Monday, December 31, 2007

Oh Lucky Me..

One of the great things about living by the sea is that you can never ignore the weather. I suppose it's the same living close to nature anywhere: in the mountains, beside a river or in the middle of a forest. Anyway, today I walked again by the sea and it was a totally different experience from yesterday. There was not a breath of wind, and the sea was positively pearly. It had a flat sheen, with tiny ripples for waves, and there were occasional sparkles dotted over the pearly water when the sun peeped through the pale silvery clouds. On the horizon there was a dusting of gold light where the sun shone through. It was incredibly beautiful, very calm and clear. When I turned for home, facing west, the sea and sky dissolved into one misty pale blue vista - it was really hard to see where sky ended and sea began. No wonder I walk along singing to myself, even without my iPod, it's always a truly uplifting experience.

Grandson is coming to sleep over with me tonight. I'm not much for New Year celebrations, and will be perfectly happy to watch "Matilda" (again) and have a cuddle with my little darling. I may just take a glass of something later, but nothing excessive. Gay Friend may be calling in for a cup of tea before that, so it will be a cosy afternoon and evening.

Son phoned this morning to say that he and the Girlfriend were on their way to Edinburgh, by train (with some other friends). They have arranged to stay in a friend's flat there and to celebrate Hogmanay in true Scottish style. Not quite sure what that means, but I can imagine it will involve lots of alcohol. I do worry about his liver!

Sister will be arriving early tomorrow morning for our Christmas/New Year get-together. I'm sure to be awake early if Grandson is here, so that will be fine. We can all have breakfast together and then maybe go for a walk if the weather invites us out.

I have heard from my Portuguese client that they are completely happy with the copy I wrote for them before Christmas - this is a first that there are absolutely no revisions. Great news though. He has invited me to send my invoice, so I will!!
And a Happy Hew Year to you All.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

When I go out, the sun goes in..

This morning was glorious again, bright blue sky and no wind, so I decided to do my fast walking early to catch the sun. Sadly, as soon as I got down to the sea, a bank of clouds started to cover the sky. They weren't threatening, but just grey. The sea started out flat and smooth, but by the time I turned for home, it had turned too. I could see the waves picking up, little by little, creeping over the sand and small stones up towards the bank of pebbles that builds up by the promenade. At this time of year, when we have some very high tides, there is always a sprinkling of stones which are thrown over onto the promenade by the waves. I guess that they are swept back onto the beach by the guys who come along every day to collect rubbish and general debris from the beach and promenade. It's a surprisingly tidy place, Hove, actually...

Later, the clouds disappeared and it was a bright blue day again, but as I was invited for lunch downstairs, I couldn't get out in it. My new downstairs neighbour had cooked an organic chicken with gorgeous roast potatoes, and had invited another friend from across the road. It was a nice, cosy lunch, accompanied by pink bubbly, and topped off with a sticky chocolate Nigella dessert and some rum truffles. Rich!
And too dericious. Ah well, the diet will have to start after the New Year.

I bought a Sunday Times on the way back from my walk, and read it over a cup of coffee. Two contrasting stories caught my eye: the terrible fate of the little boy, Archie Lee, who was savagely killed by the family rottweiler in Wakefield, which made me feel physically sick with horror. I can't imagine the awfulness of that accident - and the enduring guilt which will follow those poor people all their lives. Poor little darling, he didn't have a chance. And then I read about the 12 year-old Californian girl who survived a plane crash in Patagonia. She was found, hanging upside down in the wreckage, two days after the plane came down. How amazing that she was not killed. And how her family must have felt - first terrified and then euphoric. How do we make any sense of this? Little Archie died, young Frankie lived. It's a mad, mad world.

Listening to Radio 4 this morning, I heard the best of "I'm sorry I haven't a Clue" which had some absolute gems. One of the best was on alternative dictionary definitions, for example: Definite - street slang for hard of hearing; Onomatopoeia - the first signs of a weak bladder.

This evening I half watched a programme on J.K.Rowling, whom I greatly admire. I know she was a hard-up single parent when she started writing the Harry Potter books, and used to go to her local cafe and sit writing in her notebook, making one cup of coffee last, to save on her heating at home. The interviewer took her back to the flat where she was living with her daughter when she wrote that first book, and it was very emotional. No-one could have doubted how hard that was, and how much she was affected. She and I were both in tears. She may be incredibly rich now, but how richly she deserves every penny!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Past..

Everyone I have spoken to today has been tired - all my friends seem to have poured all their energies into family Christmases, and are now feeling wiped out. I actually sat and sorted out a few bills, checked my credit card receipts (ouch) and tidied up more paper. We have created more paper and packaging rubbish this Christmas than I have seen in a long time; it can't be good for the planet. Our bins are overflowing and I'm planning a trip to the tip in the morning, because our binmen (sorry waste operatives) don't collect again until Monday. I'm also trying to find places for my many presents. I just don't want to add to the stuff in my house, so will have to prune some items. I have to find room for a new, white teddy bear with "Best Mum" embroidered on one foot, a pair of pink spotted (and reversible) slippers which I don't think I'll ever wear, various boxes of chocolates which I'm trying to ignore, gardening sundries, and some very pretty padded, scented hangers. Obviously some of these things are more useful than others. This year I had no soap (I must be looking cleaner), no perfume (must be smelling OK) and no candles (not so dim?). Anyway, my favourite things are my radio, my music and my books - everyone knows I love getting books - and my handbag from Daughter, a lovely white, shapely mug with "M" on it in curly black script, and a gorgeous picture frame from the White Company (chosen and given by my lovely Aristocratic BF). Sorry about the list, but I feel I shouldn't leave anyone out!

Actually, one of the nicest things I received for Christmas was a splendid bouquet from the mother of Grandson's real father. She was utterly mortified when her Son dumped my Daughter with a four-month-old baby, and has since tried to keep in touch with Daughter and to give support and help when she can. She is rather unwell, and so I was very touched when she sent some money to Daughter, asking her to buy me flowers. I understand why she has done it - she would love to be able to see her Grandson and be involved in his life, just to do what I do, but it isn't going to happen. They live up North, and her Son is unlikely to ever change his spots. It's sad for her, but Daughter sends photos and keeps her informed of Grandson's progress. I guess it's the best we can do under the circumstances.

I ventured out this afternoon for a breath of air and to pay my gas and electricity bills (I know I can do this on the phone or on-line, but I do have to get out). It wasn't seaside walking weather, being very blustery and cold. Every time I crossed the road I glanced towards the sea, and it looked very dark and grey, ruffled with white-topped waves. This evening it's raining and very windy, but I'm hoping for a bright morning tomorrow - Daughter and Grandson will be around (thankfully the Boyfriend won't) and we might get down to the beach for a bit of exercise. I'm still hoping that Sister and her Son will find the time to visit this weekend, though I do know that after the festivities everyone needs a bit of quiet time to get over all the sound and fury.

I can hear the wind rising and rattling at my windows, it's time for a festive cup of hot water and a snuggle up in bed with a good book...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I wish I were in love again..

Today it turned into perhaps a more typical family Christmas when we had a bit of a row going on. Daughter came over with Grandson, the Boyfriend and the Boyfriend's daughter. The idea was that they should open the presents they didn't get around to on Christmas day, but it wasn't that simple! As soon as Grandson's drawing easel was unwrapped, the Boyfriend started drawing, not leaving a minute for the children to join in. He is very good at drawing, so I suggested to Daughter that he might leave the children to be creative, rather than showing them how good he was!! This did not go down well, and resulted in a full-blown row, with the Boyfriend taking our comments as criticism, and being very rude in the process. I wasn't happy, Daughter wasn't happy, and it ended up with the Boyfriend leaving. Just great! (Actually, if I'm really honest, I was very glad he left - I had had enough of his conviction that he knows best in every area of life, and of his rudeness.) Anyway, it left Daughter and me with the two children, which was fine, but somehow I know that it will all end up as my fault...

Son and his girlfriend turned up just after this, this afternoon, having spent hours in traffic driving back down from London. I quickly dropped Daughter and the children home, and came back to make supper. It is really lovely to see Son so happy. His new, gorgeous girlfriend seems just perfect (so far) and they laugh and cuddle a lot. I wish I were in love again, in the words of Ella Fitzgerald. Until I see it, I forget how wonderful it is to be in love. Anyway, I'm so pleased for Son, it's about time he had some good luck in relationships. Long may it last.

I read with complete disbelief and sadness that Benazhir Bhutto has been assassinated today. How awful that her comeback to Pakistan should end in this way. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but so many hopes were riding on her return to political life, and I couldn't help hoping that some good might prevail in a dark world. Her enemies will cheer, and think that they have won. But merely ending the physical life of someone who represents the hopes of a nation will not succeed. I do believe that there is a cosmic (or is it karmic?) justice that will prevail. They'll go to hell for that!

I have eaten far too much, and drunk too much too. It will take a couple of weeks of determined discipline and exercise to shift the extra pounds. Ah well, I can't really say that I regret it. Mostly it was all delicious - or should I say dericious.
This needs explaining: some time last year, I had a student from North Korea, who came to me at very short notice from one of the Language Schools. She spoke very little english, but was very pleasant and polite. I only had her for a couple of weeks, and when she had been here for about 5 days, another Student arrived, from Spain. On the first evening that both Students were here, I cooked a roast chicken for supper, with all the trimmings. As we were eating, I noticed that the Korean student was pushing her chicken around the plate, so I asked if she didn't like chicken? "Ah no" she said "I am regetarian." I felt awful, and offered to remove the offending chicken, roasted potatoes and parsnips from her plate, as they had (obviously) been cooked in the chicken fat in the roasting pan. "Oh No!" she said, with emphasis "Is dericious!" Well, of course they were delicious, but hardly regetarian. In fact, she had been eating all the food I cooked, which was decidedly not vegetarian, over the previous five days. No-one had told me that she didn't eat meat. Now, among my friends who know the story, anything we particularly enjoy eating is naturally "dericious".

I'm so enjoying my new radio, and the Jazz station. It's music I love, takes me back to my youth, and I can sing along to it all day. As Terry Wogan is now on holiday for two weeks, it will keep me company in his absence...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Musical Chairs and Musical Beds..

