Thursday, January 31, 2008

Moving on Swiftly..

I'm still fuming about Derek Conway and Sons, though real life does seem to be catching up with them a bit. Today I was furiously clearing and cleaning - I'm feeling as if my life has taken a new turn, and I'm delighted. I have emptied yet more files, and shredded another sackful of old paperwork. In between times I feel very tired, but it's so good to be shedding the past - shredding and shedding!

Daughter seems very happy still, although she is having some difficulty in applying for Primary Schools for Grandson. (He is due to start school in September.) She has been told by the local Education Authorities that she is too late to apply for some schools - yet the Sunday Times last Sunday said that the final date for applications is this Friday (tomorrow). I don't pretend to understand why there should be different deadlines for different areas, but I do think that she should be able to send him to the school of her choice. I remember that when we moved to Cambridge there was a place for Son at the local Primary (which was literally 5 minutes away round the corner), but they were doubtful about fitting Daughter in. As Son was nearly 8 and Daughter nearly 6, I held out and didn't panic - we had only moved to the area in July, so I was beyond late as far as applications were concerned. In the end, they found a place for her, and they were both very happy there until they were 11. And then that was another story. I don't envy Daughter starting on that awful education merry-go-round.

Last evening my Gay Friend came round for a video evening. We haven't had one of those for ages, but were just about ready for it. He had a tale to tell, which I'll pass on to you. He had been to the Dentist for a tricky filling in one of his front teeth - and the Dentist had said that it might involve root canal work! Anyway, it didn't, but the Dentist asked him if he ever took recreational drugs (!). "Why" I asked? Well, apparently Cocaine users sometimes rub the stuff on their gums - and I guess this must cause decay? I then said "I think I've seen that in films!" Naive or what? And he laughed his loud and distinctive laugh and said "I've seen it in real life." Ah well - I didn't know what to say, so we just sat and watched the film (and ate the rose-flavoured chocolate he had brought). It was "Iris" - a very sombre and tricky movie. Judi Dench was wonderful, as ever, and Jim Broadbent was utterly believable as the husband who couldn't cope with the horror of losing the person he had always loved. The Tyranny of Youth was what came to my mind - if the film was to be believed, she had always dangled him on a very long piece of string which meant she could do whatever she wanted, sleep around etc, and he would always be there as her "terra firma"- at least while she was young and lovely. Old age is a very different kettle of fish. Scary...

PS. This is my 150th post. Just noticed when I pressed the button. What a cause for celebration!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I'm getting up on my soapbox again after hearing about Derek Conway, the Conservative MP, and his sons. I know that it's natural to want to help your children through University - I did it for both of mine - but surely not at the cost of the poor old taxpayer? I earned the money to help my kids - and I rented out Son's bedroom to pay for his rent at Uni. It wasn't easy money. I know we don't have Grants any more, but that doesn't mean that anyone in a position of power and influence can just help themselves, does it? What makes me angry is that both my children (in common with thousands of others)have come away from their brush with Higher Education owing large sums of money to the Student Loan Company!! And they have interest added on for every year that loan remains unpaid. OK, fine. But why should Derek Conway's sons not only be given a handsome income for simply being his sons, but they have also come away from the experience completely debt-free. This makes me very angry indeed. Especially since my Son has been told - contrary to what he was led to believe originally - that his Student Debt does indeed affect both his credit rating and what he might be allowed to borrow on a mortgage. Once again, it's one rule for them and another for us. And it's not enough for Mr Conway to apologize to all his mates at the House of Commons - his boys should be saddled with that borrowing along with the rest of us. After all, they have been given money they weren't entitled to. They should be made to understand that that kind of money doesn't grow on trees. It has to be hard-earned by most of us. And their father should have known better in the first place. It's not fair that we should all be paying for their years at University while they piss off without owing a penny, thinking that it's easy pickings. The end result is that they are benefitting from privilege. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Bloody politicians.

Today I went to see Daughter and Grandson for the first time since they moved. They have rented a nice little end of terrace in a village near Dorking. It's cosy and they seem to have settled in well. Grandson was not exactly over the moon when I arrived, but I think that's because he wasn't expecting to see me again! I think he believed that they had gone a long way away - and I suppose it is in his terms. We drove into Dorking to buy him some new shoes, and to look at a new Nursery School for him. This turned out to be a really good experience. The school is bright and has lots of space, and they have a nice outside playground. Grandson met lots of other children and seemed very happy - I think he has really missed Nursery over the last month. Anyway, Daughter registered him and they are going back for an Open Day on Saturday (which is also Chinese New Year). They can take him from next week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, which is what he used to do here. I hope the little darling will be happy there.

Looking on my Sitemeter, I saw that my latest reader, early this morning, was from a dot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean: Pearl City, Hawaii! What a wonderfully romantic name. My geography is terrible, so I was moved to get the atlas out and look it up. There, in the middle of the impossibly blue sea were these tiny islands, little specks in all that space. I then spent a glorious hour finding most of my other far-flung readers: a couple of friends in Canada and one on the edge of Hudson Bay, one in Israel, one from India, another from Buenos Aires and several nearer to home, in France. The relief maps in my Atlas make it all look so real - what a wonderful world it is..

Monday, January 28, 2008

Shredding the Past.

I'm sitting here holding my left hand because it hurts. Last night I came back from dinner with a couple of Brighton Best Friends and decided that I would carry out my recycling boxes for the morning. Only I thought I could carry them both together, and it wasn't a good idea! The result was that I lay in bed last night cradling the sprained hand, and today it has been pretty painful, on and off.

