my chums when I saw Nigel eyeing a tangle of coathangers on the landing.
His previous coathanger cast aways have resulted in wardrobe mayhem when offspring returned home with their garments, so this time, I thought I’d check on Whatsapp.

Me: We are plotting to have a cull of coathangers.  If you need any spares left in your wardrobes for when you are home, please say how many and what type. x
Carenza: Iwill count my coathangers and let you know in due course.
But I will say this: my coathangers are very dear to me so please choose carefully the ones you cast away.
Perran:Could I have around 15 spares please.  No shit ones if possible.  Thanks.

(Actually, Perran, when I asked what type, I meant “trouser” or “jacket”)

Pascoe:  About three spares would do me.

Me: Wow – coathangers get a quick response.

Then it all got a bit silly.

Perran: The anger
Pascoe: The Fear

Me: The Problem
Perran: The Solution

Nigel: Let the Cull Commence.

Pascoe: That’s the last face those coathangers will ever see.

What will happen when we try to throw out something that actually MATTERS?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Downsize Delay

One more Easter in the family house.
Back in September I announced that we were about to downsize.  Our children have largely left, and we are paying a mortgage on rooms for spiders to live in.
We put our house on the market.  It sold quickly.  Three weeks later, we made a successful offer on a house with which we were absurdly pleased. 
Downsizing had been the right thing to do.  Perhaps we would be moved by Christmas.
By Christmas there had been one false start on the part of our vendors, but no actual progress.  We enjoyed one more Yule in the family house, candles, real fires, mulled wine.  The children returned to university.
“Say goodbye to your bedrooms.  When you come home at Easter, we will be in our new house.”
But then we had one more Easter in our family house.  Hanging round in the warm kitchen, some cooking, others browsing the internet at the farmhouse table.  Looking out at a garden blazing with daffodils and blossom.
Then we had booked the removal company for next week, and have now unbooked them again.
Our vendor shillies and shallies. 
Part of me is losing patience, but part of me can completely understand. 

You see, they are downsizing too.  They too have had one more Christmas, one more Easter.  It is hard to leave. 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Wild Woman

One of the drawbacks of being my age is thermostat problems.
I overheat.  
“Is there anything you can do about it?” asked Nigel as yet again I threw the bedclothes off.
(Tetchily) “Well there’s HRT, but I’m not resorting to that yet.”
“Nothing else?”
(Grumpily) “Soya milk can be natural HRT but it gives me wind.  Oh, and there are herbs that are supposed to help – sage and the like.  One person I knew drank a special menopause tea.  If you wanted to be a loving and helpful husband you could investigate that…”
A few days later, a package postmarked Glastonbury arrived.
The contents looked like pot–pourri.  But the label read “Wise Woman Tea”.  What a tactful name.
When we applied hot water, it seemed to contain a great deal of clover – “Are you calling me a cow?”  It tasted wholesome and herby.  But after a few sips I said,
“It’s no good – I still hate men.”
Later that day, Carenza called, “Mum, do you want some of that Angry Woman Tea?”
At bedtime, Perran said, “There you are – I’ve made you a cup of Mad Woman Tea.”

Finally  we have agreed on a mutually acceptable name for the beverage – it has become my Wild Woman Tea.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Defining Beauty

Photo by Nigel
At my age, gifts are not always welcome:
“Where am I going to put that?”
“I already have one in the cupboard under the stairs.”
“It doesn’t match my waffle iron.”
But a couple of weeks ago, I received a very different gift from Carol.  On hearing we were taking the family for a short break to Athens:
“There is something you must do…”
She recommended an excursion.  I just nodded politely – we were in Athens only three days – did I really want to spend a third of it somewhere else?  But the next day, I received an email from her, giving precise travel details. 
This was a gift horse and I decided not look it in the mouth.  We would follow instructions.
Consequently, on only our second day, we took a metro to the port at Piraeus, ferry to Aegina, negotiated a ticket for the infrequent and decidedly vintage bus, drove up into the hills.
An abiding memory of smooth pruned pistachio trees rising out of a sunshine host of marigolds.
Further, past terraced ranks of silvery olives and ancient Greek whitewashed churches.
Until finally we arrived at a grove scented with pines and carpeted with the asphodel that grows in Elysium itself.
We found ourselves alone there in the presence of the ancient and perfectly proportioned Temple of Aphaea, carved out of creamy limestone.

Thank you, Carol.