"The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley".. that's for sure. Our Christmas was great, but not quite what had been planned. Son didn't come to stay on Sunday after all; he came by train, with his girlfriend - to borrow the car - and drove back to London with her, so that he could wrap presents and bring his stuff back the next day. I hadn't met this girlfriend before, though had heard about her, and I must say she was as lovely as I had been led to believe. We only saw each other for about 15 minutes, so quite hard to judge, but she was both beautiful and gentle. A great combination.

Anyway, that left me with more time to myself for present wrapping and general preparation. Son arrived back on Christmas Eve morning, alone, and then collected his work friend from the station later. She is called Dhia (not sure about the spelling), a born and bred Australian but from an Asian family. Quite a mixture, but very nice and very easy to get on with. The other couple (two Americans from Texas - not Canadians as I had thought!) didn't get here at all on Christmas Eve. They were apparently too late arriving back from Stockholm, and managed to get a last-minute room at the Inn (the De Vere Grand, actually), because they didn't want to disturb us. In fact after we had eaten, we went to see my Brighton BF and husband for a drink (more drink!!) and to exchange Christmas presents. By the time we got back, downed more Champagne and finished wrapping presies, they could have turned up at 1am and it wouldn't have mattered.

Christmas morning is already a bit of a blur - I was giddy with food preparation: peeling and counting and par-boiling potatoes and parsnips, making stuffing with sausagemeat and creamed marrons (which was just wonderful), stuffing the big bird and getting the whole lot into my two ovens. Daughter was a great help, and got out the Christmas china and silver, laid the table and did the candles, glasses and crackers. The table did look utterly lovely, and we managed to do everything on time. The expected couple didn't turn up until 3pm precisely - just as the food was ready! They came bearing very good champagne and other treats, and we sat down and got on with it in true festive style. Thankfully, everything was hot, cooked, ready and tasted fine. Of course, we didn't get to eat the pudding - by then no-one could stuff another morsel down.

After lunch we opened presents and relaxed - though with eight people it was a bit musical chairs. Son and his friends made cocktails and also drank bourbon and yet more champagne. All too much for me, though Daughter and the Boyfriend joined in too. Grandson didn't, of course, but he was having a fine time playing with his presents and with all the new people. He is very gregarious, and is never phased by new faces. At one point he stood and sang "Twinkle, twinkle little Star" all through, word and note perfect, and got a rousing round of applause. Well deserved!
By this time I was so tired that I sat down and practically fell asleep watching Doctor Who. So I went upstairs for a nap, and felt much better for it. All in all it was a fairly normal Christmas Day, I suppose. How lucky we are to have all our family and friends around us. We carried on with the festivities until about midnight - the young ones playing poker and finishing off the champagne (and anything else that was left). I had some lovely presents: a digital radio from Son (so now I can listen to Jazz, and get instant tuning for my favourite stations), plus a gorgeous book and some John Rutter Carols; a handbag from Daughter, and a book about Audrey Hepburn. Lots of other things too - what a lucky lady.

In the end, we didn't need all the extra bedding from ABF, typical! Son had the double room to himself, and Dhia had the single, which worked out fine. More visitors are expected, unexpectedly, because Son has borrowed the car to go and get his girlfriend, and Son's Best Friend is also possibly coming tomorrow. My Sister may also be coming at the week-end, with her Son, so it could be musical beds next..

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Stocking Up!

I'm pretty pooped. The last few days have been frantic, and it's still not over. I set off on Friday to drive to Kent for a visit with my Aristocratic BF, which I was really looking forward to. The sun was shining in a clear blue sky when I left Hove, but as soon as I was over the Downs, freezing fog came down. It was suddenly dark and creepy, and very cold indeed. The drive took over two hours (it's normally an hour and a quarter) and I arrived, thankfully, just as the sun was setting, before it got dark. Aristocratic BF had invited several neighbours for supper, which was fine. We had champagne and smoked salmon to start with, and then a pheasant casserole with some very strong red wine. The conversation was all country stuff, which I used to be able to join in, but now I feel rather more of a townie. Also, the two couples were what I would call "comfortable" - not exactly smug, but pretty close. They talked about their houses and their investments and their pensions. I didn't feel that I had much to contribute, as I'm semi-retired and not very well off. And I certainly don't have investments or property to compare. After a while, I couldn't stop fidgeting, so I retreated to the kitchen and did the clearing up. It was one way of staying awake! Anyway, I drove back home the next day loaded down with goodies and presents, and with plenty of bedding loaned by ABF for my impending visitors.

This morning Daughter and I made another foray to Sainsbury's for yet more shopping.
I don't know quite why we seem to need so much, but even now we haven't finished. Son came down to borrow the car, stopping for five minutes, and has driven back to London to collect all his stuff and wrap presents. He will be back tomorrow, and his friends will also be arriving sometime tomorrow. The house is clean as a whistle, everything a-sparkle, lovely fresh beds and towels etc. I do hope it will be up to expectations. I've planned the food: a baked gammon for tomorrow evening (we're following Nigella's recipe), with sweet potato and parsnip mash and steamed veg, and a tarte au citron to follow. Christmas Day will be the usual turkey-lurkey with home-made stuffing, little sausage and bacon rolls, roast potatoes and parsnips, sprouts and carrots. (I have bought some of those gorgeous growing sprouts on a stick.) I have also bought a new and rather smart football (Tottenham Hotspur colours)- and there's a method in my madness. My plan is that all the lads can take Grandson down to the Lawns for a game of footie on Christmas morning, after a late breakfast (weather permitting of course), which will leave Daughter and I to get on in the kitchen. Then they can all come back refreshed, just in time to open the wine, lay the table and make themselves generally useful. We don't usually sit down to Christmas Dinner until about 3pm, so that will hopefully work out.

I have just about finished wrapping presents. This is a first; normally I don't start until Christmas Eve, and I'm usually still sitting behind the sofa (so that no-one can see what I'm doing), watching "It's a Wonderful Life" with one eye, until about 1 am on Christmas morning. This year will be different. We will have Son's friends staying, none of whom I know, but I'm quite looking forward to that. I'm listening to Christmas Carols, humming along cheerfully, and just about ready for bed. I must try and fit in "It's a Wonderful Life" tomorrow. I always shed a tear at the end, but Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Shopping.

Oops! I think George Bush might be on to me, because my latest reader is from Washington,D.C! Thankfully I didn't say anything too awful about him - in fact I complimented his nice manners, so perhaps I won't have his spies on my doorstep just yet. It just shows you need to be careful what you write in such a global medium. (OK, I know there are millions of people in Washington who aren't George Bush, but you never know.)

Daughter was utterly wonderful this morning, when she came and sorted out my Blog for me. Anyone can now see my list of favourite Blogs, and my Award, of which I am extremely proud. Plus we also put on a photo of the lovely sunset I raved about a
couple of weeks ago, which was taken by my old Advertising BF. He is now a photographer as well as an Art Director (multi-talented), and just happened to capture that particular one. We had both seen it and been completely blown away, and he happened to have his camera handy. What good luck.

My cold is receding fast, which is another piece of good luck. I wonder if it is anything to do with my 'flu jab, or just my positive good health generally. Anyway, it's great that I feel so much better today, and can rejoin the throng of happy shoppers. Every time I go out, I think of something else I am going to need. And as Son's three friends are definitely going to be staying here from Christmas Eve, I'll probably need industrial quantities of eggs, bacon, beans, croissants, orange juice, smoothies etc etc... That's beside two turkeys, a ham, chipolatas, stuffing, bread sauce, potatoes, parsnips, sausage rolls, smoked salmon, prawns...crackers, party poppers, candles, Christmas pudding, brandy cream.. oh and alcohol.. and we'll be making mince pies, brandy butter, stuffing... Not that Christmas is all about food, I'll be hoping to go to the Carol Service in our local church on Christmas Eve, too. Oh, and bread, milk, Christmas cake...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oh Come, all ye Faithful..

I have been slacking again this week, as far as blogging is concerned - I'm afraid that Christmas cleaning has taken over. As I'm expecting the Orphans of the World to descend, I'm cleaning every inch of the place, bottom to top, washing curtains and bedding, stuffing unsightly items into the loft and lesser things under my bed. I'm sure it's all bad Feng Shui, but I'll sort it out after Christmas.

Son has invited an old friend from work - actually a young woman, but a friend rather than a girlfriend. She is not going home to Australia for Christmas, so will be staying here. Another couple, also friends of Son, will be here on Christmas Day and maybe for longer - also because they come from far-flung places. He is from Canada and his lady friend, whose name is Oceana, comes from somewhere Eastern and exotic. We also have Son's best friend from Cambridge days, who has just separated from his wife of two years (!). They have sold their flat here in Brighton (well Hove, actually) and so he is homeless for the holidays. I could go on, but I don't want to bore you. Of course Daughter and Grandson will be here too, plus the Boyfriend (and the Boyfriend's daughter after Boxing Day), but thankfully, they will not be sleeping here. It's actually rather good fortune that Son's flat sale hasn't quite gone through, or we would have sleeping bags in every room. Why do I need to clean the place if I'm expecting such an invasion? I have no idea, but I had a chat with Sister yesterday evening, and she is doing exactly the same - so maybe it's in the genes..

Just to jolly up the season, I also have a cold. It started last evening when I was entertaining my new neighbour from downstairs. We were both sniffing and sneezing, while drinking bubbly. I suppose there are worse things. This morning the car was due in for a check over, but when I got there, having scraped ice from all the windows, their mechanic was off sick. No joy there then. And now that Son's best friend has dumped a few more things on me (heading for the loft), I'm off to finish my Christmas shopping - no doubt spreading a few diseases with my coughs and sneezes.

This morning on the phone, our Solicitor was telling me how healthy he is because he
cycles the 7 miles to work every day. He reckons it has been about minus 5 degrees for the last week or so, and he sounds fit as a flea. Oh, bah, humbug..

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Talking Aloud..