The last few days have been rather a blur anyway. I tootled off on Friday afternoon to meet another old friend, who lives in the Forest of Dean. We have been friends for about a hundred years, but I hadn't seen her recently because last year she (also!) had an operation for a Brain Tumour and so wasn't really up to much. She has made a very good recovery, though, and now looks as good as new. We booked into an hotel in Petersfield (she had spent the day visiting her old Auntie who is 96!) and had a proper catching-up session. It was great. We enjoyed a lovely supper and some very good wine. And then we just fell into bed and slept like logs. In the morning we sat in their restaurant and drank very good coffee before parting and promising to do the same again soon. Anyway, my student had survived without me and was perfectly happy on his own. I can't remember what else I did at the weekend, except a walk by the sea yesterday because it was such a glorious day. I walked with a friend to the Meeting Place, and we both enjoyed a late breakfast sitting gazing at the sea. More good coffee and lots of good conversation. Once I'm home again though I just keep falling asleep. I think the events of the last week or so (and the last eighteen months!) are catching up with me, because I just can't keep my eyes open.

Today I have spent most of the time shredding the paperwork from the past. All the letters, documents and legal stuff relating to Son's ex-flat have been shredded and stuffed into a large green polythene sack. And that sack is now in my bin, ready to be collected on Wednesday. It felt very good getting rid of it. Bring on the Future.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Run Rat, Run..

I'm beginning to sound like a Moaning Minnie; I just don't feel wonderful, but it's probably because I was sort of relying on the stress to keep me going. And now it's gone! Get a life is the phrase that comes to mind - I need to get on with it!

I took a brisk walk this morning, although it wasn't very inviting. Today the sea was icy grey, with a dull silver sheen marking the sun's path, and ruffled by a bitter wind. The beach has been scoured flat by the recent high tides and the shoreline is still littered with giant matchwood as far as the eye can see. Some people have been taking advantage of this bounty, but not many. If the owners of the wood are serious about recovering it, they'll have a near-impossible task - and lots of planks are still being washed ashore along the whole Sussex coast.

Reading Wife in the North today, I was reminded about a true story concerning rats, and told by our neighbouring farmer when we lived (the Ex and I) in the depths of rural Gloucestershire. He, the Farmer, had been plagued by rats in the animal feed and was desperate to get rid of them. So he sent for some stuff which he was instructed to paint on the "rat run" and leave overnight. Imagine his horror the next morning when he went to look and found that the "stuff", which was black, thick and sticky, had literally trapped the rats as they ran up to the feed. They had been stuck fast, and had bitten and clawed at each other in desperate attempts to get free. Of course they were mostly dead by the morning but, and he said it with a shiver, it was one of the worst sights he had ever seen! And he had to clear it up. Ugh..

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fading Fast..

I have to do this quickly while I can still stay awake. Since the Flat Sale was completed at 4pm yesterday, I have felt totally wiped out - not even jubilant as I had expected, but simply relieved and shattered. In the end, we had to wait (as it turned out) three whole days for our Buyer to produce all the money necessary to buy the Flat. Now you would have thought that as the whole selling and buying process took just over 7 months, she would have been prepared and ready with the money on Completion Day. Wouldn't you? No such thing - we had panic phone call after panic phone call (at least I did) saying that she had not known the total amount due and was desperately trying to get all the money to her Solicitors. Of course, I knew what we had to do, and had checked it with our Solicitor. She said she wasn't good at figures - I said I worked it out on the calculator. Anyway, this went on for three full days, and in the end the money only hit our account at 4pm yesterday, so it was too late to transfer it then (because of banking hours) and had to wait until this morning. I was instructed, however, to hand over the keys to her because the money was safe in our Solicitor's Account. (Of course it was, how silly of me!)
This I did, giving her our three sets of keys at 5pm. Great. I let everyone else know the good news, and then got ready to go out for supper with a friend. We walked to a local Italian restaurant (which turns out to be owned by Iranians!) and had a lovely meal and large glasses of white wine. The day was not over though - at 9.45pm my mobile rang and the new owner of Son's flat was almost in tears at the other end, saying she had locked herself out of the flat! She asked if I had any more keys. Of course I didn't because I had (as is legally required) given her all the keys in my possession. I should have felt sorry for her, but it was too late for that. I'd had three days of her delays and excuses, and the stresses and strains had just done for me. I said how sorry I was, but that I was in a restaurant with friends, and I couldn't help. Which was purely and simply the truth. Goodbye to that Flat and all who sail in her!

So today has been weird. I'm so tired I haven't been able to accomplish much, but I did buy flowers for the Storage lady, who has been marvellous, kind and helpful, and for my lovely downstairs neighbour who has sportingly agreed to let Son's wardrobe sit in our Entrance Hall until his new Flat is ready. Apart from that, and posting some eBay stuff, I've done very little. My cosy bed beckons.

Just before I turn in, I must tell you that I have new readers from some pretty far-flung places - Anchorage in Alaska, Turku in Western Finland, Kerala in India Adelaide in South Australia and Santiago in Chile, (that's just the last couple of days!) and I'm delighted to welcome them. I have to say, though, that no-one could be more special than my regular Blogging Friends - thanks for all your support and lovely comments while I have been staggering through the above-mentioned shite. I really have appreciated every kind thought and word.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hopping on the spot...

Still waiting. But the good news from our Buyer this morning is that the money should actually hit the spot between 2 and 4pm today. I'm completely immobilised waiting for this to happen now. Have been fiddling about all morning doing very little except answer the phone. Checking my emails did produce something from HorseMart (again!) - "Let's Go Shopping" - for horses?? and "Keeping your Equine costs down". Thank you, but my equine costs are already at zero. At least that's the total sum of my spam mail - it could be worse I suppose.

I'm supposed to be going out this evening, to a film and supper with friends. I hope I can raise the enthusiasm. I have spoken to both Son and Daughter to keep them up to date with the news, but of course they have so much else going on. Daughter is taking Grandson for an "interview" at a possible Primary School this afternoon. He has had a bath and is apparently very smart in his "ironed" shirt! And Son is busy doing music deals in London and organising the survey for his new flat purchase. Only I am feeling paralyzed by the waiting - and I'm sure that's my fault. I have to be the one to hand over the keys. Can't wait...

