Sunday, 27 September 2015

Into the Woods

The worst thing about decorating is thinking about it.  Just contemplating the upheaval  makes me feel like a lie down.
Carenza was very young when we decorated her last bedroom.  Together, she and I painted her tall bed lipstick pink.  Together we got drips and dribbles on tummies and sleeves.  Together we smeared it all around the house. 
For some reason, this time Carenza favours neutrals.
She picked colours more grown-up than I ever had.  We spent half an hour in Homebase squinting at paints which should have been called magnolia or cream, but, due to the vagaries of fashion, weren’t.
If only her father was as mature as she is. 

However, following touching scenes of Father-Daughter cooperation her new bedroom has been beautifully decorated.
Even the far end of her walk in wardrobe has been papered with trees.  Now all we need to complete the look is a lamppost, some snow, and Mr Tumnus.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Apple Surprise

When we arrived in St Albans it was an Indian Summer and we had inherited a bramley apple tree which showered us with its abundance.  I spent dreamlike weeks in the garden peeling apples and watching our three tiny children scampering about in the sun. 
Eight years later, we moved to another neighbourhood and we had an apple tree again, but it bore fruit only grudgingly.  Then Nigel pruned it and it began to flourish.
In October, we would sometimes have a dessert called Apple Surprise.  Apple Surprise was any pudding which actually contained no apples.  That was the surprise.
But this year we have moved again. 
As yet our garden is a featureless rectangle.  We are focusing on the house so the garden must wait until next year.
Except for one thing – the apple tree.  I came home last week to see a very long cardboard box on the drive.
Bert the Bramley had arrived and Nigel spent much of Saturday planting him. He then lavished him with compost and flooded him lovingly with water.
 But it will still be two or three years until we can eat apple surprise again.
Which is why it was particularly welcome when Chris and Christine appeared at our door on Sunday with a generous bucket of windfall apples.

Rest assured Chris & Christine, Bert the Bramley was watching and one day he will reward your kindness.

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Friday, 18 September 2015


Ellie is surprised!
As you get older you are harder to surprise, but on the other hand, more and more people seem eager to try.
Last Friday, Ellie thought she was picking her mother up from choir practice to go for a birthday meal.  But we all jumped out from a darkened hall shouting “Happy Birthday”.
She was happy and astounded.  A successful surprise.
On Saturday, Chip, whose surprise we could not attend, went to the same hall to run through a church service.  Then everybody yelled “Happy Birthday”.
She was delighted and stunned.  A successful surprise.
We couldn't be at Chip’s because I had already booked yet another surprise.  This one was for my family plus old friends David and Carolyn. Would it be successful?
Photo ID was necessary, so Nigel guessed at the Houses of Parliament; Perran, a day out in Calais(!).  Those destinations sounded more interesting than what I actually had planned.  I hoped there would be no disappointment.
Then we took the tube into the City.  Carenza guessed we were going on a tour of ancient Guild Meeting Halls. Oh dear.
We gazed on the outlines of the Gherkin and the Cheese-grater and the Walkie Talkie.  Did we like them or not, dwarfing the much older surrounds?

Then suddenly, we were entering the Walkie Talkie.  Happy as we took the slick lift to the thirty-fifth floor.  Delighted as we poured out into the light of the SkyGarden, a lush public park high above London.  A successful  surprise then.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2015


One disadvantage of middle age is that I sleep poorly.
I long for the far off days when I woke up to a sore ear  - I slept so deeply that I didn’t stir, and my ear would suffer from pressure.
I wake nowadays fractious and craving more kip.
My sleep is shallow and restless.
Or so I thought.
Today I have knocked on four of my neighbours’ doors  to apologise: my car alarm went off in the wee small hours.
Piecing together the neighbours’ politely tetchy comments, it went on for maybe two hours.
I wouldn’t know – I didn’t wake up.
And this is not the first incident: three weeks ago young Kit, who was staying with us, finished his late shift at the restaurant only to find he had no house key with him.  The neighbours heard him banging on our front door, but we didn’t. 
Nor the doorbell.
Nor our mobiles.
He cleverly used social media to locate a friend who was still awake and went to sleep at their house.
“Well,” I said to Nigel, “On the bright side, at least this means I must be getting more sleep than I realised.”

“Yes.  And you’ll be needing it.  You’ve got another seven more neighbours to apologise to.  Off you go.”

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Thursday, 10 September 2015

Sca Fell by Unicycle

Last Friday, Pascoe was leaving us for Cambridge where Caroline would pick him up in her car and drive him and Ian and Michael to camp at Wasdale Head in the Lake District. Camping at Wasdale Head would have been enough by itself for me, but they were planning to unicycle up Scafell with its screes and precipitous drops.
I had scheduled in some fretting, but barely found the time due to starting back to school where I teach Latin.

Confused dreams with Caecilius and Metella unicycling through Pompeii.

The unicycle ride should have been completed on Saturday, but belatedly we discovered that our heroes should never have ventured out in a vehicle with four wheels instead of just one – Caroline’s clutch had gone. 
A day later, they were able to set off again, but we at home did not know that.  Jolly big hills blocked the signal and strangely, internet was not available in the mountains. 

So it was a while before we discovered  that they had achieved their objective safely. 
I would like to say I had been on tenterhooks, but instead I had been worrying about how to explain Quintus’s very short skirt to my year sevens. 

Hopefully, he will never, even in my nightmares, attempt to ride a unicycle in that tunic.

Friday, 4 September 2015

At it Again

This time last year, I encouraged Pascoe in his attempt to ascend Ben Nevis by unicycle.  It reminded me of the TV Ripping Yarn, “Crossing the Andes by Frog”.
And then on the day when it actually happened, I sat and worried.  I had encouraged him.  And now his life was in danger.
But it was okay – he and Caroline and Ian survived.  Triumphed.
When he said that this year it was Scafell, I worried more.  England’s highest mountain is not as tall as Scotland’s, but it is more extreme.  There are screes, gorges, sheer drops.
I shall spend tomorrow distracting myself.
Probably by packing up a parcel of Pascoe’s possessions to send back to him.  Ten days ago he set off for camping with us at Greenbelt, then a conference, at which he was giving a talk about his research.  Then off to camp again in the Lake District.
Funnily enough, by the end of it, his various sets of clothing and equipment had got the better of him and now need posting.
The one thing he was adamant should always go with him was his unicycle – wrapped in a massive bag made out of a long skirt he got from a charity shop – apparently, buses don’t let one travel with a naked unicycle.
May God bless your unicycle, Pascoe, and all who sail in her.  him.  it.   whatever.

I pray it goes well tomorrow.