This morning I caught myself interacting with the Archers Omnibus - it was my first utterance of the day and went something like "Yes it is Shula, you silly cow!" I quite startled myself with this, and realized I was talking out loud, when normally my conversations with myself are more internal. I really must get out more.

Yesterday was a complete write-off because I felt awful, for no particular reason. I had Grandson all day, and we were both a bit off colour. He was grumpy and argumentative, which is not normal at all, and it took me a while to realize that he was tired - I guess because I'm just not used to having a three-year-old around all the time. Once I had realized that, I got him upstairs and he was asleep in about five seconds. I just laid down beside him and dozed too. I'm sure it did us both a power of good. He slept for about 2 hours, and was much more cheerful when he woke up. I didn't feel much better, though I wasn't so tired. I had been invited to two parties,but didn't feel like going anywhere. Fortunately, one of the parties was cancelled, so I only had to let one person down. But as it was a fortieth Birthday party, and in a local pub, I don't imagine I was missed. Sod's Law though, that on the one evening when I'm invited out I just didn't feel like going!

At last I have had a response from my Portuguese client. His email, which I received a couple of days ago, went like this: "In the first reading that i made to the texts i must tell you that i am surprised, and i must gave you congratulations,because it was exactly what we wanted." Now, writing exactly what clients want is my job. I very nearly replied, sharpish, that it was no accident. But then I stopped, thought, and didn't reply immediately. I really am learning not to react too quickly. The good news is that they like the copy, so I sent a very cheerful reply, saying that I was pleased that they were happy. Their comments will come later, but not two days before Christmas, I hope.

Golden Brown seems to be behaving very badly all round. I can hardly credit that he thinks it's OK not to turn up for meetings on Climate Change, or to turn up late, when everyone else has signed and agreed terms, and sulkily put his name on the dotted line. What was his mother thinking when she brought him up without any manners? I have heard, repeatedly, that he is a nasty customer to deal with, and not one to cross. Do we really want someone like this representing our country, showing his lack of breeding to the world. He's heading for the naughty chair if I'm not mistaken. I have to say that even George Bush looks quite cultured by comparison, and that's saying something. He may not be the brightest bulb in the batch, but at least he has decent manners. ..

The house is looking very Christmassy. I've decorated the tree with silver baubles and star lights, and put up a few other bits and pieces. If I was any good at adding photos to my Blog, I would - but I'm hopeless. Some of my fellow Bloggers are brilliant at this, and have put on some gorgeous pictures; snowy gardens, frosty roses and cheery robins. Very festive and seasonal. I still have to put my lights out on the balcony, which always looks lovely. I think I'll wait until Daughter comes over in the morning and do them then.

Friday, December 14, 2007

'Tis the Season to be Jolly.

I may have been slacking for a couple of days, but you will be glad to know that Horsemart is "Keeping me in the Saddle!" Now I haven't a clue either what Horsemart is, or how they got my email address, but I keep getting their newsletter. I wonder if it's a bit of a prank on the part of my Aristocratic BF, because she is decidedly horsey, having owned and run racehorses for years. I'm going to see her next week for a pre-Christmas junket (or pudding and bubbly), so I will ask. I don't think it's her, but she is the only horsey connection I can think of. It's a puzzle!

Daughter's Birthday was a great success; we went to Ikea for the day, and bought her a few goodies. Plus, of course, a few Christmas presies for Grandson. We drank their lovely coffee (and bought some for home consumption) and had lunch too. It was a sunshiny day, and the car behaved itself all the way there and back. We picked up Grandson from Nursery, as he was staying the night with me. That was lovely too, except that I did my usual trick of lying awake and hearing every cough and whimper.
However, he slept until 7am, which was perfect, so I didn't have to crawl out of bed too early.

My next treat was a lovely lunch with my very talented London BF, who whizzed down for a business meeting and managed to fit in a meeting with me, a yummy burger and a glass of rose wine. We exchanged Christmas gifts, caught up with our news, and both said how much we are looking forward to a very different New Year in 2008. All good things are coming our way, and that's a fact...

I really must thank all my readers and other Bloggers who make such nice comments and who are interested in what I get up to - they are also ever-ready to help with any problems or to pass on words of encouragement and wisdom. It's a very real community, which I didn't expect, and which I am so pleased to be a part of.

I'm looking after Grandson again tomorrow, because Daughter has been having extended Birthday celebrations. She is going out tonight with several of her old Cambridge buddies who now live in Brighton. They are going clubbing and she is staying out for the night, while the Boyfriend does duty as babysitter. Grandson is being delivered to me at 8am, so I had better look lively in the morning. I'm still writing Christmas cards, putting up decorations and Christmas lights and wrapping presents. (Well to be truthful, my wrapping is only done on a "need it now" basis.) I'm hoping that tomorrow I can get a bit more done, depending on how active Grandson wants to be. This morning we went to his Nursery Christmas event - they were doing a special Dance Class to which parents were invited, and it was a delight. I did remember to take tissues, but couldn't find one when I needed it - and of course we all needed one. The children really enjoyed themselves, and were so surprised when we applauded them - it was their first public appearance. Grandson was, of course, the star of the show, though I may be slightly biased.

The end of Dombey and Son, and I love it when even the worst characters are included in the happy ending. Mr Dombey really did not deserve to be so loved by Florence, or to be presented with a grandson, but there you are: Dickens was a true humanitarian, and gave his characters the benefit of the doubt, mostly. I was completely wrong about Walter Gay, who was happily accepted by Florence, but right about Carker's sticky end. I do wonder what happened to proud Mrs. Dombey, but perhaps I missed that bit.

My French Lady is here again for the weekend, and will be off teaching at the European School of Animal Osteopathy tomorrow at the crack of dawn. Come to think of it, maybe Horsemart comes from her? Though if it did, it would be in French I guess.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dem Bones Dem Bones: Best Blogging Buddies award!

Dem Bones Dem Bones: Best Blogging Buddies award!

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas..

I have been the slowest of slowcoaches today. For some reason I couldn't get going,
though I did my fast walking first thing this morning, and that was fine. There was a mackerel sky, flat and patterned with pale grey clouds on a pale orange horizon. It was lovely, and the sea was flat too; quite a change from yesterday's two-metre- high waves which were really scary. But when I got back, I just couldn't motivate myself to shower, dress and scurry out for the Christmas shopping, which was what I'd planned. I fiddled and faddled about, writing lists, making coffee and wrapping eBay things to post. I finally left the house at 12.30! Not exactly an early start!

Then I couldn't focus - I had my list, and some things to return, but nothing made any sense. I had asked Son what he wants for Christmas, and he said nothing, as usual. Daughter is more or less done because she always knows what she wants. But what am I going to buy for everyone else? After several hours of looking, all I got was hot and bothered in all the overheated shops. I did buy a few things, but don't hold out much hope that they're going to be right. Why do we put ourselves through this every year?

In the end I gave up and walked down to the sea to sit in my favourite beach cafe and drink a cup of tea with KT (mother of Hon. Grandaughter),who works there. The sea was smooth and flat, the sun was shining and the sky was a glorious blue with jet trails painting enticing lines towards the golden horizon. We sat very comfortably enjoying the view, and mused on Christmas and the impossibility of thinking of anything to buy, or even anything we want! They are off to Majorca for Christmas, to join her Mother and Stepfather who live there. Sounds perfect to me - I wish I was escaping too..

Daughter's Birthday tomorrow. Today she and the Boyfriend drove to Surrey to start looking for places to rent - they took Grandson, and had quite a good day. She said that Grandson was very businesslike; he tucked the details under his little arm, and had a polite word for all the Estate Agents they met. I do hope they find somewhere lovely to live.

Dombey and Son lived up to expectations this morning. It was quite exciting when Rob the Grinder was forcibly fed rum, and gave the game away. (I was right about Carker and Mrs Dombey, by the way ). Walter Gay has ideas above his station, see if he doesn't. And Mr. Dombey will come to a bad end, as sure as night follows day.

I have just eaten a forbidden truffle - very naughty but worth it - and am now going to send some e-cards for Christmas. There has been no word from my Portuguese client about the copy I sent him last week. This is typical of course - clients often give false deadlines because they don't think you'll deliver the work on time. I'm only hoping he doesn't come up with "urgent" revisions a couple of days before the holidays. That would be just my luck.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Life in the Fast Lane!

Daughter and I are back on easy terms again - that's the funny thing about family arguments, after a very short while you just can't remember what all the fuss was about. Anyway, we got together this morning to return one of her presents to Zara (a t-shirt with the sequins falling off) and replaced it with a t-shirt without sequins. Next we wandered round Habitat looking at picture frames to fit Grandson's Christmas photos, and then we had a really frothy cappucino in the Border's Coffee Shop. It's odd not having any work to do after last week.

This morning on Dombey and Son, I could feel all the loose ends being gradually pulled together. The fact that Dickens wrote his stories in parts, which were published either weekly or monthly, means that they lend themselves perfectly to being serialized (and the radio is the best medium, I think, because we create our own pictures to fit the characters and the descriptions). Walter Gay came back from the dead at the end of today's episode, which I was sort-of expecting anyway. It's a good Dickens device for putting the cat among the pigeons, and since there was no telephone or any other kind of immediate communication, these happenings were quite acceptable. News certainly didn't travel fast in those days. Carker has disappeared, with a yellow flower in his buttonhole (I wonder if Mrs Dombey might be the cause of that?), and Mr Dombey is about to fall, or be tripped up. Next instalment please!

Later this afternoon, I went with Daughter to see her Doctor about the aftermath of her treatment for pre-cancerous cells in the cervix. Poor thing, she has been bleeding constantly since the procedure was done - a couple of months ago - with a break of only two or three days. No wonder she is looking pale. Her Doctor was extremely nice, and is proposing some treatment. He has given her more antibiotics in case the continued bleeding and discharge are caused by another infection, and will do a physical examination on Friday, to see if anything is amiss. He said he doesn't think that there's anything bad to worry about - just that it's sensible to check things out. I have been saying this to Daughter for some time now, but I don't think she wanted to listen, or to do anything about it. I don't blame her at all, because the whole business is pretty unpleasant, but it's potentially too serious to ignore.