Can't believe I forgot to mention the Gershwins this morning - George and Ira. Ella sings Gershwin. Absolutely sublime.

What about the Spurs? I'm over the moon about last night's 5 - 1 victory over the Arsenal. And we're in the Cup Final. Glory, glory etc...

Passing the Time.

Opened one eye this morning to peer at my digital clock. Pitch black. 6am. I turned over thinking I'd fall asleep again, but no. Wide awake. I thought briefly of my Solicitor cycling bravely to work in the dark morning, and then of course all the other thoughts came crowding in, thick and fast. Matters legal, matters familial and every other thing that's been on my mind for the last week. In the end I was singing quietly to myself under the duvet just to pass the time ("They can't take that away from me" and "These foolish things" - I know the Ella Fitzgerald/Cole Porter/Rodgers & Hart song books off by heart: every word, phrase and breath, from when I were a girl.) I was also making plans for the day in my head. I waited until 7.45 to get up and get on with it though.

I have just read about the death of Heath Ledger at 28. How terribly sad. And what a great loss of a talented young man. Son is 28 - and there have been times when I was terribly worried about him. Young men are very vulnerable, perhaps because they often feel they have to hide their true emotions, and I can imagine that the world in which Heath Ledger existed was fabulous, fantastic and also very lonely at times. Poor boy.

I'm hoping for good news today. It's only just 9am, so I'm going for a walk to pass the time. By the way, does anyone know how to set the right time on a Blog clock? According to mine, I apparently write posts at the most unearthly hours when I'm tucked up in bed, if not actually asleep...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Lost Weekend.

I need a massage. You just wouldn't believe the last few days. The weekend wasn't so bad, with the usual packing, loading, fetching, carrying and general confusion. It was lovely to have Son and the Girlfriend here, and they were very helpful (though getting up at 12 noon could have been improved on!); the van was collected and mostly loaded by the end of Sunday. Monday morning dawned grey and unpromising, though at least it wasn't raining. And I already had Grandson here (he slept like an angel from 7pm to 7am), so they could just carry on unencumbered. There was furniture to collect from here and from the storage unit. And stuff to transfer from one unit to another. Plus endless boxes and furniture from the flat. And of course they discovered that the van wasn't big enough to fit everything in and do it in one journey. (I hate to say "I told you so", but I had said that it wasn't big enough the week before. What do I know?) But, and it's a huge but, the money did not come through from our buyer to complete the sale. We waited and waited. The Solicitors waited and waited. And I was stuck here, unable to move, and so stressed out I could feel my shoulders tensing more with every hour. Anyway, brevity is the soul of wit,as they say :) so I won't go on about it. Suffice it to say that by the end of the day it had still not completed, and our buyer was apparently in tears in her bank because the necessary monies had not been transferred. What a nightmare. Later still, when Daughter and the Boyfriend were on the way back to the storage unit for more stuff, the van broke down - at least, it ran out of diesel because the fuel gauge was broken -and the people from Choice Van Hire had to come out and restart it. (I mention their name because they were apparently great, got the van going very quickly again and were very cheerful and helpful.) So at least Daughter sorted the storage before 5pm, when it closes. And they had already signed the Tenancy Agreement and checked the Inventory, so they were in at the other end. Thank God they were not selling and buying on the same day, because that would have been a disaster! They collected the last pieces of furniture and then drove back to their new home to unload and set up Grandson's bedroom. Finally, they came to collect Grandson at about 9.30pm. By which time we were both exhausted. Grandson because he wasn't in bed at 6, and me because I'd had possibly the most stressful experience in living memory and had been powerless to do anything about it. When I phoned Son to tell him all the details, he said "I hope it gets sorted out fast, Mum, because I'm going to run out of money in a couple of days!" My thoughts were simply this - never spend the money until you've got it in your hot little hands!

Anyway, today we are still waiting, and according to my Solicitor, who is his usual sanguine and laid-back self, this is happening more and more often: "It's just a Contractual problem." he said, quite calmly. All I can say is, I hope it never happens to me again. I'll keep you posted...

This morning I woke up feeling unjustifiably cheerful, and as it's a glorious day I went for a brisk walk down by the sea. Thank God for the sea! I had been hearing about the load of wood from a cargo ship, which has been washed up on the shores of Sussex, and was curious to see for myself. Sure enough, there are great planks of timber littering the beach, looking like giant matchsticks spilled out of a giant matchbox, all the way along the shoreline. (Or maybe a giant game of Pikastiks!) Apparently people are being warned against taking this timber because the owners want to collect it and sell it. Looking at it, I doubt this because lots of it is damaged and of course it has been soaked in sea water. Some of it looks good, and I'd be tempted to collect a few planks if I could carry them. The tide was very high this morning, and though the sea looked calm in the sun, there was a greasy-looking swell and six-foot waves were crashing onto the shingle. It all made for a very interesting walk. And at least it distracted me from the main concern. Today, we're playing yet another waiting game.

Friday, January 18, 2008

No room, No room..

What a frustrating couple of days! Yesterday I had to drive to my Aristocratic BF in Kent to take back the bedding I borrowed for my Christmas guests. In the end, I hadn't needed it, so it sat in my bedroom, taking up space and had to be moved before the onslaught this weekend. I drove there in pouring rain, which developed into a regular tempest on the way. Just my luck. Daughter stayed here with Grandson to look after my little Swiss Hobbit. She apparently tried to get him to talk over supper, but had no more luck than I have. This did surprise me because she is just gorgeous, and I did think that his 21 year-old heart might have been stirred. Nope.
Perhaps he's a gay Swiss Hobbit!

