Thursday, July 31, 2008

Family Fortunes.

Despite having an alcoholic Father and a neurotic Mother (the second probably consequent on the first), I think of my childhood as pretty idyllic. Perhaps this should tell me something. Whatever we are dealt, as children, we cope with somehow, and often don't see what others might see as terrible. I can remember that we (Sister and I) never felt able to invite friends round to our house because we never knew what might be happening. Our Father might be roaring drunk, our Mother might be having an attack of the vapours (and those attacks were pretty spectacular I can tell you), they might be in the middle of a fight, or they might simply not be there. It sounds rather odd, to say the least, but we obviously thought of it as normal. Sister and I were expected to clean the house and get our own food from a fairly tender age, and to complain was unheard of. Nor would we ever have dared to contradict or argue with our parents. Yet we had wonderful family holidays, as I recall, travelling to the Isle of Wight every year in Dad's little Morris 8 (all packed in with Paddy the cocker spaniel) to spend two weeks in a caravan which wasn't much bigger than the car. I remember card games in the evenings, with the rain drumming on the caravan roof, making us feel safe and secure. On hot sunny days we all decamped to the beach with huge picnics, meeting up with other families (and dogs), and spending hours swimming and boating. Brown's Golf Pitch and Putt in Sandown was a great favourite where we had hours of fun and always finished up with coffee and wonderful doughnuts. (I think Brown's is still there.) And at the end of two weeks we would pack up, say goodbye to the other regular families, shed a few tears and promise to meet up again the following year. We were all brown, happy and relaxed, as I remember it, and the weather was nearly always glorious for that last week in August and the first in September. But it probably took a huge effort for my parents to get along during the holidays - for the sake of the "children" - and they certainly didn't take the truce home with them. They were never violent to us, though they often fought very real and physical battles between themselves. And though they were kind, after a fashion, I can't remember my Mother ever saying she loved me. Sister can't either. Our (sad) conclusion is that she was envious of our young, independent lives, and of our relative freedom. She had to leave school at 14 and go into service. We were both lucky enough to get into the Grammar School, and then high-tailed it up to London to work in "glamorous" jobs, earning what she considered a fortune, and having a lot of fun. Poor Mum, she never had that freedom or any real independence. As a result, she couldn't wait for us to leave home and get on with our lives. So it's strange that when I look back I can see golden days in our garden, recall lots of laughter at old family jokes and remember the many "Aunties" and "Uncles" who were real friends and who created a loving and lively social structure. We felt totally secure and loved, even though no-one actually said it. It's that thing about Love being a "Doing Word" - it's not what you say, it's what you do that counts. I have no doubt that our parents loved us in their own way, which was not demonstrative. And they were always concerned not to "spoil" us. Not that there was much spoiling or indulgence in Post War Britain.

We bathed once a week in the upstairs bathroom, with an oil stove lit for warmth. All the other days we had a "wash down" at the sink. On washing days in Winter I helped my Mother put the freezing sheets through the mangle before hanging them on the line. There was no heating in our house, apart from the fire downstairs, and we always woke up to frosty patterns inside the windows in Winter. We ate whatever we were given (simply because there wasn't a choice) and no-one ever left any of their food. Summers were one long sunny day in my mind - and Winters were spent cosily round the fire listening to the radio. In the school holidays Sister and I would disappear for the day with a bottle of Lemonade and a couple of sandwiches. We climbed trees, forded streams, made camps and scrumped apples and pears if we were lucky enough to find them. We scraped our knees, learned how to make bows and arrows, and never felt either unsafe or worried for a moment. It was, in many ways, a charmed childhood. Dear God, it sounds like something from a history book already, and I'm not that old. Or maybe I am.

I don't know what brought that on, but I'm scuttling back to the future. I have a new Foreign Student who arrived last Sunday, from Spain. He is a very polite young man, called Jaime. He explained to me that his name is pronounced "Hymie" - and there was a sudden revelation! All those old American flms always had someone in them called Hymie, and I always imagined it was an American shortening of something like "Herman" or "Hoiman" - actually, it's Spanish, and obviously reflects the numbers of Spanish speaking immigrants who moved from South America to North America. Well, whaddyaknow? I learn something new every day.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sod's Law.

I must apologise for the late arrival of the previous Post - if that makes any sense - because I had written it in draft and thought I had pressed the button to publish! Better late than never, I suppose, but I really wanted to comment on having reached a memorable date.