Heaven knows why, but I'm really tired this evening. I have written some more Christmas cards and added a few things to my Christmas List. Nothing exactly taxing.
Perhaps it was watching Nigella producing her Express Christmas goodies in such an effortlessly casual way! I'm sure it can't be as easy as it looks, but I might have a go at her spiced peaches and ham - and the gorgeous fudge with crushed pistachios. Tomorrow I'm planning to get most of my Christmas Shopping done - and Wednesday is Daughter's Birthday, so that will be devoted to giving her a nice day. She will be 26! The Boyfriend is taking her out for dinner, so I'll have Grandson here for the night. Ooh goody, an excuse for a lovely cuddle.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Like Lambs to the Slaughter.

The singing continued this morning when Hon. Grandaughter and I looked out of the window and saw the weather - it was lashing down with rain (and hail), and blowing a gale. We both started singing "Oh, the weather outside is frightful". Let it snow, indeed. So we didn't go and buy another goldfish, which was what she wanted to do. In fact we didn't do much except get a bit of shopping in Tesco's (she chose Twiglets and a magazine) and go to a local Artist's studio to pick up the things I bought on my Christmas shopping trip yesterday. We tried to visit BBF's two cats, but having dropped the key in the coal-hole in the dark yesterday evening, I also discovered that the front door had been double-locked, so couldn't get in anyway. BBF and her husband are in New York for a few days as a belated Anniversary treat, and someone else is feeding the cats, so it wasn't critical, just frustrating.

This morning I was mortified to hear that Advertising is the latest target for a Ministerial enquiry. Now it will be "A Copywriter's place is in the Wrong." Actually, I agree with this in principle. I do think it's appalling that children (or their parents) should be persuaded to buy the rubbish we see advertised on TV generally, and especially what's being put out during Childrens' programmes. How much attention they actually pay to Advertising, I'm not sure, but I do think that both clients and Agencies have got away with too much for too long. I have always tried to be ethical and responsible in what I have written over the years, and often refused to work on things that I didn't approve of. I'm not sure that it actually made much difference but it made me feel better about myself. I wouldn't work on cigarette ads, for example, although I had smoked when I was younger. I just didn't feel it was right to encourage young people (or any people actually) to smoke.

Talking about being in the wrong (again), Daughter and I had a bit of a run-in last week, while I was working on my Advertising rubbish. She and Grandson came over to see me on a ghastly rainy morning, and I took a couple of hours off to socialize. When it came time to go, she assumed that I would drive them home and drop them off (which is what I normally do), but I said "Oh no,I must get back to work." This was not what Daughter wanted to hear, and she threw a wobbly which meant that we ended up shouting at each other - with Grandson looking on. I hate that more than anything, and offered to take them anyway, but by then Daughter was in full flood and couldn't stop herself. It spoiled a perfectly nice couple of hours, and I shouted after her "Don't take it out on that boy." But, of course, I still felt that I was in the wrong - even though I knew that I was being perfectly reasonable - and I was working and she wasn't!

There was a programme on Radio 4 this morning about Farmers and how they slaughter their animals. I didn't really want to listen, but found I couldn't turn it off. One Farmer was explaining how he is commercially viable because he sends something like 400 or 500 lambs in one go, in a lorry down to Dorset (from Yorkshire), to be slaughtered for the overseas market. It must be a hellish journey for those lambs -
and their poor mothers must wonder where they have all disappeared to.

My reader in Red Deer, Alberta has actually been in touch, and I have now read her Blog, which is just amazing. I know that we all have different lives and different stories, but hers is so outside my comprehension, and so painful to read, that I felt a physical reaction as I tried to absorb what she had written. Nothing that I have experienced can begin to compare with what she has endured and survived. I felt that I was intruding on something utterly private, but I also understood that writing it down was helping her to come to terms with it. Full of admiration for her bravery, full of sadness for her suffering, and feeling utterly inadequate, I'm going to bed.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Up with the Starlings..

Heaven knows why, but I was wide awake at six o'clock this morning. I did a quick hop and skip to my "on-suit" loo, and then an even quicker one back to bed - it was freezing out there. Then I lay under the cosy duvet expecting to drop off again. But no. An hour later I was still awake, making lists of Christmas things in my head - what food to buy and make, what presents to choose for friends etc.. And then I suddenly realized. I 'm excited! Not only that, but I'm happy and excited. I was singing songs to myself under the bedclothes, just like I did as a girl (when to poke your nose above the eiderdown was to practically get it frozen off, and the insides of the windows were decorated with icy ferns!). Anyway, there I was singing away cheerfully ("My Blue Heaven" followed by "It's the most Wonderful time of the Year" since you ask) and looking forward to getting on with the day. So now I'm sitting here with a lovely hot cup of tea, and looking forward to shopping! Who'd a thought it...

I was in the kitchen making my tea, when I looked out and saw dark dotted skeins of starlings, looping their way back from the Pier to wherever they hang out all day.
When I first came here, five years ago, I used to walk or cycle down to the pier at sunset, just to see this marvellous display: thousands of birds swooping around the old West Pier in amazingly co-ordinated flying manoeuvres, making fantastic patterns in the sky. Sadly, thousands of them were killed when someone set fire to the old Pier, four years ago. Apparently they wouldn't leave their old roosting place and so were burnt alive! Horrible.

Talking of early risers, I was chatting to our Solicitor yesterday and he told me that his alarm goes off at 4.45 AM every working day! He leaves for work an hour later, and cycles the 7 miles to Braintree. He was saying how much he looks forward to the Christmas break - he still wakes up early, but just rolls over and goes back to sleep again, presumably with a smile on his face. Simple pleasures.

I completely forgot to mention the Interest Rate cut on Thursday, probably because I was immersed in the work. Oh, but it does make me angry. This cut is so long overdue and the bastards have only done it now to avoid the real possibility of a financial crash: heaven forfend that it might hit their pockets. I don't know how the greedy bastards sleep at night. I was talking to Son about it on the phone, and his opinion was "F*** 'em." Succinct and to the point, I think.

This scandal with the Darwins is quite surreal. Now it emerges he was hiding out in another part of the "marital home" and nipped back and forth between the two, through a hole in the back of a wardrobe, making himself scarce when either of the sons was coming home. How bizarre! Mrs Darwin must have been completely potty about him to go along with that one. And I perfectly understand that the sons must feel both angry and betrayed. Real life is certainly stranger than fiction - and it's going to make the most wonderful film, isn't it?

Yesterday in Dombey and Son - oh catastrophe: Florence has left the house 'forever', weeping and in a terrible state, the new Mrs Dombey has swept out haughtily, as is her wont, and poor, brave Susan Nipper has been thrown out! Mr Dombey is left to ponder, in solitary splendour. Not that introspection or self-examination have ever seemed to trouble him, but I wonder what's next. This is one of the Dickens novels I haven't read before, so I'm waiting with bated breath for Monday's episode.

Finally, just heard on the news that a Religious Think Tank (now that is a contradiction in terms) has discovered that most young people haven't a clue where Jesus was born! Why they would be asking the question I don't know, except that it's topical in the run up to Christmas, I suppose. Do we need reminding?

Catching up...

My reward today for my week of endeavour was a gorgeous walk along by the sea. It was very rough, with huge waves crashing dramatically onto the sand and shingle. The sun was shining, although the sea was a beaten-pewter grey, and there was a sheen on the water's edge. It was very beautiful and the small stones on the waterline glittered like little jewels. I picked up a small, perfectly smooth oval of sea-scoured glass; it is a pale duck-egg colour with a frosted finish - quite lovely - and has been added to my collection.

I met up with one of my BBFs for an indulgent cup of coffee and a chat. I listened enthralled as she described a visit from her sister and her sister's new boyfriend (though at our ages, I think the word 'boyfriend' is a bit twee). It was great to hear how they met, and how he seems to be completely besotted with her. Aahh..

Christmas shopping is rearing its ugly head - not that I hate it, quite the reverse - it's just that I haven't done any and know I will have to catch up next week. If I throw money at it, I'll probably be OK. It is also Daughter's birthday next week, on Wednesday. She will be 26 and I have offered to take her out for the day - probably for some shopping. We did shop for her a bit in the week. She chose some trainers from TK Maxx (great value) and a couple of things from Zara (ditto). The thing about Daughter is that I seriously doubt sometimes if she belongs to me, because she loves
Shopping (with a capital S). I hate it, unless I've got lots of time and money to spend, and that seldom happens these days. Anyway, I'll do the parental thing and spoil her for the day I expect. Which reminds me: she telephoned this evening to say that she had had a Birthday card from her Father. Just that - a Birthday card! I still marvel at his ability to be mean, even after all this time and from this distance (he's in New Zealand), but I know it's hurtful to her - and it's probably meant to be. Oh shit - I'll be making up for it, as usual. And that's fine, but I do wonder when (or if) he will ever wake up to the fact that he has two great children, and that one of life's joys is to give to them, not excessively, but on occasions like this, and simply because you love them.

My copy has been sent, dutifully and on time, to my client in Portugal. I expect I will hear back from him with some revisions, but that's fine. It's a great feeling when I press that 'send' button, having written, re-written, edited and re-edited.
It's never perfect, but I hope he will like it. I work on the Oscar Wilde principle that it takes longer to write something shorter: like a poem, a good piece of copy should say everything it needs to say in the least possible number of words. I was good at 'precis' when I was at Grammar School, so I guess that's where I learned the skill. It has been my bread and butter for a long time - and aren't I lucky that it's something I enjoy doing?

Another weekend - and I have honorary Grandaughter tomorrow for the night. I haven't seen her since before half term, so it will be a delight to catch up on her news. I have bought her a Bratz Advent Calendar (is that a contradiction in terms?) and she will have eight days of chocolates to eat! Supper will be sausages and mash with petit pois, followed by chocolate ice-cream for dessert. This menu never varies when she comes to me, and I usually try and make a face out of the sausages and mash and peas, with the judicious addition of some ketchup for a nose or eyes. We have been through all the characters in Harry Potter, Father Christmas (who had a mashed potato beard) and anyone else I can dream up. I expect she will grow out of it soon, but it's fun while it lasts...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thursday's Miscellany.