Back home today, and needed to give the spare room a freshen up and some clean sheets because Son and the Girlfriend are coming down this evening and staying for the weekend. The idea is that they will help with moving stuff, and that Son will help to dismantle his huge bed and move it from his flat. It will come here temporarily (leaning against my bedroom wall because that's the only place it can go) until he can have it in his new home. All was going well until I tried to call him on my mobile. It informed me that there was no network coverage!! Then I tried him on my landline - which promptly refused to work. I tried phoning everyone I know on both mobile and landline, to no avail. My landline isn't working, and neither is my mobile. I am incommunicado. And I am furious. I have hurled both phones in various directions (temper, temper) and have not succeeded in either breaking them or making them work. At 10pm I finally went downstairs to my neighbour and borrowed her phone to call Son - only to discover that they had not yet left London and were aiming (rather drunkenly by the sound of it) to catch the 10.30 pm train. This means that they won't arrive until at least 11.30, by which time I hope to be in bed reading "His Dark Materials".

We have a pretty frantic weekend coming up. Daughter and the Boyfriend are collecting the removal van tomorrow at 5pm. Then they are all helping to dismantle the giant bed and bring it here, together with my stepladder. They will then take the chest of drawers and bookcase they are having from me and load them into the van. On Sunday morning they are planning a trip to the tip with a few bits and pieces and then they will load all the packing cases and boxes in. In the meantime, Grandson will be delivered to me so that they can all get on. They have another pair of hands coming to help too - a friend of the Boyfriend - and should have everything loaded on by Sunday night. (Heaven knows where they are all going to sleep on Sunday night - at least Grandson is with me.) Then on Monday (Completion Day) they are having the carpets cleaned at 9am, going to the Storage unit to pick up Daughter's stuff, and driving to the new house for 12noon to have the Inventory checked!! After which they can start to unload everything into their new house. Let's hope it all goes to plan. Grandson will be here, and as they have to have the van back in Brighton by 5pm, they will come to collect him, and then drive back to their new home. Phew! I will have to liaise with our buyer and deliver the keys to her on Monday when we have the OK from our Solicitor. What fun and games.

PS. Have just had a phone call from Son - at 11pm - to say that they are on the train, in London, which is packed (standing room only). It has been delayed because they can't find the driver! Honestly. Heaven knows what time they'll get here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Incomings and Outgoings..

Have spent the last 24 hours in a state of anxiety about Daughter being able to move into her new house. They are going to be renting what looks like a very nice two-bedroomed house, but the problem which arose was about rental references etc. I just couldn't understand why the agents wanted guarantors of a particular kind - it seems that simply being a householder, or owning your own property, is no longer enough. Or that's what these new-fangled "Referencing Agents" seem to think. No - you also have to have a minimum income of £35,000 (!) to be a Guarantor - or at least in this case. Now, Daughter is not renting Buck House, it's a very nice but ordinary end of terrace with a small garden. No gold fittings. No chandeliers. And it's only a six month rental. So the Agents already have a six week deposit (that only leaves 4 and a half month's rent to pay), and they have paid over £100 for a Credit check (free on the Internet) and another £100 to have the Inventory checked. It seems to me that this is a nice little earner for these greedy bastards (pardon my ire), but an absolute scandal if you are a normal young couple without a fortune to spend. And anyway, they have the wrong end of the stick! My Accountant used to say to me that it wasn't income which was important, it was outgoings! And she was right. You could earn £50,000 a year and have outgoings of £55,000. Net result - as Dickens so aptly said, "misery", or at the very least debt. Anyway, this absurd attitude caused all of us endless worry, a sleepless night, phone calls back and forth to try and work out the best way forward, and in the end was easily solved by a bit of common sense. I will say, though, that I won't deal with those Agents ever again, and will let them and everyone else know why.

While we were dealing with this aggravation today, we were also driving back and forth to Ikea, on what was probably the worst day of the year, weatherwise. It was lashing with rain, double wipers all the way there and back, and there were gale-force winds. Why did we choose to drive up the Motorway in such weather? Well, we had planned this last week because Daughter wanted to get a few things for the new house, so we just got on with it. It was one of the scariest driving experiences I can remember, particularly on the way back, when it was getting dark, and I had to grip the steering wheel and peer into the rain-lashed gloom, in practically nil-visibility. Luckily Grandson slept all the way back in his car seat, tucked up in Daughter's pashmina. I wish I could have. It was quite amazing that, even in those appalling conditions, there were still cars (driven by maniacs) speeding past me in the outside lane. Madness..

Sunday, January 13, 2008

How the Mighty are Fallen.

So, Peter Hain's illustrious career seems to have come full circle. How the mighty are fallen! I remember him from many years ago as a young rebel, an earnest and honest young liberal who had no money, who championed the concerns of minority groups, and who demonstrated against the Establishment, particularly against Apartheid. (There was a photo of him being carried away from a 1969 Demo, by policemen, in the Sunday Times today). Then he became gradually more successful and joined the ranks of serious politicians. And who is not tainted by contact with Politics? He rose through the ranks, no doubt losing a little of his integrity and passion with every year. I have often remarked on his rise to power, and equally often thought "How sad." I guess there's no money in championing lost causes. Now, of course, there's the kiss of death in the statement that Mr Hain has the Prime Minister's full support. That's it then. Goodbye Mr. Hain - we remember you when you were young, committed and untainted by power and politics. Welcome back to the Real World.

The weather has closed in again today. It's grey and gloomy and the sea has been whipped up into what looks like a rolling boil. I ventured as far as Tesco's for a paper and a few supplies, but that was it. I'm settling in with a cosy fire and the Sunday Times; what could be better. My Foreign Student hasn't moved far today either; he didn't want breakfast again, surfaced at about 11.30 this morning, and has been watching the Snooker in his room since then. There's a lot to be said for this inactivity, I suppose. Especially when you hear that two poor unfortunate people who ventured out climbing in the Lake District have fallen to their deaths in the last few days. One fell 1500 feet, and the other was literally blown off the top of a high peak. It's obviously safer to stay in bed...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday Sunshine.

