Thursday, 18 August 2011


   Looking out of the window this morning, my plans to contemplate the garden and possibly even do some work in it were immediately jettisoned and instead I thought I might do some restoration work on George’s room.  Joe arrived at 8.30 in his wellingtons, which he dutifully left by the back door before heading upstairs, and it looked as though the day would be damp but normal.
   All of which was out the window after a phone call at around 9.30.  I nearly didn’t hear the phone, some of the walls in this house are so thick, but when I did, I answered to Suzie Brown, one of the ladies from the poetry group.  I never went to the May meeting, I felt so bad about my calendar poem, and besides, Verity wasn’t around to go with me.  But it seems that I was missed and my minimalistic contributions appreciated.
  “The next meeting is tomorrow, which I know doesn’t leave you much time, but we’d love to see you again.  You could write a haiku – it’s only three lines!  It’s at Claire’s, but it’s really difficult finding her house the first time you go there, so I’ll pick you up just after 7. Okay?”
   I do remember Suzie, she was very enthusiastic about everyone’s poems but it’s probably kinder that way.  So I decided to reciprocate and fall in with her plans.  I don’t see myself as a serious poet so it’s really just another way of being sociable.  Meanwhile, I had to find out what a haiku was.  Three lines sounded plausibly achievable.
   I tried to google it, but wasn’t quite sure which site would be the most helpful.  Fortunately, Joe came down for his coffee break so I was able to ask him for his opinion.
   “Yes, haiku would be easier for a beginner.  Three lines, no rhymes, just a syllable count.  Of course, getting the turn in could be harder, but it’ll come with practice.”
   No rhyming sounded promising but I was a bit worried about this turn business.  Joe helped me find a page on Wikipedia, which explained what the rules of haiku are and then went on to say that there aren’t any rules in English haiku. I sighed heavily and Joe said, “Perhaps you should just start to read some other poetry and engage with poets generally.”  He set up some bookmarks for me for a few people and places that he’s come across -,, and and then grabbed the last of the cherry oatmeal cookies before heading back upstairs.  I’ve had a look around, but this is my best effort so far.  Not sure what tomorrow evening’s response will be.

Unending raindrops
cascade to patio pools.
Summer? I think not.

