Monthly Archives: February 2006

Reading and shivering

I’ve finished the first book, which was ‘Madras on Rainy Days’ by Samina Ali. Very well written and I’ve been reading most of the morning so I haven’t got any work done. It’s written in the first person by Layla, an Indian Muslim girl who has been brought up in Hyderabad and in Minneapolis, six months of each year in each. I have been to a couple of weddings in India, when relatives have returned home from all over the world for the celebrations. A marriage has been arranged for her in India and in defiance she sleeps with an American boy before submitting. She is overwhelmed by the warm and loving welcome she receives from her husband’s family but there’s a barrier between her and her husband that she doesn’t understand fully until later. The author writes about the underlying discrimination shown to Muslim Indians and their (well-founded) fear when a riot broke out.

I was in Madras myself when there were riots a few years ago; a politician was arrested for corruption and her supporters were bussed in from all around to demonstrate. I was on an organised bus tour of the city that day and so didn’t know anything about it, but my Indian friends were very anxious as buses can be targeted. In fact one was, students returning from the local agricultural college were stopped and ordered off the bus before the demonstrators set it on fire. But they didn’t wait and two girls were trapped and died.

It must be an odd feeling to belong to two countries and yet entirely to neither. Layla says that she is called American in India and Indian in the US, and I can see that happening to an extent because she comes and goes for several months at a time. But surely this effect lessens as time goes by and we all become more cosmopolitan? I don’t know how old the author is, but her experiences of even a few years ago might not be so true now.

Just watching the weather forecast. It looks as if the snow I wanted a few weeks ago is on the way. I think I’ll go shopping, just in case we can’t get down our drive in a day or two. It’ll certainly be cold, so I’ll have to make excuses to stay in the kitchen and cook big vats of soup and keep warm that way.

Not all good luck

Younger son and I went to Norwich today, he wanting new clothes and we both wanting to see Caché (Hidden) with Juliet Binoche and Daniel Auteuil. I started by going into Jarrolds and leaving some time later both richer and poorer, by 5 books and £36. So I went down to the cinema, which has an adjoining bar, to have a drink and sit and read while waiting for the film so that there was no temptation to spend more money.

But the bar was closed as the staff have chosen today for a jolly. And the film on offer was Match Point instead. Apparently Caché was delivered 2 hours early and to the wrong place, so was taken back to the depot which then shut for the weekend. Oh.

I trailed back to the city to check Son’s regular haunts but couldn’t find him so sheltered from the hailstone under an archway and read a book – blimey, I thought, a slender paperback for £9.99, especially as a first novel. I looked at the back – £6.99. Checked receipt again, sighed, went back up the hill to reclaim my £3. Since I’d forked out £4.50 in car parking (really, Norwich is outrageous, they really don’t want visitors. Even the park and ride is £3 which is fine for a day but I don’t have time or money to shop for a day) to see a film that wasn’t on, I wasn’t going to lose out by overpaying for my book as well.

In the event we went to a different cinema and saw Good Night, and Good Luck, George Clooney’s new film, about CBS reporter Ed Murrow’s stand against Senator McCarthy in the 1950s. Powerful stuff, brave of GC – hardly a mass audience film and in black and white to boot. Noticeable also for more cigarettes on view in any film since The Man who Wasn’t There, also b & w. I think I read that George C put on a good deal of weight for the film, how dedicated of him since he is reaching an age when it is very difficult to get it off again and once that chin sags, can you get the taut jawline back? He doesn’t look fat, just bulkier than usual. With a thicker neck. The b & w was necessary as footage from the time was included.

With 5 new books (plus 3 library books, 2 of them unfinished and 1 unstarted, due back next Friday) I must go and start reading.

Tearing my hair out and getting it cut

It’s only once every three months, but the job takes hours, simple as it sounds. I write the rota for who reads the lesson, hands out the hymn books, makes the coffee etc each Sunday service. What would be easiest would be an invariable rolling programme; if it’s first Sunday I’m making coffee etc. This does work to some extent, but I have more willing people (isn’t that a good situation) than there are places, although not everyone wants to do the job every month, some people are willing to do whatever I ask them and some prefer to do a specific thing. Then I have to remember school holidays and who isn’t available then. I’m not really whingeing – well, okay, maybe I am, but I prefer to think I’m just explaining.