Saturday, and I didn't have to get up early because my Foreign Student opted to miss breakfast and stay in bed. Since I started taking in students, I have discovered that almost the best thing you can offer them is a lie-in at weekends. They (the young ones mostly) just love the idea of not having to get up and make conversation. I can't say I blame them. This student is 21, and a german-speaking Swiss. He doesn't have a german accent at all; if anything his accent is slightly American and his spoken english is very good. He is very small and dark, and looks the way you imagine a Hobbit would look, apart from the furry feet of course. (Though who knows what his feet are like!) He also has dark rings under his eyes, and seems to be permanently tired. Even when I call him for dinner, I often have to really shout because he is asleep! We were talking this evening about the Health Service, don't ask me why, and he said that there is no "Welfare State" in Switzerland. Everyone has to pay to go to the Doctor, or to the Hospital, and he pays about £250 every three months for his Health Insurance! That sounds very pricey to me, as I'm sure that if any 21 year old wanted Private Health Insurance here it wouldn't be more than about £15 a month. It seems that we are pretty lucky here, after all. Apart from worries about MRS, the Winter Vomiting Virus, and the thought of Bird Flu hanging over our heads, we do at least have (relatively) free Health Care.

Today we had a break from the strong winds and driving rain of the last week. It was a glorious day, of the sort we are often lucky enough to have here. Blue sky, sunshine and very little wind. I had to walk to the Post Office to post a recorded delivery letter, but then cut down to the sea and made for my favourite Beach Cafe. I was just in time to catch Daughter and Grandson, and have a quick kick about with him before they had to go home for lunch. Grandson was on good form, dribbling the ball with his usual skill, and only hampered by the fact that the little scrap he was playing with kept picking up the ball and running away with it. It seems to me that my Grandson is about the only three-year-old I've seen who actually knows what to do with a football. He dribbles and kicks it. I have told Daughter that I believe it's a natural talent, because he doesn't need to practise, he just does it, and has done since he was two. Anyway, I've already bought him his first pair of football boots, silver ones which we spotted in a sale last week. I can't wait to see him in action on a football pitch, and preferably playing for the Spurs - though I may have to wait a few years, I guess.

After they had gone, I sat in the sun outside the cafe and had my usual cheese on toast and a cup of tea. It was really warm, almost too bright, with the sun beating a silver path to the horizon. There is always someone to talk to at the cafe, even complete strangers seem to be ready for a chat. That's one of the great things about Brighton - you never need to feel lonely or alone, unless you want to.

I walked back along the seafront, feeling light of heart - and realized that all my anxiety of the past year has just melted away. It's such a good feeling. I strolled up Adelaide Crescent and into Palmeira Square, enjoying the sun and the view, looking back at the sea from time to time. And I thought to myself, it's not the world that changes, but how we feel about it. Simple really..

Friday, January 11, 2008

Light in your head and dead on your feet..

Another busy day preparing for the move to come. There were letters to write and post, phone calls to make and arrangements to be confirmed. It seems odd to think that in 10 days time Daughter and Grandson will be living somewhere else - not in Brighton. For the first time for three and a half years they won't be either in my house or round the corner. Son is also busily looking at more flats in London, and is finding that (for the first time in years) it seems to be a buyers' market.In London! Apparently there are lots of properties in their price range, and vendors are accepting 'silly' offers in order to sell quickly. It seems that some people are expecting the property market to fall even further. Who knows - but it's an ill wind, as they say. Only six months ago Son was despairing of ever finding anything decent in his price bracket in London - and at the time I said, don't worry, it'll all turn out for the best in the end. Forsooth, it seems I may have been right!

I have at last managed to sort out my favourite Blogs list, with all the links actually working - thanks to help and advice from my Blogging friends. (Special thanks to Rob and Aims.) Better still, I now actually understand how to do it. That's the advantage of getting things wrong to start with, you have to work at getting them right, and in the process you learn something. Cool. Now I'm going to have a go at putting some more photos on. Daughter did the last one for me, and I know that I'll have to do it myself - and probably make a few mistakes - before I get it right.

Listening to my radio, as ever, I heard "Baker Street" on Terry Wogan yesterday, and was immediately transported back to the 70s when the Ex-Husband and I lived in my wonderful flat in Little Venice and used to drive to work, round Regent's Park and "winding our way down Baker Street". (Of course, he wasn't my Ex then.) The words of the song brought it all back "Light in your head, and dead on your feet." We were often feeling just like that, having been out for the night with friends and floating into the office on a cloud. We were certainly the "beautiful people" then (or thought we were), both with curly perms! I wore floaty Laura Ashley or Biba, day or night, and loved every minute. It was a charmed life. Of course, that was before we had the children. Looking back, it seems an impossible dream. I'm glad I experienced it, but real life started with a jolt in 1979, with the birth of Son!

I'm off for an early night; this excitement is wearing me out - but before I go, I have to check on all my favourite Bloggers, just to make sure they're alright. It's a bit like tucking my babies up in their beds. Night,night. Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What's Cooking?

Terry Wogan said this morning, tongue in cheek of course, that it's not too early to put the sprouts on for next Christmas! It's one of his perennial jokes, but not so very far from the truth in my Mum's day. Whenever she cooked sprouts, they would be boiled for a very long time until they were a pale yellowy-green, and then popped into her colander and squashed flat with a saucer, so that you ended up with a sort of 'cake' of brussels sprouts which you could cut into slices! Sounds terrible, but that's how we used to eat them. No wonder we didn't like them much, though to tell the truth we never refused food - there just wasn't enough of it to turn anything down. My grandmother cooked her sprouts in much the same way, but she was a wise old bird - she used to pour the vegetable water into a glass, cool it on the marble slab in her larder (oh, how I want a larder), and then drink it before she went to bed. Of course she was getting all the vitamins that had been boiled out of the greens.
She was unbelievably healthy, and lived to be 95. She was completely independent until she was 93, living alone and doing all her own cooking, cleaning, shopping etc. She kept chickens and grew most of her own vegetables, so she had a very healthy diet. Unfortunately she came a cropper running for a bus (at 93!) and broke her hip. This meant that she ended up in hospital, and then had to go into a sort of convalescent home. She never managed to live independantly after that, but she was full of spirit. I remember going to visit her with my Father, and seeing her propped up in bed, looking very sprightly. She pointed out some woman who was hobbling along in the ward, with great difficulty and said "Poor old thing, she's not doing very well." My Father asked how old the woman was, and Nana anwered "75, I think." Not for a moment did she think there was anything funny about that, and the "poor old girl" was just about twenty years younger than her! She was a great girl herself. And sadly missed.