Friday, 12 August 2011


   Life has continued through this section of the so-called summer in much the same way: people returning tanned from their holidays while others drop off keys for the purposes of feeding pets while they’re away, and Verity still isn’t back.  I sent her an email but she is either off-line or too busy/embarrassed to reply.  I’ve been hoping it’s embarrassment stopping her, but I’ve a growing suspicion that she’s just having too much fun to answer.
   Being in a village, we’ve followed the news from the various cities with mixed horror and fear for friends and relatives who live within a twenty mile radius of the trouble-spots.  While Celeste is in Spain, I know not to worry about her, but I had to phone George on Monday because he moves around so much, he could be anywhere.  The phone rang for a while before he answered, filling my heart with trepidation, but when he did finally reply, it was clear from the background noise that it was just because he hadn’t heard it ring above the racket.
   “Are you okay?” I asked.  Straight to the point, me.
   “Oh, hello, Mum.  Of course, why wouldn’t I be?”
   “It’s just...”  I started to feel foolish, but a mother’s instinct rules all.  “I wondered, with all the news, where you were?”  Even as I said it, I knew it sounded rather lame, but we mothers just can’t help ourselves, can we?  All those stories about how you never stop worrying about your children, from before they’ve left the womb to whenever, they’re true.
  “What news?  I’m up at the Fringe, in Edinburgh.  It’s brilliant, some great shows.  Not really paying much attention to the news.  Yeah, yeah, it’s okay, just my mum, angsting about nothing I expect.”  The latter was clearly to whoever was next to him, wherever he was.  “Listen, Mum, the show’s about to start, so I’ll call you, okay?”  And he hung up.
  He won’t call me, of course.  I’ll call him.  In a week or so.  Don’t want to disappoint him.
  You might have thought that being in a village we wouldn’t be directly affected.  You’d be right about the ‘directly’ part of that, but indirectly there have been knock-on effects.  As I was coming back from the supermarket yesterday (it was open, I paid for my goods), I saw Joe walking along the lane, on my side of the road with his back to me, so technically on the wrong side of the road.  He’s quite distinctive even from behind, with wavy blond hair below the collar and lacy cuffs (something to do with getting into the feel of the period he’s writing about), so I tooted and pulled up next to him, winding the window down.
   “Hello, Joe.  Do you want a lift?”
   It was almost as though he hadn’t noticed I was there until I spoke.  He looked in at me gloomily.  “No, thanks.  Needed some air.”
    I don’t respond well to gloom, I’m never sure whether to commiserate or not, so instead I tend to ignore it.  “Do you realise you’re walking on the wrong side of the road?  You should be facing oncoming traffic when there’s no pavement.  It’s in the Highway Code.” Well, at least it was, back when I was first riding a bicycle.  It’s probably changed now, but it made good common sense.  However, it didn’t faze Joe.
   “Am I? Never mind.  Alison’s back.”
  From some of our chats over morning coffee, I had already sensed that this would not be a good thing when it happened, so now his gloom was explained.  “I thought she was in New York, or Washington or somewhere, monitoring the American financial mess.”
  “They decided that the financial implications of the riots were more important, plus she’s quite photogenic for the pictures of ‘brave reporter stands among the disenfranchised’ so they brought her back to the UK.  She’s not very pleased.  She’d got tickets to see Cate Blanchett in some Checkhov play, a box even, so she’s stamping around the house and shouting down the phone.”
   “Oh.  Sorry.”  There wasn’t a lot else I could say.
   “I can still hear her from my study, with the door shut and the music turned up loud.  I thought these old houses were supposed to have thick walls.”
   Our conversation – well, Joe’s venting – was interrupted by someone hooting me from behind, and I was rather blocking the road, so I fast-forwarded to the end.  “Look, I know it’s not the same, but you can write in our house.  The kids are both away at the moment and I have stuff to do.  Just bring your laptop up, or your paper and pen, or whatever you use to write with.  In fact, jump in and I’ll take you to Reed House now and you can pick up what you need.”
  For the first time in the conversation, Joe’s face lost some of its darkness.  “That would be brilliant.  Thanks!”  He smiled and got into the car.
  Writing would appear to be more complicated than I thought.  We have collected: a laptop, a flip-chart board, a large white board covered in notes (“Take care not to wipe any of that off” as we loaded it into the car) and a box of books relating to Burke’s Peerage and Debrett’s, as far as I could tell.  I have now installed Joe in Celeste’s room – it’s tidier than George’s – and he is doing whatever it is he does.  He stayed until 5pm yesterday and then re-appeared at 8.30 this morning.  But in some ways it’s like having a child at home again who needs to be looked after, so I’m quite enjoying the tip-toeing round the house and making milk and cookies for elevensies.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Coping with the unexpected