I have to welcome two new readers today - one from Red Deer, Alberta and the second from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. How romantic North America is - one thinks of pioneers, covered wagons, Indians and frozen lakes. And those names conjure up vivid images: Canadian buckskin and American oak stands with distant views. I know I'm susceptible to such romanticism, and I love it. It takes me away on dreamlike journeys to the ends of the earth and I couldn't enjoy it more if it was real!

Dombey and Son has had me enraptured for the past two weeks, on Radio 4 in the mornings. Dickens is a huge favourite of mine, and we share a birthday, (though not our ages, Billy, before you say it!). The bleak, spare perfection of his descriptions
and the intimate insight we have into his characters has me mesmerised. I have cried for young Paul, ached for Florence and longed for the come-uppance of Carker. Will Fred Gay re-appear? Who is the mystery woman? Anyway, it's wonderful. This morning Mr Dombey actually said "Mrs. Dombey doesn't understand me." I wonder if this was the first recorded instance of this statement?

Poor Nigella. Everyone seems to be having a pop at her on the weight question. I think she's marvellous, and looks just perfect. (Of course her father is Nigel Lawson, ex-Chancellor from the 1980s, and apparently still going strong as some Lord or other.) In my opinion, she's a great role model: she looks wonderful, very curvy and natural, she loves food and she can cook. And she has a fabulous social life - what more could anyone ask? Of course, the fact that she's married to Charlie Saatchi could be a bit of a downer. I notice he never appears at her dinner parties on TV (and I would recognise him). I wonder why?

Heard this morning on Terry Wogan - there's a man in Argentina campaigning for ugly people to pay less tax so that they can feel better about themselves!! Can someone please explain this to me - I just don't get it.

Parting words from Sir Tel today, "Go easy on the sherry trifle this Christmas." There's no answer to that..

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Coming up for Air.

Well, it's mostly perspiration this week - lots to be written in a short space of time. Thankfully, it's going pretty well; I have three pieces of copy more-or-less written and two drafts. I have two more days to go, so that should do it.

I turn the radio on, or listen to music, while I'm working and it seems to add to my concentration rather than the reverse. I remember that I used to listen to Mozart while I was writing essays for my degree, and that seemed to help too. This morning I laughed when I heard about the current problem of overcrowding in HM prisons. Not that the subject is funny, but a mental cartoon appeared to me, and I wished, once again, that I could draw. I'll try and describe it: A Judge inclines his head towards a court official and asks a question " Before I pass sentence, do we have any space available for this prisoner?" The court official replies "Yes, your Honour, we have just the one single en-suite room available tonight." It just tickles me to think that prisoners should have the best facilities. I can quite see that getting locked up could be a better prospect than sleeping rough, especially at this time of year. As I walked to the newsagent this evening,I passed a bloke lying in a shop doorway. He was tucked up with a couple of blankets and several newspapers
but I didn't see him until I was right on top of him. Not that he was any kind of threat, but it really made me jump - perhaps I'm getting wobbly in my old age.

Talking about bathrooms, Daughter has been looking on the Internet for places to rent. She and Grandson will be moving out when Son's flat is sold, and they will be moving in with the Boyfriend. Some of the rental property descriptions are laughable - one she noticed said that the Master (they don't bother with the word 'bedroom'), was "on-suit" - obviously nicely dressed. God help us and the English language - or should that be the French - if we are left to the
tender mercies of Estate Agents and their command of the language.

I have been meaning to mention Cranford, which I have been watching with Gay Friend every Sunday evening. It has rather taken the place of our video evenings for the last few weeks. Lovely. We are rather concerned, though, at the rate at which the characters are dropping off their perches. (So is Sir Terry Wogan, who has suggested that Miss Matty might be the prime suspect.) We keep hoping for something sunny to happen, but it seems unlikely. I remember reading Mrs Gaskell as part of my degree course, and thought then that she (and her women characters) certainly lived in a grim world. We have been laughing, though, at the trivial concerns of the Cranford ladies: their bonnets and their frocks, and the cow in its unforgettable undies. It is utterly charming, but also very sharply observed - and she has a wry tonque in her cheek most of the time. Only two more weeks to go, alas..

Monday, December 3, 2007

Inspiration or Perspiration.

I'm afraid it's going to be slim pickens on the Blog this week, as I have had the copywriting work confirmed - yesterday - and they want it finished by Friday! This is typical - clients want your best work, concepts and thoughts, naturally, but they always want them quickly. Throughout the years I have been doing this writing work, it seldom varies. No-one ever seems to understand that your best work, in a creative sense, takes time. The brief goes in, you read all the information, you digest all the facts and then the data has to be processed in your head. Once this has happened (and you can't turn the process off once it has started) creative ideas, solutions and concepts start to appear. Sometimes they flood out, and sometimes it's very slow. (I keep a pad and pen by the bed, because you never know when a genius thought might strike!) And sooner or later, depending on the time available, you end up with a creative idea that fits - hopefully one that's good too. (Even better, one with a twinkle of humour in there somewhere.) I started working on this brief this morning, having digested it fairly thoroughly before I gave them an estimate for the work, so I'm now in the process of Creative Thinking. I love doing it - there is a familiar rhythm to it. I write everything out on paper before I get to the computer,because that's all part of the process. When I see the written words on the page, I know whether they are right or not. Don't know how, I just do. (And before anyone else says it, I know it's only Advertising. It's not going to change the world.)

Of course the other part of the deal is agreeing a price for the work! And that involves a bit of fancy footwork, because clients like to think that they are getting a bargain and I like to think that I'm being paid a reasonable rate for the job. Fair enough. On this occasion, the client (I think) delayed agreeing the price because he wanted to give me the least possible time to earn my crust! Or get the most out of me for the money. That's OK though, I was there before him...

Yesterday I had Son and his friend here enjoying my B & B facilities. I had also got the forms and letters for the Flat Sale ready for him to sign. After it was done, though, we realised that he had possibly signed the wrong box! Our Solicitor was very sanguine about it on the phone this morning - I'm sure it happens all the time. Anyway it has all gone off in the post, and if it's wrong he will just have to do it again.

It's lovely and sunny, but I can't treat myself to a walk by the sea just yet. And I can't sit here rabbiting all day. Back to the old familiar grindstone..

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Those were the days, my Friend..

Well, I'm very popular today. Daughter and Grandson came over for a visit on this sunny morning, and then I had a call from Son to say that he is coming down this evening and can he have a bed. There's a Birthday Party in Brighton tonight, and loads of his friends are descending on the town. When they were on the train I had another call to see if there might be an extra spare bed (there is), so I may well have two, or even three, overnight visitors. As long as one of them is Son, I don't mind who else comes. We have had more stuff from the Solicitor today too: forms and queries relating to the Flat Sale. So I have written replies and put it all ready for Son to sign - it all helps to speed things up. I also had a phone call from our buyer this morning, with a few more questions. And it seems that her buyers are still keen to move before Christmas! Funny how some days are all movement and others, like yesterday, are more or less static.

Last night I had a phone call from my dear old Drummer Friend - he had read my blog when I sent him the link, and had been trying to email me. It didn't help that he had the wrong email address, so we sorted that out. We were reminiscing about times past, music, old friends, and everything we used to have in common. Neither of us can really believe that we're not still the lively, lovely young things we once were, with all the energy and optimism of youth. And the innocence. Where did all those years go, and how did we get to where we are now? In fact, in my head, I'm still that elfin girl with her collar turned up, laughing as we all revolved in that revolving door one dark, rainy night in Romford. Terry, Graham and me.

This morning I was listening to reports of the latest riots in Paris, and I wondered (not for the first time) why it is that we don't revolt in this country? The people of France are always ready to stand up and be counted when they don't agree with Authority or policies. And they very often achieve their aims - they just don't take no for an answer. Here, we may be privately revolting (!), but we seldom actually do anything about it. Why? You would think, with all the recent dodgy stuff around the Government and the obviously suspect activity which senior Cabinet members and Politicians seem to be indulging in, that there would be public outcry.Far from it. We are a nation of procrastinators. We haver (to use a Scottish word). And as a result, we have the Government we deserve. It's pathetic.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Bless this Mouse.

Last night was the first time for ages that Grandson has slept through with me. When he stays here he usually manages to keep me awake most of the night and then gets up at about 5 am. But last night he didn't really wake me, just coughed a couple of times, and didn't come in until 7.15 this morning. It probably helped that my Swiss/German departed yesterday evening, so Grandson had his room back. Anyway, the result was that I was full of beans this morning and perfectly happy to rustle around, do breakfast and drive him to Nursery. He always goes in very cheerfully, and this morning popped his little head back around the screen to ask for another kiss before I left. What a sweetie.

When I got back home, I had a call from Son to say that they didn't get the flat they had offered on. He didn't sound too upset, if anything he was philosophical about it. He was more concerned that his card had been cloned and some low-life had been spending hundreds of pounds (or Euros) on it in Rome. Luckily the Bank had sorted it out quickly - apparently this is happening a lot these days. He told our lovely Bank Manager about the elusive flat, and she had said the same as me: "Don't worry, the right place will come along at the right time."

I then took a day off and drove into the country to see my Bosham BF (who is another old Advertising friend). It was lashing rain again, so I didn't feel that I was missing much here. I love going to her country house (this is their house in the woods in the middle of National Trust land, not in Bosham)- it's a very old, beamed job, which is at the end of a very long woodland track and looks as if it has been planted in the ground. It's the perfect country retreat and is also very comfortable and beautifully put together. She is an artist, so there are lots of her paintings around the house, but she also has the light touch of an artist which shows in the lovely soft colours and furniture piled with comfy throws and cushions: and in the chalky bluey, greeny, grey of the paintwork. She cooks like an artist too, wonderfully simple food which she seems to throw together and which always looks as good as it tastes. Today we had fresh coffee when I arrived, and then a chicken and bacon salad with pine nuts and a deceptively simple dressing. Plus a glass of cold white wine. Oh, and she had made some bread too! See what I mean? While we were eating lunch, looking out at her garden and the birds eating their lunch, there was an insistent knocking coming from somewhere behind us. After a while I said "What's that sound?" "Oh, it's the mouse", she said. Oh, OK - apparently they have this little field mouse who regularly comes into their kitchen looking for food (and who can blame it).It always gets stuck behind the same panel below the dishwasher - hence the knocking sound - so they put down humane mouse traps to catch it. Then they empty the trap in the garden so that the mouse can escape. And then he comes back again next day looking for food! Bless that mouse.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Filling in Time.