You will no doubt be pleased to know that I'm still getting special offers from HorseMart. I can't seem to get off their mailing list (and still don't know how I got onto it!).

Glory be and Praise the Lord, I'm actually thinking about writing again. I caught myself today drifting away into that space that I remember from about four years ago when I started writing a book. I can't exactly describe it, but I found myself working out how to move on from where I left off. It's strange, but D H Lawrence described the feeling when he was writing. He was convinced that the inspiration didn't come from him, but through him, and he was impelled by something outside himself to write down the words. He could feel, if not see, this presence, and said "Oh Ho, my Lad, are you there?" as whatever it was crept past him. (I came across this fact when I was doing research for my dissertation on D H Lawrence - fascinating!) I know it sounds odd, but that was just how I felt. We'll give it a bit of space and let's see if it bears any fruit.

Apropos of writing, I have to say that Blogging and all you lovely Bloggers are also an inspiration. Since last Summer I have been reading about other people's lives and have been amazed by their stories and their experiences. Everyone has a story to tell, and how wonderfully they tell it. What a privilege it is to be numbered among the Blogging Buddies..

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Frailty, thy name is woman.

I have stopped jotting down notes about what to write in my blog and, as a result, I can't remember a thing when it comes to sitting down in front of my computer. Ah well, I guess I'll just have to wing it! I have to say that I think I am deteriorating generally; not only do I have shaky hands, which are much worse when I try putting on make-up, but things just slip out of my mind, literally. Anything interesting which pops into view slithers like a slippery fish, just out of reach. Try as I might, I can't get it to come to the surface, usually until much later, when I'm in bed or lying awake at 3am. Pathetic really.

Today has been a sort of anti-climax, which I wouldn't have believed if anyone had suggested it a couple of months ago. I didn't get much sleep last night, because of having Grandson lying next to me and crying out "No, I don't loike it" at regular intervals. Obviously, it was a recurring bad dream. Each time it happened I was jolted out of a deep sleep and comforted him, only to be jolted again a while later. Consequently I have been on auto-pilot all day, and just longing to close my eyes and doze. Daughter sorted out all her stuff from my loft, which turned out to be far more than I thought I had. We then drove back to the flat and unloaded it so that she can sort it into three piles: charity shop, tip and removals. I bet (privately) that she will end up throwing at least half of it away. If she hasn't looked at it in eighteen months, she doesn't need it. Them's my sentiments. The anti-climax has been the fact that, though I didn't have the chance to celebrate our good news yesterday, I am too tired to do it today. Maybe tomorrow?

Son has been on the phone, and on the internet, with news of a possible flat to buy in London. He certainly doesn't hang about. He, typically, wants to do things to it, like new flooring, carpets, kitchen and bathroom, and was wondering what all this might cost. How long is a piece of string? I just don't have the energy for it at the moment, though. Give me a couple of weeks and I might be able to raise a bit of interest.

My Gay Friend in London has been in touch to say that he really is feeling awful because of the chemo, and that he has the prospect of months more of it to come. I know that I was very fortunate that my brain tumour was not malignant, and therefore I didn't have to have either radiotherapy or chemo-therapy. Just the brain surgery.
The fact that my brain tumour would eventually have killed me because it was pressing on the main artery was just bad positioning! And I was very lucky that it was removed in the nick of time. Strange that Gay Friend should be suffering this now also, because he was around when I had my surgery (before he was gay!), and another friend from then (who lived in the same village) has since also died from a brain tumour. Poor Maggie, I remember that she kept her distance when I was diagnosed, because she was clearly afraid that it might be catching! It was the most awful coincidence that she should eventually have a brain tumour which proved fatal. I do hope that my dear Gay Friend will get lucky.

I must add a footnote about my shaky hands (oh very droll): Aristocratic BF is always commenting on this, and never fails to notice when it is worse. A couple of months ago she asked me if I ever dropped anything, to which I replied, rather sharply, "No, of course not!" Funny though, that since then I have dropped the odd thing (are you reading this Billy?) and I laugh every time it happens - I'm not sure it's because my hands shake, though...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Moving on..

At last, the news we have been waiting for; a reason to celebrate. This afternoon at 3.15 I had a phone call from our Solicitor to tell me that we had exchanged on Son's flat. Sold, and completing on 21st of this month. It was so exciting that I felt almost detached from it. I called Son and told him - and he was naturally ecstatic. Daughter next, and she was very excited. And then I tried to call various friends, but no-one was in!! So frustrating not to be able to pass it on. Anyway, this evening I have had time to let it settle. I have Grandson staying over tonight, so I will go out and celebrate tomorrow. Two more weeks and then I can get on with whatever it was I was doing before. Life, I suppose. And writing. It will seem strange at first to have all the time in the world to do my own thing. A mother's place..

Dear old Terry Wogan is back on the steam radio in the mornings. And as I have a Student to get breakfast for, it's lovely to have his banter to listen to first thing. My new Foreign Student is only 21, a small, rather elfin young man, who speaks very good English. When we were eating supper last night, I asked what his Father does for a living, just by way of conversation, and he told me that he "buys and sells money". Very nice. A Currency Broker in Zurich must be doing pretty well, I think. Anyway, this evening my Student informed me that his Father wants to come to Brighton for a weekend soon, to see how his Son is doing. I was asked to recommend a hotel, and immediately thought of the Hotel du Vin. As I said, if I was coming to Brighton, money no object, I would definitely stay there. It's gorgeous.
I'm just going to get on their website and print off the details for Mirko. This could get interesting...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

I'm late, I'm late..