Daughter is doing very well in the new job. She had only been there two days when they asked her to take on some extra work, and told her that they have never had anyone who learns so quickly before. This doesn't surprise me, of course. I know how bright she is, but it's great for her to be told by someone other than her Mother. Last week she (finally) took her driving Theory Test (about which she had been very nervous) and scored 100%! Not too shabby! Perhaps now she will start believing in herself a bit more.

Thursday, the hottest day of the year so far, I decided to do my House Cleaning! I had a BF coming from London to stay at the weekend, and as she is very observant and tidy herself, I knew there was no escaping it. Believe me, I sweated, but it was worth it. Every surface gleamed, and her bedroom and bathroom were spotless. I finished off the rest of the house on Friday, just in time for her arrival by steam train on Friday evening. It was still gloriously warm, so we sat on the balcony with a lovely bottle of bubbly and some Wedding Cake which she had brought from her Daughter's Wedding the weekend before. It was the perfect end to the day, and just in case you're wondering, by then I was showered, shampooed and spotless myself.

On Saturday we partook of a late breakfast, and then a walk along by the sea. Whenever this particular BF comes to visit, the weather is always lovely (unlike poor Sister, who always seems to bring the rain). It was sunshiny and warm with just a little breeze: jolly walking weather. We sat and had our usual cup of coffee at the Meeting Place, watching a flotilla of little sailing boats, just like painted toys, tacking back and forth out to sea. And then we walked on to the Beach Cafe for a simple lunch. After that my BF spent some money in the Sales, and we wandered back home for yet another glass of bubbly in the sun on the balcony (yawn) before supper. Sounds idyllic doesn't it? Anyway BF caught the late train home, and I woke up next morning feeling sick as a dog. Ah well, we pay for our pleasures, so they say...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One Year On..

Back to Monday, and the lovely Plumber appeared as promised to finish off my new shower. He did a grand job, and it works a treat. He also charged a reasonable amount of money for the work he did - which is not always the case round these parts. I've already recommended him to other friends, and hope he will prosper ...

Yesterday (Tuesday) I drove to see Daughter, taking Hon Grandaughter, her mother Katie, and another Gay Friend from the Beach Cafe. We had planned a barbecue, and luckily it was a really lovely day. Grandson and I lit the BBQ while the others went for more supplies (wine and other alcohol for the non-drivers). Hon Grandaughter loved the new kitten and we checked on the tadpoles, which seem to have back legs, but are no further forward. After a fun day and lots to eat, Daughter and I decided that Grandson could come back with me as she was going to work the next day. I figured he would have more fun at the paddling pool than in Nursery from 8am to 6pm! So we tootled back altogether in the car (though Hon Grandaughter was suffering from car sickness most of the journey). As soon as we were home, I tucked a very sleepy Grandson up in bed. And it wasn't long before I followed suit.

Today it is a whole year since I started writing my Blog. Happy Anniversary to me! It seems longer in some ways, and when I read back over some of the posts, I've obviously gone through some spectacular highs and lows during the year. I have loved every minute of it too. I feel that I have made real friends - some who make me laugh and some who make me cry. And that is not at all what I expected. I have certainly poured my heart out on a regular basis, and have had the most wonderful love and support from everyone who comments on what I write. Thank you all.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mamma Mia, what a week!

Monday I drove over to Daughter for the day. It was actually nice enough to sit in their garden with a cup of coffee, and then we pottered into Dorking for a look round the shops before collecting Grandson from Nursery. "He ate thirds of lunch today." was our greeting. Apparently Grandson is now really enjoying his lunches there, and well he might since they are all homecooked and look dericious. Then we all went swimming at the local pool, which has a "Toddler Splash" from 1.30 to 3.30. Great fun. Grandson's swimming is very impressive - he jumps in without any swimming aids, apart from goggles, and swims properly underwater. He delights in splashing everyone and is obviously completely at home in the water. I think that's pretty good for a four year old.

