Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remembrance Sunday.

Today has been a beautifully warm and sunny day - what a contrast with many Remembrance Sundays; so often it is grey, rainy and very cold - the sort of weather that makes us think of those poor young men in the trenches in both the terrible World Wars. They were soaked to the skin, often sick, always hungry and in fear for their lives, with no hope of home comforts, and so many of them never to see home again. It never fails to make me cry. The poems of Wilfred Owem are so explicit in describing the suffering those men and boys endured - and I find it all the more amazing that he could actually write poetry about it - one thinks of poetry generally as refined somehow, lifting the soul and casting a kind of spell over the world. But in his case, the dreadful conditions and the suffering are all too clear:

" Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge..
..Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind."

This from "Dulce et Decorum Est", for me the most moving of his poems which tells so clearly what horror War was, and is. God help us when we think that men still go to war, fight and kill each other. I'm tempted to say, "For what?" Yet I know that those brave (and not so brave) men believed in what they were doing - at least until the horror and futility of it overwhelmed them. Or until it killed them. But I'm afraid it will never make sense to me.

On a brighter note, Daughter, Grandson and I whizzed off to the Car Boot Sale at the Marina this morning. It was the most perfect day, and we pottered, bought a few things, shared a bacon sarnie and generally enjoyed the sunshine. Then we came back here to sit in the sun - at least Daughter sat in the sun while and Grandson played with the boys next door and I finished off the outstanding gardening jobs. I have dug over the new vegetable bed, moved the herbacious plants to their new homes and replanted all the spring bulbs which had been displaced. Fantastic. I've even planted a few raspberry canes, and the purple sprouting broccoli plants given to me by my Aristocratic BF. I'm planning a couple of rows of potatoes,some parsnips, spinach and carrots, and then some salad crops, like radish and lettuce or mixed leaves. I'm also going to fill a pot with nasturtiums (we can eat the leaves, flowers and seeds) and plant sweet peas (inedible but gorgeous) on some trellis along the back of the rows. It's a nice plan, and I only hope I can make it work.

Monday, November 7, 2011

First Birthday Beano...

As I walked this morning, the sea was flat and grey, covered by a grey blanket of sky. A moist and misty Monday morning (jolly good alliteration, I think!) which reminded me of one of my truly terrible jokes which used to make the children groan: "Tomorrow will be Muggy, followed by Tue-gy, We-gy, Thur-gy and Fri-gy." I know, dreadful, but it used to make us laugh. Actually, the joke originated from Bob Monkhouse, years ago, and he did have some awful jokes...

Enough of that, what I really wanted to tell you was how Beanie's Christening and First Birthday Party went. Yesterday morning we all drove to the pictureque little church of St Peter in Upper Beeding for the ceremony, which was part of the normal morning service. I must say that I have never been to an "Anglican high church" service before. It was all greek to me - I didn't know any of the responses and so couldn't really get into the swing of it. I sang the hymns though - at least the ones I knew, and enjoyed the sight of Beanie crawling very fast up to the altar and getting in on the act. The actual baptism itself was lovely and Beanie seemed to enjoy it. Afterwards we all had coffee in the church hall before driving back for the festivities at home. Lovely Downstairs Neighbour had organised food and drinks (despite having a stomach bug the day before and no sleep for about a week). I made jellies and did a few sausage rolls, another friend made some perfect cup cakes and LDN (excuse the abbreviation) had managed to produce a gorgeous Birthday cake, iced with a little boat on the top and some candles. Loads of her family were there, plus the usual suspects, friendwise, so it was a very jolly gathering, and Beanie resolutely refused to sleep in case he might miss some of the fun! Of course it's not actually his Birthday until tomorrow (8th), so we have to have another little gathering to sing Happy Birthday again and actually cut the cake. I'm looking forward to that.

Had a gorgeous cup of hot chocolate with another BBF this morning, in our new Patisserie Valerie in Hove. Poor BBF is having a horrible time recently because her husband is very ill. I try and see her once a week to cheer her up a bit, but I don't know how much good it does! She is looking very thin and worried (naturally enough). Patisserie Valerie is a huge temptation; the pastries and fruit tarts are just divine, and I noticed this morning that they had those little Portuguese custard tarts I love so much. Next time I'm definitely having one; just don't mention the diet...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I see two ships...