Job done. I printed out 20 copies and highlighted each person’s name on their copy. I made a list of names and how many times they were on duty. Added it up. 72. Counted how many duties. 73. I’ve gone through it three times and still can’t find whose name isn’t highlighted. And yes, I’ve added up names and duties several times too, I don’t trust my number skills either.

I had my hair cut yesterday. I went to the same hairdresser for years and then she took maternity leave and so another person took me over. Nice girl, married with two little boys; but her personal life became too complicated and I found out far more about her than I wanted to and, indeed, could see more than she knew she was telling me.
After some months of this I went on holiday just after Christmas and so didn’t make the usual appointment. My hair got longer for months as I kept putting off going back and hearing the lastest disaster.
Fortunately the salon was in another town and in the end I ventured into a new place. And was sat down and my hair discussed. Which hadn’t happened in years. So I finally got a more flattering hairstyle that is easy to look after and a cheerful hairdresser who doesn’t talk too much, or expect me to.
It costs more, but is certainly worth it.

An ordinary idyll

My vegetable seed order has arrived, what a pity it’s far too cold to venture into the garden or even sow seeds in the greenhouses. I love growing plants from seed, much more satisfying than just buying them, but I’m something of a fair weather gardener nowadays. I assure myself that early sowing doesn’t matter as the seedlings will be held back by the cold, leave it a few weeks and they will catch up.

I went to a Gardening Club talk with a BBC weatherman the other evening – a meteorologist rather than one of the ones who fancy themselves as tv presenters and think doing the weather report and sexing up the forecast so that you will be enthralled by their wit and lovely teeth is a good means to that end. Since there is nothing about a weather forecast that is interesting, it is incredibly soporific, all that happens is that I have stopped listening by the time they mention East Anglia and miss it again.
Anyway, he says that the cold weather in Siberia is driving migratory birds over here and sick birds could well land in this part of the country. Our bantams are not just kept for their eggs, they are pets and we are very fond of them so I am worried. We’d be really upset if a culling order went out, but that’s the way the government went with BSE, swine fever and foot & mouth so, although it is universally agreed that it was the wrong way, there is no sign that they have learned any different.

I, with friend Al, had lunch with a visiting lecturer the other day. We had an enjoyable series of conversations and she was good company. She and I talked at times about our families – later I emailed Al to say I wondered if I’d overtalked mine, I said I know I make it sound idyllic (though I know it wouldn’t be for everyone), but it is quite an ordinary idyll. He says that sounds like a book title.

I’ve been unpacking boxes of books and putting them on shelves. My son and wife have been storing them for me, but now they are expecting another baby they will need the room eventually. I spent nearly 2 hours on the job and was pleased with the result but there are still hundreds to go and Ive nearly run out of shelves. I have an idea for using the back of a deep alcove in the spare bedroom however so there’s not too much danger of having to cull the book collection yet.

sentimental reflections……

I don’t think I’ve mentioned that my son and daughter-in-law live next door to us which works well in that Green Son can grow his veg in my kitchen garden – this is the theory, he doesn’t really have time so I do most of the work; doesn’t matter as I’ve always grown lots of veg and enjoy it. I don’t really do flowers, being both practical and greedy I prefer a useful end result to my labours. Also, we’re on hand for each other whenever needed, whilst having our own independent living space. It (the living cheek by jowl) is a sensible and useful idea that could fall apart badly if we didn’t all get along. It makes me extremely happy that we do. D-i-l says she loves living here (and after all she could tactfully say nothing) and we certainly love having them and Grandbaby.

I’ve no idea how long the extended family thing will go on for, maybe it’s partly that we all are mutually supportive but give each other space – not always an easy thing for a motherly type to do, but I need my own solitude and don’t expect to see them every day, though there’s always a welcome on both sides.

A fly in the ointment? Haven’t found it so far. We must never take a relationship for granted, but then I always try to worry well ahead so that I can ward off forseeable problems.

It’s so lucky that our two married offspring have both chosen partners that I can honestly say I love and truly feel are members of the family. In the space of a year we went from three Juniors to five. Great for a mother hen.