Oh, that was a great film. I know it's too late, but I want to be in "Mamma Mia"! The singing and dancing was wonderfully naff on the part of some of the stars - but it didn't matter. And I suppose that's what makes me think I could have done it just as well. They all obviously enjoyed themselves so much, and I would have loved to be there. Pierce Brosnan was particularly brave to do the singing (it's not his strong suit, but who cares?), and Julie Walters really gets stuck into the dancing. It was all most unlikely, truly fantastical, and thoroughly enjoyable. I went with two of my BBFs, and we ate popcorn and laughed a lot. In the end we were all singing along too. It was rather a let down to come out into a normal Brighton evening, and I sat on the bus home longing for a love affair on a Greek Island. And why not?

The plumber came again on Thursday morning. He has been fixing my ailing shower, on and off, for the last couple of weeks, and it still isn't finished. Luckily I have two other showers here, but as the one in my en-suite hasn't been working for about a year, I thought it was time to fix it. If only. Bless him, he's the kind of plumber who has to try every solution to get things right - and he's fixed it, and un-fixed, it several times. He's coming back again tomorrow (Monday) morning, so I'm hoping for a result. Whatever happens, you've got to love him for trying so hard.

I've been absent for a long weekend because I went to see my ABF for a few days. She is still hopping about on crutches, and can't get up the stairs, so progress is slow. She did make me laugh about one of her sisters who knits teddies for deprived children. This sister has, in ABF's words "made bags full of the little blighters" and is now on to knitting jumpers for orphans in Afghanistan. Sadly, though, she has made these jumpers from acrylic yarn. No bloody good . In that climate it has to be wool, cotton or silk - only natural fibres can keep the cold at bay. Her excuse was that wool was too expensive! Bear in mind that this is one of the four "Honourable" sisters who are all immensely rich (and I do mean immensely). Give me strength! Anyway, I spent a lovely few days gardening and watching ABF's latest visitors - a family of rats (R.A.T.S.) that have taken up residence on the terrace outside her downstairs bedroom window. She has been feeding them rat poison, on which they seem to thrive, and says that their antics are much more interesting to watch than television. That I can believe. But I did see the rats, and one of them is HUGE, with a very long tail. Ugh. I did think of recommending my old farmer friend's trick for catching them (see my Post "Run Rat, Run" of 24th January) but on balance I'm not sure she would enjoy the result. I think she's getting quite fond of them!

Imagine my delight on returning home this evening when I spotted two of the tiniest frogs imaginable in my pond - frogs at last! They were so small, smaller than the tadpoles I swear, and were hopping about on top of the duckweed. Little darlings. OK, I'm probably losing it, but I have been waiting for these babies for months and they're much sweeter than rats, that's for sure...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Family Planning.

Oh Woe is Me. I've just finished the last piece of Toblerone and I didn't win the Lottery. Again. I'm sitting here Blogging, listening to the music on Donna's Blog (Made in Heaven), and wishing Summer would arrive. Actually, I don't really have anything to moan about, but that obviously isn't stopping me.

Yesterday I did get to see Son for the first time since the end of May. I drove up to London to visit him in his new flat, which is near Vauxhall. And to take his re-framed pictures and posters (plus the things I bought for him in France) as housewarming presents. They did look lovely, and Son was very pleased with them. The new flat has lots of white space, light and windows. It's very nice indeed, and Son and his friend are both delighted to have found a real home at last. Son looks happy but tired because his new job is really hard going at the moment, while he is establishing himself. That's the Music Business for you - he has to work in the office, take clients out for lunch, work some more, meet composers and artists and then take people out in the evenings to concerts or gigs or even to dinner. It's a hard life! It was so lovely to see him - even though it's plain to see that he doesn't actually need his Mum in the same way any more. I look at his dear face and just know that he's on his way in life - it's a wonderful feeling in many ways. We can read each other's minds, and we laugh at the same jokes. We both love reading and good writing, and we devour books. We both love Pink Floyd. We have hundreds of wonderful memories in common. And when he smiles at me and gives me a bear hug, I know how much he loves me. Silly old fool, aren't I? I drove back home, happy to have seen him, and perfectly happy to be leaving him to get on with his own life. That's progress.

Daughter also had cause to celebrate on Friday, because she was given the job she interviewed for last week. "Quite right too" I said - they would have been daft to turn her down. She starts work on the 21st. July, when she will be given a couple of days training, and after that she will be working just two days a week to begin with. This means that Grandson will have to go to Nursery for two long days (from 8am to 6pm) on Tuesdays and Thursdays, instead of his current three mornings a week. At least it will only be for a month or so before he starts Big School, (and I hope they'll come here for a little holiday before that) so I guess the timing is right. There's another one gone! It does feel as if they are all moving on. I'd better get on with the next stage of my life...