This morning the sea was different again - it's never quite the same twice, and when I walk most mornings there is usually something to note. Today there was a deep bluey-green, almost steely look to the water. A big tanker, leaving harbour, was moving very slowly and looked just like a black paper cutout solidly silhouetted against the flat horizon. Further along I saw a yacht with one white, billowing sail which cut through the line of the horizon like a Japanese paintbrush stroke. Very graphic. My walk was invigorating as always, and the wind was cold enough to warrant a scarf snuggled around my neck. Somehow that makes all the difference. And I so look forward to the hot shower afterwards.

Today (Saturday) is sunny but cold and as I have Grandson here I'm not walking by the sea. It's also Lovely Downstairs Neighbour's Birthday, so we're about to write her card and give her a presie. I have also volunteered to babysit for her this evening so that she can go out and celeberate with friends. That's easy-peasy because it usually involves me sitting here with a glass of wine and the baby monitor - though maybe Beanie won't be so obliging tonight! We'll see. It is going to be his 1st Birthday next month, on 8th November - I can hardly believe a whole year has gone by so quickly. He is still called Bean or Beanie, although his official name is still Gabriel. This should all be resolved when he has his Christening/Birthday Party on 6th November, Lovely Downstairs Neighbour will then finally decide on his names and the order in which they appear. As you may (or may not) recall he has been Bruno Gabriel and Gabriel Bruno, though still no-one calls him anything but Bean! It's a tricky one :-)

Half Term is upon us, and Grandson has had a very good six weeks at the new school. Yesterday there was a Harvest Cafe after school, where various cakes anad goodies were on sale. I contributed some of my Crabapple Jelly, some Spooky Cupcakes and a few other bits and pieces. It was very crowded and great fun. We ate cakes and then watched a film made by last year's Year 3. Grandson also had a brand-new, shiny gold Headmaster's Sticker, given for for his homework. All in all very satisfactory. Afterwards we went to the Skate Park for a freezing (for me) half hour. Amazing how much the weather has changed in just two weeks. Then it was home for fish and chips. I was so cold that I needed something warm to hold, at least that's my excuse...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The last Pimm's of Summer..

What a glorious week of weather we have had, culminating in two days of 30 degree temperatures this weekend. Of course we spent it on the beach, as did thousands of others here in Brighton - in fact in 9 years here I have never seen so many people out walking along the promenade and swimming in the sea. We had picnics on the beach on both Saturday and Sunday, Daughter, Grandson and I, and also swam in the sea along with everyone else. Grandson is a positive water baby and was in the sea for about three hours on Saturday and two hours on Sunday! The only thing that stopped him was the fact that he had scratched his stomach because he wouldn't stop surfing onto the shingle! In spite of the hot sun and clear blue skies, there was a lovely breeze and very big waves crashing onto the shore, so it was an exciting thing to be doing, but by Saturday evening he was really sore, and on Sunday he was pretty much black and blue. He had a good go of his Boogie Board too and that was slightly less painful. Anyway, great fun was had by all, and we retreated to my balcony at about 4pm on Sunday and sat in the sun with the last of the Pimm's, watching the sun go down. Not surprisingly, Grandson collapsed in front of the TV and we didn't hear a peep out of him. When they went home he apparently crashed out and slept like a log. We all felt that we had made the most of the glorious weekend - what a great ending to the Summer - unexpected and all the better for that.

It was also the last of the Shoreham Flyover Car Boot Sales on Sunday, and of course I didn't want to miss that. It was almost too hot to walk around, and lots of people had brought their umbrellas to use as parasols - what a good idea: I wished I had thought of it. The field was packed with sellers, right down to the bottom, and again, I had never seen so many people out and about enjoying the sunshine. We found some lovely bargains, and I saw lots of things I would have bought for my imaginary antique shop!