Downhill all the way

Well, I take back what I said about the Winter Olympics not being exciting, although I am vindicated too in a sense. I’m watching the Snowboard Cross competition and it is certainly something to watch. It has, strangely, a look of a computer game; mainly because the course is marked out in blue paint and the competitors are filmed from above. They also wear helmets and bulky clothes so they have no discernable identity. But it’s not often that you see Olympic competitors actually trying to slide each other out of a race and the skill is amazing. And nice comfortable names like Ruby and Doris, sounds like one’s granny or baby (since these names have skipped a couple of generations) are taking part.

Just read a bit in The Times by Simon Barnes, who is not going to watch Brokeback Mountain before the Games are over – ‘who needs to watch cowboys performing buggery when you have the luge doubles?’ I see what he means, but he has not taken into account the sheer pleasure of watching Jake Gyllenhaal, whether being buggered or not.

So Shakespeare is again to be Bowdlerized, by Welsh school productions being forbidden to let the pupil actors to kiss, even when it’s called for in the text. Idiots. And how patronising. If teenagers can’t identify with Romeo and Juliet, whilst at the same time learning where they went wrong, what’s the point of drama. Presumably Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood can’t even be produced in a Welsh school, far too suggestive… Polly Garter with all her children, each by a different father, and even the name of the village, Llareggub, which is easier to remember backwards.

Food and eating

What do you do when a volunteer repeatedly screws up and remains blithely unaware of it? A group of us meet for lunch once a month and we have to book numbers at the restaurant a couple of days in advance – this is her job. But she keeps getting the number wrong which means we have to pay the extra. We pay a small sub each year in addition to the lunch cost, mainly for an annual tip to the staff, but our reserves are being badly depleted. Five mistakes in two months is over £60 and she still doesn’t get it and we’re too polite to tell her – and she’s our friend. Someone will have to bite the bullet, luckily it won’t be me as I’m going to miss three months as I’ll be babysitting.

I read in The Times about a website that suggests recipes according to what ingredients you have. So I checked it out. Well, it could be useful, but only if you have a piece of steak in the fridge and it doesn’t occur to you to have steak for dinner. Or you have cheese – toasted cheese anyone? Grilled tomatoes/bacon/mushrooms? These are not recipes, they are what you cook when you don’t need a recipe. I probed a little further by omitting all the most useful ingredients and did come up with a few basic ideas, but all in all, I think someone is joking just a little bit. It’s if you care to look yourself.

Mind you, having been out for lunch and with an early dinner required as my husband had a meeting, we had baked potato and pizza. Hardly needed a recipe for that either – frozen pizza obviously. And only one between three of us which was why I did the potatoes too, lucky Atkins is so last year.

The nature of Monkey …….

……. was irrepressible!
I’m tremendously excited to see that they are going to remake Monkey. Did you see it again, it was repeated in Britain last year (or the year before, doesn’t time fly when you’re sliding) and was as absurdly wonderful as it had been 25 years ago. According to The Times, a generation now in its 30s fell in love with it then – they had better do it well or we (I seem to be an honorary 30-something for the day) will give Fuki Television a very hard stare.

It would at least give us something undepressing to watch. Yesterday on BBC one they could think of nothing better to do than give us a reconstruction of 1979’s Fastnet yacht race, when a sudden storm capsized many of the boats and many of the sailors died. I still have a mental image of one man, buoyed up by his life-jacket, eyes closed, was rescued – but he was already dead. I don’t know his name but I’ve never forgotten the picture. It’s surprising that it was ever broadcast; usually there is more tact shown when people die, in case friends or relatives will see and be further upset.

The Fastnet programme was followed by a documentary about a baby’s body found in a concrete block. Surely equally unsuitable for Valentines Day, though equalled by Channel 4’s ‘How to divorce without screwing up your children’.

Bringing up baby, badly

I will be looking after Grandbaby for 2 days a week from mid-April as her mama has a part-time job for a few months. I look forward to teaching her all sorts of naughtiness, which I think is my job as Irresponsible Adult. My own children were babysat by Hilda who taught them all the slightly antisocial tricks she knew.