No time to say Hello, Goodbye, like the White Rabbit I have been running on the spot to keep up today. I met up with Daughter this morning to buy her something from Zara in the sale as part of her Christmas present. It was worth doing - she chose a very smart black jacket and a jumper, plus a pair of shiny black patent shoes. And I bought a jacket too - it's always worth looking in the Zara sale!

I flew back to finish cleaning the bathroom because I was expecting my new Foreign Student at about 1pm. Shame, because it was a glorious blue-sky day, and what I really wanted to do was walk by the sea for a bit. No chance. I had to wait until nearly 2.30 for him, but I did get the Christmas decorations down while I waited. And I managed to hoist the Christmas tree out of my middle sash window without having to drag it through the house. It floated down and landed gracefully on the grass - I'll drag it round to the recycling shredder tomorrow, if it's not pouring with rain again. By the time I was able to get out, it had clouded over and was grey, rainy and uninviting. I walked anyway, feeling cosy in my new bodywarmer (which does exactly what it says it does) and got my shopping in Tesco on the way back. I was quite cross at the till when the man behind me offered up his Tesco card, before I could get mine out, and snaffled my points! I nearly said "Bloody cheek. Would you like to pay for my shopping as well?" I didn't though - it just wasn't worth it.

Then it was time to cook supper for both my guests. My new Student is from Zurich. He seems very nice and polite, and even asked me if he could have a shower, and if it would disturb me. How considerate. He also gave me the promised chocolate, which is Swiss and looks gorgeous. How am I going to resist that?

After supper, Gay Friend came round to watch the first part of Sense and Sensibility.
(Just before he arrived I had been looking at photos of Son and his friends on Facebook - there's a whole new album of photos from their trip to Edinburgh for New Year. They all look very happy and very drunk. No surprise there then.) Anyway, we watched the Jane Austen, which was OK - very much what we expected and didn't really match up to Cranford. Jane Austen does signal up her dramas and disasters,(and I do love her for it), while Mrs Gaskell gives her writing that sharp edge; she manages to make it look effortless and always delights me with her touches of irony. She wrote about real people and described real life dramas, but with such style and compassion. She's pure class.

Oh Lord, look at the time. I must get to bed...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Life's too Short.

This morning I was listening to Saturday Live on my (lovely, new, digital) radio and heard a feature which was not only pertinent, but I felt had been sent to me, just to teach me a lesson! It was about grandparents who, for family "feud" reasons were unable to see or contact their grandchildren. They had variously fallen out with Sons and Daughters or "in-laws" and were therefore in the awful situation of not having the chance to enjoy their grandchildren - or to see them growing up! I thought long and hard about this, and have decided that life's too short to continue with any bad feeling. I may not love the Boyfriend, but I do love Daughter and Grandson, and if he is making them happy, then I'll go along with it. I don't expect to always enjoy it, and I'm sure there will be times when I have to bite my tongue, but that's OK. I'm a grown-up.. And I don't want to contemplate a future which doesn't include my nearest and dearest.

Then I went out to have a cup of coffee with a Brighton Friend, one I hadn't seen for a couple of months, and she had a similar story to tell. One of her friends fell in love with, and married, someone who was both younger and much poorer than she was. Of course her family disapproved, (and my Friend admitted that he is one of the most annoying people she has ever had to spend time with), but he makes her friend happy and is wonderful with her children (from a previous marriage). As my BF said, we can't choose for other people, and wouldn't want to really.

While we were sitting in the Real Eating Company with our coffee (lovely coffee too), Daughter phoned to tell me that they had found a house to rent. They went off today to look at a couple of places, and have found one they like, with a garage (that will please the Boyfriend, because his car is like his baby!) which they can move into soon. Holding deposit paid, tenancy approved by the Landlord, so hopefully it will all be go.

Now I'm off to cook for my French Lady (fish tonight) and to get everything ready for my new Foreign Student who arrives tomorrow. His name is Mirco, and he telephoned this afternoon to confirm his arrival time. He also asked me if I like chocolate! How could I say no?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Can't buy me Love..

I was feeling rather better about it all this morning. More philosophical, I suppose. And having comments and support from other Bloggers really does help in these situations. So when Daughter and Grandson arrived this morning, I was so pleased to see them, and couldn't help realizing just how much I love their shining faces. Grandson came up the stairs saying "It's me, Nana" and holding his arms out for a cuddle and a kiss. I also managed to have a good talk with Daughter, and said that whatever I do or say, I will always love her and be there for her - I only want the best for her. I also said how much I will miss her when they move. And I felt better for saying it all. When I gave Grandson a kiss and said "I love you, because you're my special boy", he hugged me very tight round the neck and said "I love you Nana cos you're my special girl." As my Sister said, when I told her, you can't buy that!

I have started reading "His Dark Materials", which Son has been urging me to read for the last year at least. He was right, it's great and I have been sucked in and transported to that strange world created by Phillip Pullman. It's weird, magical and also oddly familiar. I suppose the real genius with that kind of writing is to make it very believable and yet foreign and mysterious. The story is fascinating and the characters crackle with life, fire and energy. It's a huge book, and with any luck it will take me at least a month to read. I only read when I go to bed, so I have ended up the last few nights burning the midnight oil. I know I should go to bed earlier, but life is just too exciting!

