Monthly Archives: March 2006

Sagacity slips

I’m tidying my study. Correction: I’m having a break from tidying my study. Not the papers, they aren’t too bad, by my standards. I enjoy being untidy and disorganised, but not chaotic. For example, I tried a filing cabinet, but couldn’t be bothered to put things back, each in its neat little place, so now I use box files as each one can be untidy but I can still find things. This slips of course sometimes and so I also use vertical filing. The Sage believes in open filing but that takes up more room; i.e. he spreads his stuff out and I pile mine up.

The reason for this unaccustomed descent into order is that I should be typing the catalogue but we lost the lot numbers. I say ‘we’ out of kindness because, after much searching, which turned into the aforementioned tidying, they were found by the Sage in a place of such bewildering obscurity that only he could have thought of it. Having squirreled them away, it’s even more impressive that he ever found them again. But now he’s sticking them all on happily so when I’ve shoved the last few things somewhere I’ll start work.

And, if you notice the time this was posted and think I work late, I wrote it earlier and then forgot to put it up.

Bob and (S)Cratchitt

Today my study is cold. I have lit a candle to give myself a smidgen of warmth and I feel quite Dickensian.

We sometimes have power cuts so there are always plenty of candles about. The electricity supply is more reliable now than it used to be, but we’d never rely on it as our only source of fuel. Even when the lights are on I burn candles however, usually in the bathroom. This started several years ago when life was a bit fraught; I hoped that it would be soothing. Perhaps it helped; in any case, the number of candles became a useful gauge of my stress levels. The candlesticks round the bath increased as I tried harder to calm down, but some nights I didn’t light them all. At peak times, I lit as many as five. Now I have two there, but usually light only one.

But if spring doesn’t arrive soon there will be a cluster of candelabra around the computer.

Last night Second Son came into the bathroom as I reclined, soothed by the glow of two candles and the warmth of the bath, reading Barry Humphries’ autobiography. ‘You can stop worrying’ he announced. ‘I’ve searched for an hour and I’ve found my passport.’

I had mentioned it earlier in the evening but he sounded relaxed – ‘it’s in my bedroom, no problem, I’ll look it out.’

Pity he didn’t find his driving licence or my daily contact lenses while he was about it. The licence will cost £19 to replace and I have a pack of 30 single-use lenses somewhere. I had left them for several weeks on the bedside table in the spare bedroom before deciding that was a silly place and I put them somewhere else, but I don’t remember where and I’ve checked the usual places. They are so useful on holiday as you don’t have to bother to take cleansing stuff.

It’s a good job I don’t mind 2nd Son walking into the bathroom when I’m using it as we will be sharing a bedroom in Venice in a week’s time. Not sure how he will cope though.

I’m chuffed. Chuff chuffed.

Happy day, I’ve just bought Grandbaby her first train set for her first birthday on Monday; one may be considered a little young perhaps but, hey, her mum and day will have a lot of fun putting it together and (since the pieces are not too small) I am sure she will like it too. And the first train set is such an important rite of passage, I’m proud to be (with Grandpa) able to give such a meaningful present. There are lots of pieces of wooden track so they can do all sorts of layouts. And it’s not fiddly so I’ll like it too. Furthermore, sensibly, it comes in a substantial plastic box for storage.

I was browsing through books and a helpful assistant suggested various volumes – “this series is nice, here’s one about dolls and another about fairies, they would suit your little granddaughter.” “Yes, thank you. Very nice” I replied reaching for one on tractors in the same series. It’s not that I’m against femininity but I don’t appreciate such rigid targeting. When I was a child I didn’t, on the whole, have ‘gender related’ toys, mostly books, jigsaws and board games (I only ever had one doll and that was a birthday present from a schoolfriend; I liked it but didn’t know quite what to do with it) but the highlight of my year was a boy friend’s birthday party where I could play with his trains and cars. It wasn’t that my parents wouldn’t have bought me such things but they didn’t know I wanted them. I wasn’t a demanding child. Equally, when boys came to play with me they liked getting my soft toys out and having pretend tea parties and similarly ‘girlish’ things.

I think I’m becoming a grumpily reactionary old woman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not right – how is it that so many toys are so noisy? When my children were little they loved a toy telephone, pretending to phone friends and chatting to it. Of course now a similar phone would be hopelessly out of date, but all the phones I’ve seen make noises and play tunes. Quite apart from it being the most awful jangly muzak or tuneless clanging, it’s self-limiting for the child’s imagination.

Unrepentant slider

A friend has accused me of being proud of leading daughter astray. Well, unrepentant certainly – what am I for nowadays? I nurtured them all lovingly until they were eighteen and now I can relax. Sometimes I need their support and sometimes they need mine; I need them anyway, but it’s not necessary to cling. I enjoy their independence.

When my youngest was approaching eighteen I planned to take up a new vice to celebrate the newly irresponsible years. Smoking seemed the most appropriate, for various reasons, but then I had a really nasty chest infection and it put me off. I already drink as much as I can possibly take (I am perfectly convinced that this is fine as long as it isn’t in secret and I don’t actually fall over or need, as distinct from want, alcohol). So it left gambling. I’ve been to the races but I couldn’t be bothered to actually bet. I didn’t care enough. I really like poker, but you need people to play it with. And I’m no fonder of winning than of losing.