Friday, July 11, 2008

An Embarrassment of Riches...

Oh, how lovely, I've been given not one, but two new Awards. Here they are, on my Blog - one from (not so) Mean Mom and another from MOB. Thank you both.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Let's go to the Movies..

What a busy week it's been so far, though sadly not in the Blogging department! I really must catch up with myself.
Monday, and the news was that Golden Brown was urging people to economise and not throw food away!! Well now, can any of us see Sarah examining the yogurts for sell-by dates, or using up yesterdays left-overs? Somehow, I don't think so. I found it insulting that he should think this is OK. How much do they have to live on per year? Would they care to live on the pension I live on? Golden is seriously deluded if he thinks that "bon mots" such as this will make him more popular. The other piece of "news" on Monday was that Musicals are the most successful theatre productions right now. They had their most successful year in 2007. This should come as no surprise to those of us who grew up after the War, and had parents who lived through the Depression. Remember the Thirties (well, you probably don't) when those fabulous Musicals distracted attention from the general gloom and doom. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Busby Barclay et al. These were extravaganzas which transported the audience far from reality to a fantasy world of love, gorgeous costumes, dancing on air and improbable story lines. "Singing in the Rain" and "On the Town" were perfect examples. Who wanted to know about the real world? It didn't matter that they were pure fantasy and unlikely to ever happen. "Mamma Mia", "Grease" and "Billy Elliott" are filling those shoes right now, and doing a very good job of it. Who wants to be worrying about credit cards and mortgage repayments when they can be singing along with Abba and Meryl Streep?

On Tuesday I had arranged to meet up with Sister at Ikea - not everyone's cup of tea, but I was looking forward to it. I waited in the coffee shop for about an hour because she was held up on the motorway, passing the time with a really good coffee and a sublime almond pastry. Then we walked around and wished for an empty space to fill. There were great bargains to be had, and we have no spare space to fill. So I bought replacement wine glasses for Daughter, a Door Mat for my BBF, who's working so hard that visits to Ikea are a thing of the past, and not much else. Never mind.

Wednesday was sheeting with rain, non-stop, from morning to night. I had suggested that Sister should bring her swimming cosie because the weather had been glorious at the weekend! (I spent a hot, action-packed day at the Paddling Pool with Grandson on Saturday). Ho, Ho, Ho! The weather closed in and we were soaked through several times when we went on an antique and junk hunt around Brighton. We were quite pleased to get back indoors, after a foray to Waitrose, and settle down with some yummy food. We devoured vegetable crisps and lovely Provencal olives, with Pimms, followed by River Trout fillets, baby new potatoes and petit pois. After that we were too stuffed to eat our dessert. (Probably just as well.) Instead we soaked our feet and watched a wonderful TV programme about Abba and "Mamma Mia" (the stage show and the film). Great. I'm refusing to be depressed about the Credit Crunch and the forbodings that are permeating all aspects of life at the moment. I'm going to the Movies..

Friday, July 4, 2008

Missing Persons..

Yesterday was a very busy day for everyone else, it seems. Daughter had her first job interview since before Grandson was born, and was both nervous and excited about it. It was as a part-time Receptionist, and as her previous job was Hotel Receptionist and Conference Organiser, I'm pretty sure she will be perfect. Anyway, she said that the interview went well, so we shall see. She was also expecting a visit from her ex-partner's family in the afternoon (Grandson's other Grandma and her aged parents), so everything was happening at once. This family do try and keep in touch with Daughter and Grandson, though the absent Father doesn't - nor does he give them any support. Daughter is quite scrupulous about maintaining contact though, because she can see that the situation might get tricky in the future if she doesn't. One day, I'm sure, my Grandson will want to know who his real Father is. Heaven knows what will happen then, but I'm sure Daughter is level-headed enough to cope. When I look at his dear little face, and see it light up when he calls the Boyfriend "Daddy", I can't bear the thought of it.