As I was driving back to go to the beach, Son phoned from Poland. I told him that we were enjoying Mediterranean weather and temperatures and he sounded rather envious!
They were due to fly back on Monday, so I guess they are back in London now, though I haven't heard from him yet

My students have both gone home - the unpleasant Austrian vegetarian went home on Saturday morning (hurrah), leaving her room in a disgusting state and full of rubbish for me to clear up (not that I was surprised). She was possibly the most humourless person I have ever met (and that's saying something). I didn't know that she was vegetarian until after she arrived, but gamely took it on and cooked her what I thought were inventive and varied meals for two weeks. In return I got not one "thank you", she came down later and later for breakfast every day without a word of apology, and pulled a frightful face at me when I asked her to clean her bathroom at the end of the two weeks! By contrast, the other Student was a really nice Russian man, a chemist, who was unfailingly polite and charming, and always told me if he was going to be in or out. He also took every advantage of being here in England: he made two trips to London, went on a theatre trip to see "Phantom the Opera", took coach trips to both Cambridge and Stonehenge and and spent his last Saturday going to Leeds Castle and Canterbury Cathedral. He left on Sunday morning and was obviously sad to go. Of course he left his room and bathroom immaculately clean. Ah well, students come and students go, and you never know what you're going to get.

I think that's about it.. Summer is really over now I guess. I can bring in the parasol and the geraniums from the balcony and look forward to a cosy Autumn...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy Birthday to Son..

Son's Birthday today - he is 32 - and he's in Warsaw with his polish girlfriend. I did get to see him on Wednesday; we had a lovely lunch sitting in the sun outside a London restaurant and I took him a couple of presies and a little birthday cake. It was great to see him looking so happy and positive, especially when I think back to last year and how deeply "in the wrong" I was for most of the summer. Ah well, life is made up of changes.

This year I feel much more positive too - which is, I think, an indicator of just how much my children mean to me: last year I was unhappy because Son didn't want to communicate with me and Daughter was not terribly happy, and having problems adjusting to being on her own again, and though Grandson wasn't too unhappy, he was certainly still feeling insecure. Now, though, Daughter is also feeling more positive and happy, the new Boyfriend is turning into a regular boyfriend, the job is turning into something she feels happy doing (though she is also thinking of doing a PGCE so that she can teach and have the same holidays as Grandson) and Grandson is happy as a flea at his new school.(Yesterday he came out positively skipping with happiness, and proudly showing off his certificate from the Headmaster, which said he's had an excellent start at Elm Grove School!) So, either I'm pathetically attached to them, or just more honest about it than most - either way, the fact is I'm happy when they're happy. Pick the bones out of that one...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Whether the weather..

There's what you might call a stiff sou'westerly blowing down by the sea today. Huge greeny-sludge coloured breakers with dirty cream tops are hurling themselves onto the shingle in a spectacular display of what looks like very bad temper. It was a magnificent sight as I dodged along, seeing very few other brave walkers. One woman I passed, wrapped against the wind and rain, said just one word as we passed and smiled at each other in complicity: "Wonderful". Indeed it was. And although it's far from gale-force winds today, I was reminded of that night in October 1987 when the whole country was lashed with 'unexpected' gales.

We were living in Cambridge then, in fact had recently moved into our new house, and the gales came as a complete surprise. Son and Daughter were then 8 and nearly 6 respectively, and as the noises from outside were so frightening, they climbed into bed with me at about 5am and we cowered under the duvet until getting up time. Our house overlooked the Cambridge Botanical Gardens, so you can probably imagine the devastation that greeted us. I think the Botanical Gardens lost about half of their mature trees that night. Closer to our home, a huge branch had been ripped from the horse chestnut tree in our garden and lay lengthwise along our balcony. Luckily it hadn't been blown crosswise, or we would have had all the windows smashed and half a tree in our sitting room. Several branches from that and other trees had been blown across our roof and into the Mews outside, but we were relatively untouched. As it turned out, we had a smallish hole in the roof which was attended to without much trouble. All the roads, parks and gardens around were littered with bits of tree and roof, and many people and houses had been injured and damaged. Several poor people died when trees landed on them or their cars or houses. And I remember that my ABF's cat-slide roof was blown right off. It was all very scary and we counted ourselves pretty lucky to only have the inconvenience of closed schools and no public transport for a couple of days. We even had a phone call from the Ex that morning, to check if we were still alive! It was probably wishful thinking on his part, but sadly for him, we were all fine. Hard to believe that was 24 years ago - history really. Let's hope these winds subside without doing too much damage.