Can't believe I didn't get around to writing anything yesterday - I don't know what I did with the day, but it wasn't anything very productive. The semi-exciting news is that Son and his friend have found a flat in London that they would like to buy. This means that the pace will quicken I imagine, as they have put in an offer and are waiting to see if it will be accepted. I'm glad it's not me dealing with Estate Agents in London (or anywhere else, come to that)..

I'm very cross that I seem to be gradually putting on weight again - especially after my triumph with Weightwatchers last year. I know it's my own fault, but I only have to look at a biscuit and my resolve is in shreds. I even had a cream tea when I was out the other day - and there really is no excuse for that. I just wish I could eat anything I liked and stay thin - just like I used to do. Son has that type of physique: he can eat as much as he likes and not gain an ounce. My Dad used to say that I could eat half the turkey (and often I did) and still look like a stick. Oh for those bygone days.

My eBay activities are taking up quite a lot of time too, so double whammy on the computer. This is sitting down time, so maybe that is adding to my avoirdupoids? The weather doesn't help either, as it was lashing rain all day yesterday and again this morning. I have to nip out later and post an eBay item, and renew my parking permit, so that will be a bit of enforced exercise. I will also get a bit more running about because Grandson is coming to stay the night with me too, as Daughter and the Boyfriend are going out this evening to see someone called Bill Bailey. Apparently he is a stand-up comedian. Funny, but I just can't bear Stand-up comedy. I don't find it funny (?) and it makes me squirm - rather like Brass Bands, the ukelele and Shirley Bassey - these are all things I have to turn off when they appear either on the TV or radio. But give me an old movie, a poem, a play or some Mozart (or, of course, Terry Wogan) and I'm hooked. Speaking of which, I semi-watched most of "My Cousin Vinny" again last night, while sewing and doing my nails, simply because there was nothing else I remotely wanted to watch, and he was keeping me company.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Remembrance of Things Past..

I have been reminded about my ex-husband today, and about how I felt when he did the dirty deed. The fact that he went off with my secretary was very hurtful, particularly because I had assumed (quite wrongly of course) that she would be loyal to me! Ho, ho, ho. What had apparently appealed to her, and what she wanted for herself, was our "lifestyle" - God help us. We both worked in Advertising and were pretty successful and happy, so, yes, we did have a nice life. But we did work pretty hard for it. Anyway, when I became pregnant and later left the Agency, she went to work for my (then) husband. I didn't think anything of this at the time, but was made aware later that she was quite definitely angling to get him. After Son was born, and he was a non-sleeper for the first year, life was very stressful and difficult. We were first-time parents without a clue (I guess most people are) and after six months we were like zombies - so tired that we just staggered from day to day and night to night. This was not good for the relationship, and if I'm honest, I knew that Husband wasn't coping at all. I just got on with it, thinking that things would eventually get better, but not him. He wanted to get away, and would leave for work earlier and earlier, and come home later and later. I later learned that she would be waiting in the office for him in the mornings, with a cup of coffee, a sympathetic ear, a shoulder to cry on and presumably all her other body parts at his disposal. The wife is always the last to know, but I knew that he had absented himself in any essential sense long before he actually left.

Actually, he left when Daughter was 2 weeks old, and Son was two years old. He left on New Year's Eve. And all I felt was stupid that I hadn't realized before what a shit he was! After all, anyone who can behave like that and desert a wife and two small children doesn't deserve much in the way of consideration. So, Lulu, that's how I felt about my (now) ex having an 'affair'. It wasn't so much an affair, as an avalanche: a disaster which swept away all our previous hopes and the future lives we had imagined and believed in. Bloody awful - but we all survived and I wouldn't swap my life for his - not for a million pounds. He never really knew his children. He's now on wife number 4 and his "lifestyle" is still intact. I'm living on my own, perfectly happily, and with two wonderful grown-up children whom I'm proud to call my friends.

Oh, and there's a PS, which still makes me laugh. One glorious sunny Saturday morning in May, about 12 years later, I was sitting on my balcony in Cambridge (overlooking the Botanical Gardens) with a cup of coffee, reading the paper and feeling decidedly at peace with the world, when my phone rang. It was my ex-secretary, and she was in a state. "Oh, Margot, 'e 'as dumped me!" This was said in her heavily-french-accented voice. I sat, smiled, and said nothing. She asked if I had heard her."Yes", I said "But surely you didn't expect anything very different from the man who dumped his family for you?" There was a shocked silence at the end of the phone. Perhaps it had never occurred to her before that a leopard doesn't change his spots. Revenge, as they say, is a dish best eaten cold..

Monday, November 26, 2007

Famous people I have (almost) known..

I have taken so long reading other people's Blogs today that I feel rather depleted. It's amazing - there is so much talent out there, and it's so varied. People's lives are so very interesting and so very different. 'Umble is 'ow I feel.

Today I didn't see Daughter as I would normally, because the Boyfriend stayed over. Grandson went to Nursery and they went into town to do some Christmas shopping, which is something I can't begin to think about yet. I know it's not far away, but until the Flat Sale is further forward and we have some dates, I can't seem to concentrate on anything else. I usually get into the Christmas spirit quite early, because I can visualize our family festivities, and I love the whole Christmas thing. This year I'm not quite sure what we'll be doing, or even where we will be.
(I guess I'll also have to get used to not seeing Daughter most days, because she just won't be here.) It's going to be a last-minute Christmas, and a very different New Year.

Two pieces of very sad and bad news last week. My lovely BBF's lovely Mother died last Thursday, which was expected, but was nevertheless dreadfully sad. She was the dearest lady - a lovely Mum who adored her (grown-up) children and was always there
for them. I can't quite believe it, so can imagine how hopeless it is for my BBF. We sat at the Meeting Place yesterday afternoon with cups of tea, just talking and trying to come to terms with it all. We sat and sat, until we were frozen and the sun was setting. It still didn't seem any more acceptable..

The other bad news came from an old friend who is gay and lives in London. He married his partner last year and they have been very happy, but he has now had not one, but two Brain Tumours diagnosed. Apparently they are too deep to operate, so he is going to have chemotherapy to try and shrink them. He is going into Guy's Hospital for three weeks, and I'm sure it will be a difficult and painful time for them both. I will go and visit him - I know how awful it is when people disappear into the woodwork - but will probably wait until we see how he responds to the treatment. I was lucky in that my tumour was operable, and that I didn't have to have chemo. (Lucky!) Everything is relative, and when he needs me, I'll be there.

It seems that Kenneth Clarke (does he have an 'e'?) agrees with me that the blame for our present economical ills rests firmly at Golden Brown's door, since he was so recently Chancellor of the Exchequer. On the radio yesterday morning, he also agreed that too much information about all of us is being collected by the Government. Graham Le Saux (an intelligent footballer) put it very succinctly "It's a Trust issue. We (the British people) are losing Trust in the Government." This issue, that the Government is collecting more and more information about us, and sadly can't be trusted to keep that information safe, is something that should concern us all. What is the Inland Revenue doing with all that data anyway? (Apart from losing it.) I dread to think.

Dear old Terry Wogan set me off down memory lane again this morning, when he mentioned Brut and 'Enry Cooper. In my previous existence as a Copywriter, one of the jobs I had was with Faberge's London Agency. Every year they held a great star-studded Jamboree where all their famous "Directors" came to publicise and support Faberge. As well as Henry Cooper, who was charming, Cary Grant was there. I had always adored Cary Grant - or his image on screen, but was in for a shock. He looked the part, of course, in fact he was completely breathtaking in the flesh. But he was so rude and obnoxious to the 'workers' (and so superficially charming to the VIPs), that we all kept our distance. Perhaps that was what he wanted, but all the other glittering stars were just lovely to us minions. As my Mum used to say, breeding will out..

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Money, money, money..ain't it funny..

So much to write about, so little time. There was a lot of political talk on the radio this morning about Golden Brown and Alastair Darling - and about the fact that, while Golden doesn't own up to anything, Mr Darling (remember him in Peter Pan?) is taking responsibility for the current government problems in his department. How commendable, and how pathetic our Pry (sic) Minister looks by comparison. At least some commentators were saying today that good old Golden started most of these scenarios when he was "in charge", have the scales fallen from their eyes? Can a duck swim? And then there was the talk about Northern Rock: the chief Shareholder is now carping at the possibility that some of their assets might have to be sold off in a dodgy market, and so not make as much money as he thinks they're worth. Did no-one tell him that "when you invest in Shares, the value of your investment may go up or down" ? Funny how it's one rule for 'them' and another for 'us'.

Writing about my Father yesterday reminded me that his name was something which changed all the time. When he was born, he was christened (or so we believe) Jasper Stanley. By the time I remember him, when I was about eight onwards, he was called Jim by everyone, including my Mum. Then, when they had divorced and he was living in London, he was universally known as John - which was quite definitely not his name.
Hence the name of his son, my half-brother, Jeremy John, whom Joan (wicked step-mother) mistakenly assumed she was naming after his father! Quite funny really.

Guess what, I won another £19.50 on Euromillions last night. The prizes are slowly increasing in value, so watch out for a Jackpot coming my way. I spent some of my winnings on a rabbit (dead, not alive) in the Farmers' Market in George Street today. I'm going to casserole it with some cider. Yummy.

Again on the radio this morning, I was listening to Fee Glover talking to a young "Cage Fighter" about what he does for a living. It all sounded rather gruesome and bloody. She asked him how his Mum felt about it, and he said she worries - no kidding - but he has been known to say to her (and I quote) "Don't worry Mum, I'm going to bash him up in a minute." Aah, bless..

Friday, November 23, 2007

Where the dogs come from..