I forgot to mention in my last Post that Grandson can now ride his bike without stabilisers! He learned how to do it last weekend with the Boyfriend (when Daughter was away in Cambridge), and now whizzes round at great speed. He was very keen to show me on Tuesday, and said "You're going to be very happy when you see this Nana." I was, of course, and very impressed, but I do wish he would stop this growing up. It's all too fast for me. Today Daughter said he was swimming underwater in the swimming pool - unaided and proper swimming - what will he be doing next? Probably smoking and drinking.. or maybe taking his Maths A Level..

I haven't seen Son since Grandson's Birthday Party at the end of May, so I'm missing him. I had a chat with him on the phone yesterday morning, and we were talking about love and relationships (specifically his with his Father). I still don't understand why his Father isn't involved and caring, and I never will comprehend that. They did actually get together briefly while his Father was in London last week, but their meeting didn't result in any better understanding. One thing Son said has stayed in my mind, and my heart. He was talking about love when it's real; it's not something you just say, but a feeling and an experience too, something that affects all your life: something you have to work at. He quoted a song lyric from Massive Attack - Teardrop: " Love, love is a verb. Love is a doing word." Sometimes I think my heart will burst with love for my children, and with the hurt I feel for them because they don't have the kind of Father who understands this. There he is, living on the other side of the world. He only has two children, and they are his only flesh and blood (apart from his Brother). When, if ever, will he realise how precious and wonderful they are, and how privileged he is to have them in his life?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Big School

Yesterday I drove over to Dorking to see Daughter and Grandson. It was a really gorgeous hot day, and there was a special reason for my visit. Grandson had an "Induction Day" at his Primary School, and I was included in the invitation. (Well, Grandparents generally, I think.) Daughter and I were both a bit apprehensive but Grandson was full of excitement, and would have worn his full school uniform if he had been allowed. Daughter has already bought grey shorts and trousers, white polo shirts, white and grey socks and royal blue sweatshirts (2) with logo. He would have been sweltering if he had worn that lot! Anyway, we joined about fifty other parents and grandparents in the school hall, and were welcomed by the Headmistress. Then the new children were taken off by their new teacher for a few activities of the "getting to know each other" variety, while we were treated to cups of tea and biscuits, and a run-through of what's expected of both children and parents come September. This was, of course, displacement activity, and I could see that a lot of the parents were nervous about how their offspring might be coping. They needn't have worried. After an hour (a very long hour) the children skipped back into the Hall and started their School careers as they meant to go on: in reply to "What did you do?" they said "Nothing". Oh how I remember that. "What did you have for Lunch?" reply " Nothing". "How was P.E./The Rehearsal/the Exam?" reply "Oh, O.K." "What did your Teacher say?" - "Nothing" Grrrr... Funny that it's still the same. But Grandson had such a great time. And we were able to buy yet more (second-hand) school uniform at bargain prices. I paid the princely sum of £2 for his P.E. kit, which consisted of two tee-shirts, one pair of shorts and yet another school sweatshirt. He was so thrilled with these, he insisted on stripping off his clothes and putting on the new shorts and the sweatshirt. (And guess who will have the job of sewing on all the name-tapes?) We all wandered out into the playground afterwards, and the children played together, reluctant to go home. They seem a very nice bunch, and I liked the look of the parents too. (There was only one slight area of puzzlement when we learned that there are identical twin boys in Grandson's class, called Leon and Bleon - I kid you not!) In the end we had to bribe Grandson with an ice-cream to get him away, and then he wanted to go straight back afterwards. "You can go back in September", said his Mum. Luckily, he has no idea when that is!

I had another reason for my visit, which was to supply a larger "pond" for the two tadpoles who have taken up residence with Daughter and Grandson. They travelled from my pond a couple of months ago, and have been living in a smallish plastic box in their garden ever since. At the weekend I bought an oblong, dark green plastic plant container, which I intended to sink into the garden to give them a new home. Easier said than done. I had half-filled the new "pond" with pond water, including water weed and a few water snails, and had driven very carefully from here to there so as not to upset it. (Thank heavens I didn't have an emergency stop on the way.) The difficult part was digging the hole in a border that was not only dry as dust, but also matted with thick grass roots and weeds. Of course they didn't have a sharp spade, so it was sweaty work to get the hole big enough. Grandson was typically not interested in the hard work required - only in the result, which was actually OK in the end. I just hope that Tinkerbell, their new kitten, won't discover the tadpoles. One of them has quite big legs already, so will be hopping about soon. I fear they may not survive the attentions of both Tinkerbell and Grandson. Poor little tads...