Good news on the school front from Grandson. He has had nearly a week at the new school and seems pretty relaxed about it. I've been collecting him after school and if his responses are anything to go by, he's fine. The usual answer to the question "What did you do today?" is "Nothing".. and that's just what I've been getting. He has two new friends, plus a girlfriend (not sure of her name, but she is "beautiful") and he is eating all his packed lunch every day. So far, so good...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Perpetual Motion...

"Oh it's a long,long time from May to December" so the song goes, but we're more than half way through and time is just galloping. Now we're into September and the new School year is about to start. This means that Grandson is about to start at his new school, which will be his third in three years!! He first went to Powell Corduroy in dreaded Dorking for just over a year, then to St. Aubyn's in Rottingdean for a year and a half, and now he's due to start at Elm Grove Primary on Tuesday. He is both excited and nervous, which I really understand. And I do hope it will be a good place for him.

The other day we were also counting up the places he has lived, and it was quite an impressive total for a seven year old. He started life in Wakefield (1), moved swiftly here to Hove (2) when he was four months old and his father disappeared, then they moved into Son's flat in Brighton (3) and lived happily there for a couple of years. Next they left Brighton and moved to Dorking (4) with the ex-boyfriend (big mistake - huge). A year ago last Christmas they moved swiftly back here to Hove (5) where they stayed with me for 7 months, and then moved into a shared house in Hanover (6) with Daughter's friend, which lasted precisely a year, and they have now moved into a flat on their own, also in Hanover (7), which is near his new school. Bless the boy, that's 7 homes in 7 years. I bloody hope this one sticks, because they could both do with a bit of stability. It's no wonder he loves coming to stay here with me; I guess it's the one place that doesn't change in his little life.

I have been on a mini-jaunt up to London this weekend to stay with a London BF. I drove up in brilliant sunshine, and we had some lunch in her lovely garden before walking round the corner to see an open-air performance of "The Importance of being Earnest". I love Oscar Wilde, well, I love his wit,and it was a very good and funny production. We sat with glasses of wine and laughed in all the usual places. Then we sat in her garden again, catching up on all the gossip until it was almost dark. This morning we breakfasted in the garden again, and then went to a London Car Boot Sale where the heavens promptly opened and soaked us literally to the skin! Sadly, it meant we couldn't meet up with Son for a drink, as we had to beat a hasty retreat and change into dry clothes. Never mind - though I did mind really, I so wanted to see Son, however briefly, because his busy working schedule and his jet-setting back and forth to Poland (I actually wrote Pooland there!) and his girlfriend mean that we see very little of him. And he's off again very soon - he's flying to Pooland on his very Birthday (16th September). Carole King said it perfectly in her song "Far Away". "Doesn't anybody stay in one place any more?" Me and Grandson too - we both need a bit of solid ground...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oh I do like to be beside the Seaside..

It's the last of the Bank Holidays until Christmas, and I can hardly believe how quickly the summer has flown by. The weather has been a bit iffy, sunny one minute and rainy the next, but we Brits are used to that, and we carry on, on the beaches with our picnics and sea bathing. I do wonder at it sometimes, but it's certainly true that we are a hardy bunch: we go out equipped with rugs, windbreaks and umbrellas, plenty of towels and sandwiches and the usual sense of humour, which really helps. If only we had one of those enviable climates which are reliably sunny in summer it would be lovely, but then I suppose we would be overrun with even more tourists than usual. Ho hum, I guess we have to be content with what we have!

Today being Sunday, I met up at the Car Boot Sale at Shoreham with Daughter, Grandson, lovely Downstairs Neighbour and and her son Beanie, and an equally lovely Swedish friend of Daughter's. We were a very merry lot and tracked down various bargains while the sun shone after which we sat with bacon rolls and tea and chatted very happily. Only a sharp shower of rain sent us all scurrying, and I then spent 20 minutes sitting in a queue of cars to get out of the field! Such fun.

Son is in Poland for the Bank Holiday weekend, with his Polish girlfriend, where they are going to a Music Festival in Katowice, so he won't be at the Notting Hill Carnival this year for the first time in about 5 years. I think that's possibly a good move, because people are predicting more trouble than usual this year. Who knows, but I do hope not.

I went down to the sea for a blowy walk this evening: it was wonderfully bracing, with "white horses" racing onto the beach as far as the eye could see, and kite surfers out in large numbers taking advantage of the perfect wind conditions. There were great piles of dark clouds with snowy white summits looming over the Downs, but the rain held off while I was out. How lucky I am to have the sea on my doorstep!