Follow me @ClareFHobba

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Cheeky Parcel

A certain feature of student life has been missing from our lives. 
When my father was at university, he could not afford to have his shirts laundered, so would post them to his mother in far-away Cornwall.  After all, she had nothing to do except run a farm. 
When I was at uni, college supplied beat-up twin tubs for laundry.  However, there were no university libraries in Cornwall, so for vacation reading, I used to bundle up a stack of books and post them home.
In previous generations things cost a lot of money while postage was cheap, so if I had left behind a hairbrush or a pair of slippers, Mum would post it on.  Now the equation is different. 
However, this Easter, after our family trip to Athens, Pascoe flew straight back to Edinburgh.  So we still had at home his beloved unicycle, Goldberry, and his fire-juggling equipment (he had visited the National Juggling Conference earlier).  "Obviously", he needed these things in Edinburgh.
The hour had arrived – a student parcel was called for.
I loathe spending time making a parcel secure with yards of sticky tape, and then queuing at the post office, so the task fell to Nigel. 

As you can see, when Pascoe receives the parcel, it will look positively pleased to see him.

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Saturday, 11 April 2015


“Are you going away at Easter?” asked a fellow classics teacher.
But then I blurted, “I’ve never been before.”
He raised a restrained eyebrow: my statement was the equivalent of an English teacher admitting ignorance of Macbeth.
“It’s because I got a bit…superstitious…about Greece.”
The other eyebrow lifted.
“We went to Rhodes when Pascoe was a baby.  He got gastroenteritis.  We ended up in a Greek island hospital. Terrifying…..Fifteen years later, we were about to set off for Crete when Pascoe got a ruptured appendix, peritonitis, and nearly died.  If we’d actually been on Crete, who knows if he’d have survived.”
My colleague had clearly changed his views by now,
“And you’re going again?!?”
Somehow therefore, it was no surprise when Pascoe, Carenza and myself were felled by a mystery, flu-like virus two days before departure.  At least Perran was okay, until, that is,
“Perran, where’s your passport?”
Nigel took a five hour mercy dash down the M4.
Our time in Athens was great, but on our return, there had been a mix-up and our car was trapped deep within the ranks of cars in a storage pound, necessitating not only an extra member of staff but also an expert in logic to get it out, while we waited for hours in the unwelcoming foyer of Stansted.

Meanwhile, Pascoe has seized the chance of a couple of extra days in Athens and has stayed on alone. 

I am trying not to fret.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Easter not as planned

From pancake Tuesday to Easter is Lent.  Traditionally, Christians give up some pleasure over that period.  I relinquished alcohol but wasn’t sure I’d last out, so didn’t broadcast.  Somehow, friends and relatives seemed immediately to sense my decision and began to buy me drinks.  
So for me, Lent began three days late. 
After that I did pretty well and even enjoyed my sobriety.  But I DID slip up several times. 
However, each time, I forgave myself and gave up again.
Easter was fast approaching.  I like to be at home for Easter to take communion in my home church and exchange the sign of peace (a handclasp or embrace) with old friends.  Plus, for later there was a bottle of prosecco chilling in the fridge. 

Easter Sunday dawned bright and the white blossom of our mirabelle tree gleamed against the sky.  But I couldn’t get out of bed, and neither could Carenza or Pascoe. 

We had flu.  Not just a nasty cold.  As soon as I heard Nigel and Perran leave for church, I rolled over and went back to sleep.  If you need a measure of how ill I felt, it didn’t even occur to me to regret the prosecco.

BUT, tomorrow is another day.

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Friday, 3 April 2015

Art Without Kids

Life’s been pretty busy.  A PGCE followed by  NQT teaching has taken up a lot of time, but in the last month or so, I’ve been getting some of my life back.  And yesterday, I got Art Exhibitions back. 
Carenza, knowing how much I admire John Singer Sargent, had spotted an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, so we decided to go.  As we set off, I found myself checking twice that I’d locked the front door - always a symptom that I’m feeling slightly guilty about taking a day out, doing something pleasurable. 
I LOVED the Singer Sargents.  The revelation was not how great his painting was – I already knew that - but just how many important cultural figures he knew socially.  And the fact that he was also an accomplished musician.
“How on earth did he manage it all?” asked Carenza.
I checked the labels for scant biographical information:
“No wife or kids.”
After Singer Sargent, Carenza led me to the white-painted halls of the Saatchi Gallery where we basked in the colour and pattern of the paintings, and were particularly fascinated by a room of tree art.  

Root and branch together.

I am glad both that Singer Sargent had no children to distract him and also that I do have them.