Chihuahua, Mexico is where my latest reader is based - or perhaps my one reader is moving around the world at the speed of light and logging on from time to time? I feel rather like Terry Wogan (I wish) with his one listener. Anyway, this week I have also had visitors from Buenos Aires Argentina, St. Paul Minnesota, Denver Colorado, Fresno California and Cork in Ireland. Welcome you all, and I hope you'll come around again.

I'm not sure how one actually gets new readers, or how they find a Blog? It's a complete mystery to me, and one I wish I could solve. Do I send links to all my friends, far and wide, in the hope that they will pass it on? Or is there some place one can (virtually) visit, which publicises your Blog? I started reading "Wife in the North" after seeing an article about her in the Sunday Times - but of course, not all of us are so well-connected, or so talented! The world of Blogging was a wonderful discovery for me. It's great that there are so many people out there, in the ether, communicating. But who are we communicating with? And how do we attract an audience? Is there anyone out there who knows the answer to this question? Because I don't even know where to go to ask it, except here - and who knows if anyone is listening, or reading? Questions, questions..

I'm writing this in the commercial break - watching "My Cousin Vinny". This has been a favourite film of mine for years - I love Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei is just great.
I can't resist that Brooklyn New York humour, the way they argue for the love of it -and then there is that priceless moment when the judge asks "What is a yout?" (we haven't got there yet tonight). It cracks me up every time.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

There's now't so queer as folk.

Stop, start. Stop, start - this moving business involves quite a lot of hanging around. Everyone is filling in forms and talking to their solicitors. Emails are flying back and forth. Paperwork proliferates. I'm only hoping that we can keep it on track and complete before Christmas. That would be so perfect.

Daughter and I were talking about Grandson and food again today. And I was reminded of my Father's second wife, Joan. She was a strange woman with witchy black hair and a square, jowly face. She also had a pronounced limp because she had one leg shorter than the other, so you could always hear her coming down the hall in the flat. She was clever, in a foxy way, but not very bright. This was not the sort of woman I expected my Dad to end up with, but he reckoned without her wily ways. She spotted him at a vulnerable moment, when he had just returned from Australia (having lost his previous partner to a brain haemorrhage), and set about catching him. She was working as a waitress and he was a Banqueting Manager. Joan was undoubtedly clever, and my Dad wasn't that bright at avoiding women. Anyway, she managed to get pregnant and produced a son, Jeremy John.

Now my Father had always wanted a son - and he had two daughters. We were already grown up, so a young son was completely irresistible. The upshot was, Joan and young Jeremy moved in with my Father, and Sister and I were ousted. They did eventually get married, and we went to the wedding. But the thing I was remembering today, was that Joan had two daughters (younger than we were) and always asked them what they wanted for dinner. This meant that in practise she often cooked two or three different meals every evening. I always thought this was dumb - we had never had a choice of food, and ate practically anything. Still do. But Joan produced three children who were all picky. A rod for her own back. Daughter and I thought this one over, and decided that Grandson is going to grow up eating what everyone else eats. Like it or lump it..

Just to finish the story, when my Father died, Joan obviously decided that she didn't want anything more to do with Sister and me. We tried to keep in touch after the funeral (he was buried in August and my Daughter was born in December 1981), but she was determined to keep us out of their lives. I'm sure she had her reasons.
The end result is that I have a wicked stepmother out there somewhere - if she is still alive - and a half-brother called Jeremy John. He would now be about forty-something. I wonder if I would recognize him?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We're not winning any more...

I've been watching England play (or rather not play) football this evening. What a shower. The frustration of watching them give the game away was almost too much for me, though I did watch until the (extremely) bitter end. David Beckham was our only hope and even he couldn't pull it off single-handed and in the second half. Son was going to Wembley this evening to watch the game, and I sent him a text after the first two goals went in for Croatia "Oh bugger, Son, get on that pitch." I always believe that he could win the game for them. Maybe I'm biased..

Terry Wogan had an amusing comment this morning about Golden Brown's right hand man: "How can you take a politician seriously when he's called Ed Balls." I concur. And I'm less and less impressed with Golden - he's losing what grip he had. I bet he's jolly glad he's no longer in charge of the public purse - disaster is following disaster and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is quite definitely in the firing line.
No-one seems to be mentioning the person who was Chancellor of the Exchequer until quite recently, though. Presumably he's pretending that none of the current global financial problems were anything to do with him. I honestly believe that politicians all think that we, the great British Public, are mentally deficient. Yes, we do know what is happening, and yes, we do blame the politicians who are supposed to be in charge. And no, Golden, none of us voted for you to be the new Pry Minister, (has anyone else noticed the new pronunciation?) and we're not likely to do so any time soon.

Last night was another wakeful one for yours truly. Grandson opted to tuck in with me, and so I didn't get much sleep. Amazingly, he broke his previous record (5.30am) and woke at 4.30am!!! I just don't get it - he sleeps at home until 7.30 sometimes, but I've never been that lucky when he stays with me. At 5am I went downstairs and made him some warm milk and a piece of toast because he said he was hungry. He did
scoff the lot, but whereas I thought he would then go back to sleep, he seemed quite happy to lie there awake. We chatted a bit, he told me what a good boy he was, and we had a lovely cuddle. I stuck it out until 6.15 and then sent him in to his Mum.
She had had a lovely night's sleep, so I didn't feel guilty. And I went back to sleep for another hour before staggering downstairs to make breakfast for my Student. It was lashing down with rain again, and I could cheerfully have gone back to bed, but no such luck. I'm off to bed now to catch up on those zzzzzzs...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Sky is a hazy shade of Winter.

Spent most of today rushing from pillar to post - not sure what that means, but it describes the day perfectly. This morning had to respond to an eBayer question about something I'm selling, and had to go to the Post Office to get a price for the postage - International to the USA. And I was posting all the completed forms and the Contract for Son to sign and send on. All very important. And had to work out postage for an item already sold on eBay - this time to the Netherlands. And then rushed back, dropping in at Tesco on the way for the odd essential bits of food, to pick up Daughter and Grandson because we had planned to go to Ikea for the day. Phew! By 10.30 I was pretty well pooped. And soaked through.

Then there was the drive to Ikea in pouring rain with lousy visibility. My car steamed up inside, what with all of us breathing all at once (!), and then the rear window wiper packed up. Oh Joy. I would have turned back if I could have. Anyway, we made it in one piece, and of course the rain stopped the minute we arrived. The coffee and cake were all worth it, and Grandson was so good that we all enjoyed our visit. As soon as we got into the car for the return journey, however, the rain started again, and didn't stop sheeting down until we were safely indoors at this end! Sod's bloody Law. Then there was Grandson's supper to get (actually he made his special scrambled eggs again), Student's supper to cook and supper for Daughter and me. By the time I sat down, it was time to get up again to check the eBay stuff..

On the good side though, my Student took one look at Daughter, who is a looker, and immediately morphed into this rather dopey smiling stranger whom I had certainly never encountered before. Daughter and Grandson are staying here tonight, so I think I'll let her do his breakfast in the morning. I'm ready for a lie-in.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What did you say?

Another bloody awful day, weatherwise, though this morning I did manage to get into town to have my hair cut. It was beginning to look rather 'wet dog', so a cut was overdue. Trevor Sorbie's is a very relaxing place to visit. Apart from the usual fresh coffee or tea, you can have a glass of wine if you want (too early for me), and they offer head massage as part of the shampooing experience. The girl who cuts my hair is called Morgan and is probably about twenty. They're all so confident, and competent, that I'm very impressed. And they're all so gorgeous. It makes me long for the days when I used to swan into Vidal Sassoon in Sloane Street, when I was young and gorgeous too. I could wear what I liked, have my hair any colour I liked, and turn heads wherever I went. Ah well.. I may be invisible now, but I can remember when I wasn't.

The rest of the day has been spent filling in forms and checking details on the Contract for the flat sale. There is so much paperwork - I can't remember that it was this bad only five years ago - but at least we don't have to do the new HIP. Of course it falls to me to do this - Son just doesn't have the time and it would all take far too long if it was left to him.

Ebayers are biting on some of my listed items. Jolly good. It's just great to get rid of some of the stuff I've collected over the years. And it's fun checking out what other people are selling too. Not that I'm tempted to buy anything - the only thing that tempts me now is Designer clothes - fat chance!

Terry Wogan had a lot of fun this morning with the announcement that Hearing Tests could become compulsory for the over fifty-fives. How do they work out this arbitrary age? Does one's hearing automatically fade at this stage? Can't say I've noticed - although Daughter does sometimes say "Mum, you're deaf!" This is usually
when I'm either not concentrating on what she's saying, or not wanting to listen - it's entirely selective as far as I'm concerned. I do remember though, that when Daughter was very young she had quite severe hearing problems. Without me realizing it, she had learned to lip-read at the age of about four. I only discovered this one day when she had her back turned to me and didn't hear me calling her. My voice got louder and louder, until I panicked and shouted - still she didn't hear me. I had to get in front of her, holding onto her arms, before she was aware I was even calling her. When we went to the Doctor, he assured me that this is quite common - children can adapt in the most astonishing ways to a disability. I was appalled that I hadn't noticed, but there it was! She went on to have all sorts of tests and then three lots of gromits before the ears were finally sorted out - and the final set of gromits were done just before she went to University, so the problem persisted for years, and caused her many problems. At one stage, when her 'Glue Ear' was very bad, the specialists were predicting that she would be quite deaf quite soon (I think she was about 10 at the time). Luckily, though, this prognosis proved false and she can now hear perfectly well. But I noticed that when we took Grandson for his hearing test a couple of months ago, she was very nervous! I guess she was reliving her experiences and hoping that the problems hadn't been inherited. No worries - he came through it with flying colours and gave the Doctor a funny look when the old buffer couldn't keep up. No flies on my Grandson!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rainy Sunday Afternoon.

As I sit here typing away, the rain is lashing at my windows. I went out to lunch today with my downstairs neighbour and her friend from across the road, and when we went out it was cold but not too bad. Two hours later (it took that long to get lunch in the pub!) we were soaked from head to toe and buffeted by the wind before we had walked more than a few yards. When the weather comes down here, it doesn't muck about. It was lovely to get indoors and cosy up with a cup of tea.