Finally, I'm not about to go on about the football this weekend, since my beloved Spurs were totally hammered by Manchester City yesterday. The only slight sweetener is that Arsenal were hammered even harder by Manchester United today. But we really have to do better this season...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

We're all going on a Summer Holiday..

We really are having a very good time this summer, despite the uncertain weather. I'm spending a lot of time with Grandson, and this year it's much easier. I guess because he's not such a little boy any more, and doesn't need a constant supervisory presence. Anyway, for whatever reason, it's much easier all round. Daughter has booked Grandson into the local Sports Centre, for general activities, two or three days a week. And on the other days, he comes to me and we amuse ourselves. This year will surely be remembered as The Year of the Skate Park because that is where we have spent most of our time. Actually he skims around on his scooter, which seems to be the ride of choice this year. There are still plenty of hardy skateboarders of course, but the majority ride these little scooters with tiny wheels, and they really do some amazing tricks on them. I'm becoming something of a connoisseur since I watch so much of the action, and it's certainly great exercise; some days we spend as much as four hours there, and he barely stops for a bite of a picnic roll or a gulp of water. It's great to see him so passionately involved. He's made a few friends there too; one is Johnny, a tall and expert skateboarder who is probably about 15, and is genuinely nice to the smaller boys. He and Grandson do "high fives" whenever they complete a tricky manoevre and chat away all the time, with Grandson following Johnny around like a little disciple. The other good friend is little Harry, who is only six and quite small; he has a really deep voice and is very good at big jumps on his scooter. He is also very funny and makes Grandson laugh a lot. Because he's having so much fun, it's always a problem to get Grandson away at the end of the day, but eventually I manage it and he staggers home, bright red and sweating from his exertions (unless we've had a dip in the sea or the paddling pool, both of which are handy). He then eats everything in sight and falls instantly asleep after we've had a story. Great!

Last week, on Thursday, we had a change of scene and drove out to see two of my BFs (the ones who live in a wonderful old house in the middle of National Trust woods). We had been invited to go for the day and to cook our own pizzas in their terracotta pizza oven in the garden. What larks! My BF's Husband, was terrific; he chopped wood with Grandson, gathered twigs to start the fire and showed him how to measure the temperature on the floor of the oven. In the meantime, we mere women were preparing the pizza dough, chopping the toppings (tomatoes, olives, mozzarella and chorizo) and making salad from the freshly cut lettuce. It was such fun, and I don't think Grandson will ever forget it. He was sliding the pizza in and out of the oven, on the paddle, and then there was the unforgettable bit when we all sat at the table and actually ate everything they had made. Yummy. And he also cooked our dessert pizza, which was topped with thinly sliced apples (fried in butter first) and home made raspberry jam. Double yummy. Of course we grown-ups had lovely wine to go with our pizzas, and then Grandson was off again, digging potatoes and washing them under the outside tap, and cutting beans for us to bring home. What a day! At the end, my two lovely BFs were on their knees. They don't have any grandchildren yet... I bet they slept well that night too...

I think I'm about done for tonight. I have a few days off now because Daughter and Grandson are driving to France tomorrow (crossing by ferry from Dover) and meeting up with the new Boyfriend who is working on his brother's house out there. It sounds lovely, and Grandson is very excited about putting the car on the boat and about speaking French! I'm quite excited at the prospect of going out for a glass of wine with a BBF tomorrow evening and saying goodbye to my last Student on Saturday morning. Roll on that lie-in on Sunday morning.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Days...

Yesterday (Wednesday), was one of my lovely London days, which I must say are few and far between lately. However, as it was one of my days off (from Grandson) I scooted up to Town to luxuriate in a quick visit to Peter Jones and then a much longer look at the Summer Exhibition.