Friends have been phoning to wish me a Happy New Year - friends who have been away, that is. My Cornwall BF came back from staying with her famous sister on Long Island, but didn't have a great time because her bloke took to sulking and didn't crack a smile the whole time!! Some compromises are just not worth it. Mother of Hon Grand-daughter sent me a message on Facebook to say that they were back from Majorca, having had a great time. But my Brighton BF is not back from France yet, though due any day I should think. My other Brighton BF is having a horrible time because she has had some flu' type bug for more than a week (and has just got through her first Christmas without her dear Mum). Good news from my Gay Friend in London though, because the chemo has shrunk the two tumours and he is feeling like shite but happy!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Mother's Place...

I knew I would end up in the wrong again. I have just endured a lecture by my Daughter on how unreasonable I am being with regard to the Boyfriend. Now, of course, I don't think I am being unreasonable - I may be unable to embrace him and his shortcomings, or to forgive him his behaviour over Christmas, but I'm not going on about it. Daughter simply wants us to get on - and I don't think that's ever going to happen, except on a superficial level. If the truth is told, I don't think he is good enough for her, or intelligent enough. She really does deserve better. I don't understand his attitudes or his beliefs. I know that it is not my choice, and it has to be my Daughter's life and choice. But what do I do about it? I'm pretty sure he feels the same about me, and if he was asked, I imagine he would describe me as a "posh cow" or something similar. As my Daughter, on one memorable occasion, called me a "short, fat, ugly old cow", perhaps they are rather well suited. I'm sure we will manage to sort it out, families usually do. But I fear it may result in us not seeing a great deal of each other once she has moved away with the Boyfriend. I may be a snob, but I don't want my Grandson growing up saying "I done it". Or believing that it's OK to download music for nothing (and boast loudly about it), or buying DVDs,copying them and then returning them and getting his money back. I know I have old-fashioned values, and I value education and intelligence. I don't sneer at them. OK, I'm a posh cow AND a snob! It's probably too late for me to change...

This evening I have done my invoice for the copywriting, and will post it tomorrow. It's very likely that they will give me some more work soon, so it could be a busy New Year. Tomorrow my French Lady is coming for her regular weekend, so I have stocked up with Christmas Pudding, which she loves, and brandy butter, which I made. I don't have any brandy cream, but I guess we'll manage without. Diet, damned diet!

It has also turned very cold indeed today - we actually had some snow this morning, though very slight and not enough to settle. Daughter and I took Grandson to the Brighton Centre to try ice skating, which was great fun. He slipped and slid, but did manage to keep his balance after a while. And Daughter had a good go after he had given up. She looked very good skating round, and was pleased that she had remembered how to do it. I didn't venture out on the ice, though I rather regretted it. I want to be skating somewhere in the Alps, out of doors in the frosty air, with snow, twinkling lights, fir trees and all the traditional accompaniments. Maybe next year..

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bringing the New Year in.

Yesterday and today have been lovely. Sister arrived yesterday morning at about 8.30 am, and we had breakfast with Grandson joining in.(He had been awake since about 5.45am, and I had been awake most of the night!) I made eggs and bacon, toast and coffee, which we all enjoyed; it was a good breakfast to start the New Year.

What was the reason for my sleeplessness? Well, I had been fast asleep by about 11pm on New Year's Eve, mainly because I was expecting to be woken early by Grandson. At Midnight, or so I imagine, I was aware of fireworks outside, which sounded very close to my bedroom window. I didn't get up to look, and they didn't wake Grandson, so that was OK. At 12.35am my phone rang, waking me again. I scrabbled for the phone, to hear Son's voice wishing me a Happy New Year from Edinburgh. He sounded very merry, and said that they were outside a club because they'd lost the top off their bottle of whiskey, and couldn't go back into the club until it was finished!! (Luckily, I thought, there are at least five of them to do it.) He also said that it was pouring with rain and they were all soaked to the skin. Next I had both his friends on the phone, also wishing me a great New Year, and all sounding similarly merry. I kept thinking that all this noise would wake Grandson, but it didn't. Phew! I settled down again, only to be jolted up 15 minutes later by the phone again. This time it was Son, with his Girlfriend insisting that she wanted to wish me a Happy New Year too! She hoped I wasn't asleep - and I was able to say, quite truthfully, that I wasn't. Luckily, this hadn't woken Grandson either. But after that I was too jumpy to go back to sleep. I counted the hours and finally dozed off at about 4.30am.
Grandson woke at 5.45am, but I literally couldn't move. Luckily, I had thought to put a cup of milk and some biscuits in his room before I went to bed, together with a few books and toys to keep him busy, so I didn't have to get out of bed until just after 7! What a start to the New Year. Welcome 2008!

Daughter arrived, looking blooming, lovely and rested, at about 10 am. We chatted, opened belated Christmas presents, and by then it was a sunny day outside, so we all set off for a walk. Then Daughter caught the bus back home, with Grandson waving until we were out of sight, and Sister and I set off for the sea-front. It was another warm and windless day, so we walked on the beach, and she gathered a few shells and stones with holes in (these are believed to be the lucky ones). By the time we arrived at the Meeting Place, it was perfect timing for a cup of tea. The day passed very pleasantly, and we celebrated our own New Year's Day with some pink bubbly and a light supper. How civilised. (I must say, though, I have never put out so many empty champagne bottles for recycling. They will think we are proper posh.) It was so good to spend more time with my Sister, and we took a few strolls down Memory Lane. It's funny how she remembers some things so clearly, and I remember others. We both recalled how we had lost a ten shilling note one day, on the way home from shopping for our Mother. She had been furious, and we had been distraught. We had to retrace our steps and try to find it, all the way back to the shops. And I can't remember if we did find it - only that awful feeling of having done something terrible and unforgivable. As Sister said, though, our Mother didn't offer to come back with us - we were sent off in disgrace. If only I could remember the outcome!

I haven't mentioned the flat sale just lately, because everything went quiet over the holidays, but today it has jumped into life again, and we are nearly there - oh Joy! I don't know about you, but after a week or so of Christmas and New Year, I just want to get on with life again! And I think I might just stop eating for the foreseeable future...