I have sent off my estimate for doing the writing work for my Portuguese client, and have sat putting yet more things on eBay since then. Also, the flat sale contract arrived yesterday, so we will have to deal with that quickly. It would have been easier if Son had come down for the weekend, but he had other business - Friday he was going to the Queen Elizabeth Hall for some Jazz, and today he was playing football - in this weather! Just like the old days - a bit of rain and wind wouldn't have stopped us back then.

This morning on the steam radio there was a bit about the Queen's 60th Wedding Anniversary. I gather they have put 47 facts about their wedding (or is it 60) on their website. The one that caught my ear was about their wedding cake. Apparently
the ingredients came from Australia because of rationing over here in 1947. How clever of Queenie to get round that one while the rest of us were making do with eggless cake.. But hang on, surely the eggs didn't come all the way from Australia?

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

I was out to dinner last night with a couple of BBFs. It was really great to eat someone else's food for a change. She had cooked a roast chicken with lovely roast potatoes, and we had profiteroles for dessert. (Plus we consumed a bottle of Tesco's finest Cava!) Of course I had to give my Student dinner before I went out - can't neglect my duties, and he polished off his minced beef and mash like lightning. When I was talking about him over our dinner, my old Advertising Friend (BBF's husband) reliably informed me that the Swiss/Germans were the really hard-line Nazis in the War. (He is just about old enough to remember the War, and grew up in the East End of London.) This puts an entirely new complexion on my Student's behaviour: maybe he feels he is dealing with an inferior race, and therefore doesn't see the need to communicate with me. I must be careful with the gas...

Our conversation last night ranged over Foreign Students I have known, Death and Religion! The last two being most the incendiary subjects. My BBF's dear Mum is so very ill, and may not live to see Christmas. It's extraordinary how serious, terminal illness and the prospect of death scares people away. BBF was saying that many of her Mum's friends, and even family members, have disappeared, presumably because they can't face the prospect of Death touching them - they think it's catching. This was exactly my experience when my Brain Tumour was diagnosed. Many of my closest friends, and family, just couldn't cope with it and simply vanished. It was incredibly hurtful, especially since all you really want is someone to sit there and hold your hand while you get through the worst bits. Luckily, I did get through and have lived to tell the tale. BBFs husband was quite fierce about both Death and Religion (something I can't see the point of). He is a late convert to Catholicism, and does wave the flag a bit. It's interesting, though, that he is obviously just as terrified of Death as anyone else. His Religion doesn't seem to be giving him much comfort there.

Over breakfast this morning, I was trying to explain to my Student that I was doing some Advertising work, but - again - his blank expression showed that he didn't understand. I showed him some ads in a magazine to enlighten him. It turns out that Advertising in German is "Werbung". This made me laugh - and I'm positive that I have never heard the word before. Not surprising, I guess, since I can't recall a single memorable Advertising Campaign from Germany - there's "Vorsprung durch Technik" of course, but that was used by an English Agency for obvious reasons: Germans are good at the "technik", but not so hot on the imagination...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Busy, busy..

It's a dreary, dreary rainy Saturday. Luckily I got out into the garden yesterday for a rather belated Autumn tidy-up. I swept the leaves, cut the grass (it's not posh enough to be a lawn) and cleared leaves from my little pond. Sadly, there's only one fish left in there (I think) because I have fished out three dead ones over the last month or so. Not sure what has killed them off, but my biggest one was more than three years old, so I suppose he had had a good run, or swim! I can't be sure if there are any others because there's so much weed in the deep part that I can't see if any little ones are hiding. My frog hasn't been seen for a while, but that's normal. And I do think that my new neighbour's new cats may have been partly guilty for the demise of the fish. Young Thomas the tomcat may be frightening them to death!

Daughter is getting into a panic about moving, and has started packing boxes already. I have promised to go and help her, but I do fear that we may be packing stuff she will eventually throw away. I remember when Son moved to London, he just threw stuff into boxes which are now in my loft. If he ever looks at them again, I'm a monkey's uncle. Anyway, when Daughter finds somewhere, she can have her own boxes of rubbish in her own loft. My time for storing their cast-offs is over. I want my loft back. Actually, I want my loft empty.

Have listed a few more things on eBay, though nothing seems to have aroused much interest. I have such a collection of old pieces of linen, embroidery and lace, and I just don't want to hang on to them any more. It's a cleansing process, getting rid of stuff, and if I can sell them for a few bob it all helps.

I have some more French visitors coming next week: the auntie of one of my friend's neighbours (sort that one out), is coming on Wednesday for three nights. She wants some English conversation as well as B & B. And then next Saturday my French Student's parents are coming over to see how she is getting on in her job and her flat. I haven't seen her since she left a couple of weeks ago, but have had one message and she seems fine. It will be rather nice to have someone to talk to properly; conversation with my current Student is stilted to say the least. Today he had to resort to the dictionary for something or other, but I still couldn't understand what it was.

Some writing work has turned up, for a client in Portugal. They produce and sell high quality bathmats, ranges of towels etc. This time last year I wrote their new Catalogues and some Press Releases, which was pretty lucrative and good fun. This year they have contacted me by email, and seem to have done away with the services of the Designer I worked with last year. This could make the job quite tricky, because she was Portuguese and was able to translate their abysmal efforts at English. I have read through their 'brief',and it's obvious that I will have to do a lot of preliminary work on decoding what they actually mean. They use phrases like 'Young and Sport' and 'Spa-Terapy Hotel!' (the exclamation is theirs) to describe products and have suggested some slogans: 'Getting Up' and 'Surround You' are two examples (which sound quite rude to me). Their favourite is 'Premium Home Living Concept'. But perhaps their best effort is "Bringing a glance of Nature into your everyday Living." It's obvious how much they need me. Come to think of it, 'Premium Home Living Concept' sounds like something Tesco would be selling...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fifty tiny fingers, fifty tiny toes...

Well blow me down, as my Mum used to say, that metaphorical clip round the ear seems to have worked. This morning a smiling Student came down for breakfast. He said good morning. He was extremely polite and pleasant and he even offered to mend the broken dimmer switch in the Dining Room. This is all a great advance on the first half of the week. Physical punishment, even the metaphorical kind, obviously works!!

Daughter and Grandson walked over to see me this morning. Grandson came up the stairs shouting out "Nana", and we had a huge cuddle and a big kiss. He does a very wet kiss, and then wipes his hand across his mouth and says "ugh". He thinks it's so funny. Then we tootled off in the car to see the donkeys and feed them carrots. After feeding the animals, Grandson always has a ride in a trolley, with me pushing him. It's a kind of ritual. We look at the statues and pots, and at the miniature windmills (he's very keen on windmills, large and small). Then we visit the fish in their tanks and he plays with the water features. After this, we say goodbye to the donkeys (and the goats, pigs and chickens) and drive to the other Garden Centre where we have lunch. It was all very relaxed and nice today, with Daughter and I feeling more unwound and more cheerful. And it was another glorious blue-sky day, with the downs looking lovely in their Autumn best. As we drove back over the Dyke, down into Brighton, the sun had turned the sea bright silver. And then this evening as I drove back along the sea front, after dropping them off at home, there was the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen here. There were great banks of cloud looking like a land mass out to sea, and everything was backlit a wonderful rosy colour. At the edge of the clouds was a shaft of gold, and the surface of the sea looked glittering and polished. Actually, it's useless to try and describe it, but it did take my breath away, and I wished I had had my camera with me.

I heard on the news this morning about the quintuplets which have been born to a young Russian woman at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. How on earth those parents are going to cope with five babies I can't imagine. They were born at 26 weeks, and each have their own team of doctors at the hospital. Amazingly, they are all doing well; what a blessing that is. Five girls! Just imagine five of everything at every stage. And five teenagers all at once. I expect the parents will have a lot of help and support, but they will also need all the courage, optimism and strength they can muster. Not to mention a fortune. I wish them the very best of luck..

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No Manners.

Well, that was the absolute pits. He did seem to enjoy the spag. bol. and salad - his plate was practically licked clean - but still no conversation. And then when I went into the kitchen to get dessert, I came back to find that he had vanished, without a word. I sat and waited for a few minutes, and then called up the stairs to him. He came down, without a word of apology, and sat and demolished his meringue and ice cream, again in silence. Then he said he was full. Oh goody. I have noticed that he he tends to appear at the table without saying either good morning or good evening and then disappears after food. I did think it was maybe that he didn't know what to say, but now I think he just doesn't have any manners. (And if he was any son of mine, he would have had a 'metaphorical' clip round the ear by now.) I then explained to him that the English are a polite nation, and say "please" and "thank you" where appropriate. He had the grace to look rather ashamed - and I have discovered that he does know the words - he just didn't think it was necessary to say them. (Why?) This man is thirty-six - not a child. He is not married, lives alone and doesn't have a girlfriend at the moment. I can't say I'm surprised.

My lovely computer man, Dan, came round with my new keyboard this afternoon. It is very smart indeed and goes beautifully with all my black and silver equipment. It also has some very intelligent functions which I will have to get to grips with. Dan and I sat and had tea and biscuits after he had installed the keyboard, and both looked back over a somewhat chequered year. We are going to get together for a celebration before Christmas, and drink a toast to better times.

I haven't seen Grandson yet this week and I miss him - he has had a busy week at Nursery though, making decorations for their Christmas Party. And he has told Daughter that he wants to go and give Mickey Mouse a cuddle (in Disneyland). He has seen the ads for Disneyland which are on every Walt Disney video or DVD, and fancies a giant cuddle from a giant Disney character. Bless the boy. Impossible as it may seem, Daughter is now looking at schools for him. They will be moving as soon as the flat sale goes through, so it will be all change. And thinking slightly ahead, Son has suggested that we might all go away for Christmas if everything goes to plan. Somewhere hot. Sounds good to me.

As it was getting dark this evening, a delicate sliver of moon appeared between the blowing branches of the cherry tree. I noticed it through the window. "How lovely", I thought, how good I feel and how our lives have moved on in just a couple of days. I guess that's all it takes.