Dipping into P.Jones for a cup of coffee is always a delight, and sitting in the top floor cafe next to the window you get simply the best free view of London's rooftops (well, the coffee actually costs £2.50, but who's counting?). Anyway, after that refresher, I tootled off to the Royal Academy on the bus, and skirted round the lovely water splashes which are constantly bubbling over the stones in the Courtyard. Such a nice idea and it obviously delighted the children, who were running and splashing and generally having a wonderful time in the sunshine. Once inside, I headed for the ticket desk and asked for a Senior ticket for the Summer Exhibition. Imagine my delight when the young man on duty asked me for "proof of age, please". I laughed and asked if he was serious, then produced my bus pass - but a woman standing behind me was terribly miffed. "He didn't ask me for proof of age" she sniffed:-)

I missed the Summer Exhibition last year, so was very happy to make it this year. I always start off with the intention of doing it justice, but there is just so much to absorb that I have to take a break half way round, and usually end up feeling exhausted. This year was no exception. As always, my favourites are the smaller prints and paintings, and this year there were lots of animal subjects - funny I know, but there's usually some sort of theme, and this time it was animals, and lots of dogs! The nicest was a little black and white etching of "Morandi's Dog" having a good scratch - very funny. I also spotted a frog, an armadillo, a turtle and even a polar bear. My favourite though was a small lino cut, very Eastern European in style, printed in black and white and called "Driving Rain": a little man on a motor bike is splashing through driving rain and guess what it's raining? Cats and dogs!

They've done something awful to the Royal Academy restaurant. I was so looking forward to having lunch there in one of my breaks, but it has changed for the worse. It used to be bright and light, with artistically painted walls and lovely food to choose from. Now, however, it's dark and rather forbidding. There's a maitre'd who smarms up with a big menu (with big prices) and it's table service or nothing. I voted for nothing and went to sit in the Courtyard, in the sunshine,with a sandwich and a ginger beer. I do wonder who is responsible for these "improvements" however, I can't imagine that anyone who used to eat there regularly (or even once a year, like me) would consider this makeover an improvement. All they've succeeded in doing is turning a lovely, welcoming space, which served really good food, into just another posh, overpriced restaurant

After my culture overload, I staggered off to meet Son for a drink and a chat - we needed a catch-up as I hadn't seen him for a couple of months. He was looking very well, as he's just back from a holiday in Croatia. He has been jetsetting around as he was in Cannes in May, back and forth to Poland since then (which is where his new girlfriend hails from) as well as the Croatia trip. He's planning to take a Sabbatical of sorts next year (not for a year, but for a few months). I think it's such a good idea, I asked if I could go along too! Maybe not, but I do think it's a great plan. Anyway, it's something I wish I'd done when I was young...happy days.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Student City..

Well, the student season has started in earnest here in not-so-sunny Brighton. My first Summer student arrived on Sunday (which was very hot and sunny actually) and though I was expecting a young woman from Switzerland, I wasn't prepared for a 22 year-old Turkish Muslim who lives in Switzerland (was in fact born in Switzerland), speaks German and Turkish and whose family run an Italian restaurant in Berne! Beat that! That has to be the most multi-cultural situation I've ever encountered all in one person. She is extremely nice too - very polite and we will get on famously I'm sure. She is here for six weeks and will be joined next Sunday by a man from Brazil, a mature student of 44, who is an English teacher and is coming to brush up on his English teaching skills for a couple of weeks. After him comes a Russian girl for three weeks, so we have a full house for six weeks altogether, and no doubt it will be a pretty full-on cultural experience too. With any luck we can also expect a few laughs language-wise along the way!

Added to that, it's the start of Grandson's summer holidays. He finishes school on Friday and is actually leaving St. Aubin's, which will be rather sad for all of us.
Never mind - it was exactly what he needed when he and Daughter moved back from dreadful Dorking, and now he is quite ready to move on. The lovely teachers in the pre-prep could not have been better, and we have chosen presents and cards for Grandson to give them. Tomorrow is Sports Day, so we are hoping for a bit of sunshine so that we can enjoy the races and our picnic. Afterwards there is the Class 2 end of year performance, The Enormous Crocodile, in which Grandson is playing Humpy-Rumpy the Hippo. That just leaves Friday to say goodbye to everyone, and I expect there will be a few tears. Luckily though he is not the only one leaving - there are four going altogether, for different reasons I'm sure, but I'm equally sure that lots of families are really feeling the pinch when it comes to affording something like private school these days!!

Time for bed. Must be up bright and early to make ham rolls and cook sausages for the picnic. Oh, and I've bought some of those gorgeous little pork pies to have with our salad. Yum yum, pig's bum (oops, don't mention pork, ham or bacon for the next six weeks, or sausages, and certainly not pigs...:-)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Family Matters...