I'm sorry not have posted for a bit but I've been having a bit of a technological crisis here in my lovely village.  I did have a beautiful black shiny new laptop, perched on the edge of the kitchen table on which I was intending to write my blog updates.  Then I entered some sort of debug hell and instead I had a malevolent black inert lump taking up space on the kitchen table.  It had got stuck in some part of its start-up menu and although George assured me via the phone that it would be fine, it wasn't.  I called him back.
   "The screen's still blank apart from the cursor," I wailed down the phone at him.
   He was no use.  "I'll be home in a couple of days, Mum, just leave it."
  I was hardly in a position to do anything else - the OH would have been a little cross had I done what I felt like doing, i.e. thrown the thing across the kitchen, but of course George's couple of days turned into two weeks, while the beast just throbbed blankly at me on the table.  And also of course, when George did drop in, with an airy "Oh, yes, I forgot I was going to sort that out for you" as he disappeared up the stairs to retrieve whatever it was he'd really come home for, it took him all of two minutes to sort the wretched thing out.  I'm pretty certain that he just held one of the buttons down for a bit longer than usual, but I could be wrong.  Anyway, it means my anger with the futility of modern technology has dissipated, much as I wish the humidity would, and I can catch up.
   First of all, Chloe made good her promise to get me along to the Race For Life and we had a lovely day.  There were half a dozen of us, all Chloe's charges, but some of them had been training rather more seriously than I had i.e. they'd been training.  Chloe had decided that in order to get the fitter ones running while allowing the slower ones to walk and yet still keep an eye on us all, that she would run between her various suckers.  Since there were over a thousand racers there altogether, that could have been difficult had it not been for the pink helium-filled balloon that Chloe attached to each of us.  "There," she said, looking around to admire her handiwork, "that's better.  I'll be able to see all of you from miles off!"  We looked at each other a little dubiously, but as it happened, it worked.  Partly because no-one else had balloons tied to them, but it meant that Chloe was able to work her way back through the joggers and walkers and find me trudging along near the back, along with two women with pushchairs.  "Come on, a bit faster, you're doing great!"  Having got me to power-walk a little way down a slope, she jogged off to the next nearest balloon, weaving between the various groups of walkers.  I saw her again, near the end of the race, looking a little less chirpy, but still encouraging me.  "Come on, you can go faster than that!  It's only a little hill!"  It wasn't *only* a little hill, but she is difficult to resist - hence my presence there at all - and I sped up briefly, heading for the level that led to the finish line.  Most others had finished long before and were preparing to pack up, but the atmosphere was still congenial and I am not ruling out entering myself next year.
   More locally, I have to report a successful Summer Show.  Despite the number of my friends who have already deserted the village, there were still enough people left to perform on stage, sell a couple of halls-full of tickets and require a front of house crew.  Which was where I came in.  Bunty telephoned, she of the late Major.
  "Got your number from Isabelle.  Doing anything this weekend?"  That was the conversation after checking she had reached the correct number, word for word.  "Need some chaps to do refreshments for the Summer Show.  Do some of your biscuits.  No nuts."  Still word for word, punctuation mark for punctuation mark.  So I got baking.  You don't argue with an instruction from Bunty, and besides at that point the weather was not so hot that I minded dealing with an open oven.
  And the show was good.  I listened through the hatch in the kitchen at the village hall rather than actively watching it, but the audience were appreciative and laughed at bits that I couldn't see but which were obviously entertaining.  Slightly less entertaining was the moment when the steaming urn set off the smoke alarm in the kitchen, and all the flapping with a tea towel that we could manage wouldn't stop it.  After a few moments of sheer panic in the kitchen and pure professionalism on the stage, Bunty's grandson, who had been drafted in to help sell raffle tickets in the interval, grabbed one of our tea-towels and clambered quickly onto the worktop so that he could reach the smoke alarm and muffle the sound with the cloth.  It squeaked indignantly a couple more times and then subsided, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.  And by the time the interval began, it seemed everyone had forgotten about the interruption already.
  One curious thing to report.  The phone rang at about 11.30 a couple of nights ago.  My heart leapt, the way it does when the phone rings late at night and your children are elsewhere, particularly overseas.  Mummy-mode kicked in and I leapt out of bed to grab the phone.  "Yes?"
   "Mon cher, tu es..."  There was some more French that I didn't quite understand, but I recognised the voice, even through its seductive tones.
   There was a brief pause, and then she muttered in a more normal voice, "Oh, I'm so sorry," audibly blushing, "must have pressed the wrong number on speed-dial," before hanging up.  So I don't know who she meant to call but it sounds as though she's having a good time down in Nice.  She didn't even phone back the following morning!