For example, poohsticks. Not the dropping sticks in the water from a bridge invented by Christopher Robin. More literally (rather than literarily), stirring a cowpat with a stick then poking that through the church railings, sticking out on to the footpath so as to besmirch an unwary pedestrian.
Pungey cakes. This was a mixture of seeds and berries, plus anything slightly unsavoury they could find, mixed with flour and baked, to be offered to Granny as a teatime treat. She knew better than to accept (Hilda had been her own children’s nursemaid; my husband and his siblings). I only discovered recently that my daughter’s variation on this (when old enough to know better) had been to mix up convincing-looking dogpoo which she then left in artistically arranged dollops in a neighbour’s drive so they would think their own dog had misbehaved. I was not at all pleased when she admitted this – well, I say admitted but I think she was quite proud of herself.

My own ideas of having fun did not affect others, but consisted of encouraging them to get wet and messy. Bodypainting for example, which was the same as finger painting except that they could dip any part of themselves in the paint and then sit/roll/smear themselves on the paper. Mudpies, natch. And there was the time I looked out of the window to see my children in the pouring rain by a flooded drain. They had taken off their wellies, filled them from the huge puddle and were taking it in turns to pour the dirty water over each other. I should have hurried out, grumbling and hustled them in to hot baths. But, well, they were having such a good time. And how often did they play together happily. I made sure there was hot chocolate and cakes ready for when they came in. Sentimental mummy. Long time ago now though

I’ve been fairly messy today, Dave and I have been clearing out the bier shed. Nothing to do with a brewery, it’s a church thing. The bier itself, which hasn’t been used for years, has been stored in the boiler shed and after the cobwebs, spiders and a hibernating hedgehog had been cleared out, the bier shed has been filled with Useful Stuff. I felt bad about the hedgehog, who didn’t wake up (I hope he made it through the winter) has been made a nice little nest, in the corner of two walls, on a bed of pine needles and covered with more of them, and with a covering of footstones (like headstones, but smaller).

Wine, snow and driving – but not at the same time.

The weekend was good, actually. The Rector’s leaving party (one of six), supposedly a pre-lunch drink, went on until 6.20 and the last half-bottle of red wine (another half hour and I’d have had to open the good stuff or persuade them on to the white) after which I went to sleep on the sofa. The Rector himself had friends round for dinner, otherwise I think he’d have done the same (his own sofa, mine was full of me). Today I have been to church twice, which does not imply particular wickedness in the past week, but simply that this sort of malarkey can sometimes be the lot of the churchwarden. I did get to the pub afterwards and talked to a nice bloke who used to be a professional clarinettist and now makes clocks. I’m sure there are comments to make about keeping time there, but I’m not the woman to make them.

I play the clarinet myself, mostly jazz and Mozart. And the organ and piano, but I am not in the least a musician. A dilettante in all things; I dabble and like it.

I’ve got the winter olympics on in the background. So much of it is really dull; sorry, but the only reason to watch speed skating is for the moment when someone goes arse over tip and brings the rest of them down. And curling – not happening yet but bound to – is so toe-curlingly dull, even the terminology, skip and stone and all that, puts one to sleep. Skiing has its moments, but it’s all against the clock and that will never give the thrill of a proper race; ditto bobsleigh and, well, everything. Except ice hockey and that’s scary. Great Britain hopes to win a medal. Any medal, we don’t mind which colour or which event. That’s so sweetly unassuming.

I think I’m getting a new car tomorrow. Cars are useful rather than important to me (I really like Morris Minors best) and so the fact that it works and is reasonably comfortable is all that matters. However, I asked intelligent questions of my husband, whose friends are selling it – what cc; is it saloon, estate or hatchback; automatic or manual; petrol or diesel. Finally, what colour – silver. And the mileage is 15,000 miles in three years. So I know two things about it. It’ll be fine.

The good thing is that I did major Housework on Friday in preparation for the party, so now large chunks of house are pristine and won’t need doing again for ages. This is not a mucky house, just cobwebby as it is old and has exposed beams all over the place which spiders love. I don’t mind that at all, but somehow a lot of woodlice get in; dear little creatures that are stoical and comical and quite endearing. I rarely see one alive; occasionally one drops from the ceiling and trundles across the carpet but they do get entangled in spiders’ webs and one hoovers up quantities of desiccated ones. They curl up sideways like a trilobite when their juices are sucked out and I think that if I sprayed a few with varnish and left them for a couple of years I could convince anyone that I had a houseful of fossils.