Oh god, this weather is really getting me down. Most days this month it has been gloomy and grey, no sun and certainly not warm enough to sit out on the balcony. On the good side, it has rained at last, (rather a lot) and I have been able to get into the garden and actually do something. The pond has filled up at last, and so the big tadpoles have something to swim in; they really are enormous and I wonder if they are actually toadpoles rather than the froggy variety.

Familywise, there is a big get-together this weekend, though I'm not included! The occasion is a visit from the ex-husband, accompanied by wife No.4, all the way from New Zealand. Daughter and Grandson met up with him Friday here in Brighton (not actually here in my house) and they all went to buy Grandson a belated Birthday present and then out to dinner. Then today, Daughter, Grandson and the new Boyfriend are all in Essex for a big reunion with ex-husband's brother, wife and family, which includes a son and daughter and their children (two each)! Phew. Quite a crowd, and I really hope that they have a great time. Son will be joining them too, either today or Sunday (I'm not sure which), and Daughter and Co will be staying in a hotel overnight tonight. Surprisingly, I feel rather "left out", which is strange given that I really wouldn't want to spend time with the ex. I think it's becaused it's a family reunion and I'd very much like to see all the others and catch up with all their news and stuff. That's me of course, quite contrary... Ah well

Instead, today I have had a visit from my ABF who drove over from Sissinghurst to collect her Birthday present (a lovely pink bush rose called Clare, which I found at Rushfield garden centre, just over the Dyke). She came bearing masses of gifts, as she always does: some gorgeous black cherries from the farm, and some brown eggs, plus rhubarb from her garden. We had a nice lunch here and then watched Royal Ascot on TV. My ABF, being very aristocratic, knows a lot about racehorses and trainers etc, as she used to own and run horses in a previous existence. She still follows the racing news, is very knowledgeable, and knows lots of the people involved so it was interesting watching with her, and I did enjoy the other bits such as the fashions and the hats. What a lot of money there is sloshing around at these events! Obviously not everyone is feeling the pinch!

Afterwards we went for a very windy walk down by the sea to get a bit of fresh air. My goodness did we get fresh air!! The sea was very rough, a cold greeny-grey, and we were practically blown away by the fiercest easterly wind. It was pretty cold and we had all the breath blown out of us, so we soon gave up and turned for home. And to think that next week is the Summer Solstice.. the 21st June and the longest day.. To be perfectly honest it feels more like winter here and I'm still taking a hot water bottle to bed every night!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Tooth Fairy and the Birthday Boy.

Well, I'm not proving the most regular of bloggers I know, in fact I'm worse than ever, but the latest piece of news from my lovely downstairs neighbour is that baby Beanie has his first tooth! I can't believe how time flies - five minutes ago he was a little newborn and now he's bouncing, rolling over, eating chicken and sweet potato mush and generally growing into a proper little boy. Amazing. And he really is the sweetest chap, very smiley and lovable. I must also tell you that he very quickly lost his first name (which was Bruno if you remember) and became Gabriel (close to Christmas, little Angel!) Beanie (he was called Beanie before he was born, and it just sort of stuck). Anyway, those of us who are close to him call him Beanie, with Gabriel saved for more formal occasions. If he has any imperfections, there is just the little matter of sleeping through so that his poor Mum can get her beauty sleep. Never mind, nobody's perfect!

Speaking of growing up, my beloved Grandson was 7 years old on Monday (30th). He is really almost as tall as me, though that's not saying much I suppose. Daughter arranged a great Birthday Party for him, at a friend's house.She booked a big bouncy slide and invited lots of friends with their children.I made masses of assorted sandwiches and bought two Birthday cakes. Well,one was in the shape of a football, iced in black and white sections, and the other was actually a tower of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Fabulous. I hadn't eaten them before (proving just how long you can live without trying something so scrumptious) but will definitely have them again. My favourite is the chocolate covered one with little chunks of fudge on top and a gorgeous custardy middle. Pure heaven. Anyway, the party was a great success; Son came from London, Daughter's new Boyfriend came with some friends of his, and various friends of friends also appeared with their assorted children. I'm not sure who enjoyed the bouncy slide most, but it certainly amused everyone: after the requisite amount of alcohol had been consumed the adults were running up the slidey side and jumping down it with what used to be called gay abandon (sadly, no-one uses the word gay in that context any more). Great fun. I came home at about 5.30, with Grandson, and we chilled out for the rest of the evening, leaving the others to finish the food and drink. Enough, as they say, is as good as a feast...

P.S. Before I go, I'd better assure you that the alcohol was consumed by the adults, not the children...

PPS. Grandson's favourite presents were: a Scooter (from Daughter's new Boyfriend) a Kite (from Son) and a Whoopee Cushion (from me:-)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal Wedding Blues...

I suppose today is as good as any to re-start my totally stalled Blog! Royal Wedding fever has been at a high pitch and, though I'm not an avid royalist, I do like a bit of Romance (with a capital R) and a classy Wedding Dress. And you must admit it was a classy dress - very classical and sculptured and entirely beautiful. Actually my favourite dress was the one worn by the Bride's Sister - it was utterly wonderful. I didn't stay tuned for the whole ceremony, I'm afraid, because I find all the high church stuff rather, well, stuffy. But I gawped at the guests, particularly the Beckhams, (on TV of course) and watched the highlights when they were re-played during the evening. I did think of Princess Diana though, and imagined that she would be watching over her boys as they conducted themselves with typical self-contained and good humoured composure. Sad, but she would have been proud of them I'm sure. I always think of my Mother as sitting up there somewhere on a fluffy cloud and playing her harp (not that she ever played the harp when she was alive:-) so maybe Diana is doing something similar. Who knows.

Anyway, it's good to be back. Reading over my last entries, I was completely absorbed in my Kitchen makeover, which is now well and truly completed and seems like a distant memory. I think I was unreasonably obsessed actually - maybe not surprising when you consider how central our kitchens are to our lives. But it was finished in time for Christmas (just) and I was rushing around right up until the family arrived the day before Christmas Eve - in fact I ushered the Builders out of one door as Son, Daughter and Grandson appeared through the other. Phew! We had one or two teething troubles (i.e water from the washing machine all over the floor on Christmas morning, and again on Boxing Day morning) and the Builders seemed to come back on a regular basis for a few weeks, but on the whole it was, and is, fine. They have been great at sorting out any little wrinkles, and I'm very pleased with the result. I am now (very belatedly) sorting out my photos, plans, descriptions and receipts. I know I promised to put some of this on to show you, and I will get around to it, but life has been rather hectic in between then and now.

Where to begin? Well, Daughter has had a busy time since Christmas, changing jobs and boyfriends at an alarming pace, but seems OK at the mo. Son is fine, but has also had an eventful few months: he has split up with his girlfriend, and is moving (selling his flat and buying another one in London on his own). He is still in the same job though, and seems pretty happy and positive. Grandson is great, nearly 7 years old (on 30th May!) and is going to be moving schools again at the end of the academic year. Plus ca change..

So I have spent my time accommodating the changes, fielding Grandson as and when necessary, writing the odd article for the Estate Agent, and feeding and watering foreign Students occasionally. My last was a 77 year old Polish professor of History.
He remembered the War vividly, and told me how he was "removed" from his family by the occupying Germans when he was 12 years old. His sister, who was 13, was also removed at the same time, but sent to a different family. He never lived with his parents again, and said how terrible it was. He also said that he was "lucky" because the family who took him in were kind to him - and that the fate of his family could have been worse. Apparently they were saved from a much worse fate because his Mother spoke very good German, and was therefore useful to the occupying troops. He also reflected on the fact that, after the War, the Americans had naively handed Poland over to Stalin in the belief that he would honour his commitment to treat the Poles well. I found this all fascinating, and his stay (only two weeks up until Easter) was not only a lesson in recent history, but very interesting and entertaining. He brought me a bottle of special Polish vodka (with Bison Grass, whatever that may be) and enjoyed his visit, and his food, with equal gusto. His jolly sense of humour and enjoyment of life were quite astonishing when you consider what much of his life has been.

Before I go and check my Lottery ticket, I must tell you a bon mot I heard last week at the Garden Centre. I was sitting with a cup of coffee, minding my own business, when I overheard a couple of women at the next table discussing a mutual friend who was obviously very mean. One said to the other: "If fresh air was tuppence a bag, she'd suffocate!"
Great! I'd never heard that one before...