So leading my children astray is a start at least. But it still leaves me with a naughty gap in my life, preferably to be filled with something that won’t damage anyone else. I’d appreciate any suggestions.

Bad mother

I have led my little girl astray. She has had time on her hands as her boss is on holiday. So I sent her links to websites and ‘blogs and then, I confess, I suggested she started blogging herself. As a good daughter always does, she has taken her mother’s advice and now her lunchtimes will be entirely devoted to writing her ‘blog (for of course she would not so digress during working hours).

The Misfit

I can’t remember how old my dishwasher is. It might be thought that this is a trivial matter, except to people who hold annual parties for their white goods, but it could demonstrate a troubling hole in my memory. My husband says it’s not very old; 3 or perhaps 5 years (and he is the Sage and I generally defer to him in matters of accuracy) but I remember it going wrong a couple of Christmases ago and we paid for a new motor, but were unsure whether it was worth it on such an old machine.

So that’s worse, if it’s not a hole in my memory it’s one in his and he’s the reliable one.

Our first dishwasher was bought with most of a small legacy from an old lady that my mother unwisely befriended in the early 60s. I say unwisely because she was already a crabby old bird and she lived until December 1984 when she was 101. And a half. She came to visit us every Thursday; stayed for lunch, tea and dinner (oh yes, we knew how to entertain) and was returned home for the night. Thursdays were not our favourite day of the week.

You may think I’m mean. I have justification – an example? My father died suddenly and, as soon as she heard, Miss Fitt, as I’ll call her, came to see my mother. Mother was surprised and touched to see her – how kind of her, she thought, to come straight to comfort me. ‘Yur’ burst out Miss Fitt, ‘now you’ll know what it is to be lonely!’

However, in her last year I brought her some pleasure by taking my new baby to visit her. She was delighted; held him upside down and called him David, which wasn’t his name; nothing like it, but no matter.

Anyway, why I thought it was a good idea to buy an electrical appliance with money from a malevolent old woman who had blighted my childhood Thursdays, I don’t know. But this machine went wrong with evilly timed regularity. You only know when a dishwasher has malfunctioned when it is full of dirty dishes, so it has to be emptied and the stuff washed by hand; no great job usually but it always happened at Christmas or when people were staying and it was extremely inconvenient.

Finally it was replaced. But has that one been superseded since? I do not know. 3 dishwashers in 20 years or only 2?

Thank goodness I’m going on holiday in a couple of weeks. Life is just too exciting here.

No razor for me

I’ve postponed getting organised for a bit. I did a piece of work and emailed it to the appropriate people who were duly impressed as it was one of those things that’s useful but never becomes urgent, so it’s made me look really on top of things. This effect will last for at least a week so everyone will leave me alone.

I have to spend tomorrow morning on the phone however booking a venue for a lecture as the place already booked will have the builders in unexpectedly. This is not something I look forward to; I used to be somewhat telephone phobic and although I have overcome that, I still am not entirely comfortable making lots of phone calls. Emails are an absolute blessing as they save me from the telephone.

This morning was busy as I was sidesman at one church service and organist at the next, so I had earned a visit to the village pub by 12.30. There are about 10 of us who fairly regularly go along before Sunday lunch (don’t know if the others go in the evenings as I don’t) and they were almost all there. One wife, who was dutifully at home cooking lunch, was missing. Even my husband arrived, which is a rarity. I’m not sure what it says about me that I’m the only woman who regularly turns up solitarily; couples come or he does even if she doesn’t but not the other way round. I don’t actually drink more than the other women, maybe (oh, pathetic I sound) it’s that some weeks it feels like the only purely social occasion I get. The solution is in my own hands, true, but asking people in creates Work For Me and I don’t always feel like letting myself in for this in advance. However, if I happen to have plenty of food cooking I love to sweep up people and bring them home for lunch, particularly enjoyable as it’s an unexpected pleasure.
I do feel a little shy if I turn up at the pub and no one I know is there, but there’s always someone to chat to (though in a country village pub taking pot luck company is not always interesting in a good way). The publican’s daughter is presently raising sponsorship money for a gap year teaching in South India (I’m glad to say the village church trust fund has chipped in a decent amount) and Anna the barmaid has offered a sponsored head shave. I have put in a fiver – is that small amount mean? It’s what most people have stumped up, and some less. I wouldn’t do it for worlds, especially if I had a fabulous head of curly red hair like hers. The landlord himself is losing his beard in the same cause so I will sponsor him too of course. But a little easier to cope with I should think? Though I wouldn’t be his wife dealing with the stubble as it grows back, far too abrasive. It’ll be interesting to see him clean-shaven, I never have in the 8 years they have lived here.

Sliding a little more than is comfortable

Things are piling up a bit. I may have to write a to-do list.

I don’t like doing that, it makes me anxious to see written down all the jobs that must be done. Of course I do the usual tricks, like putting something really easy at the top (though I don’t go quite as far as ‘write to-do list’) so that it can be ticked off at once. But I’m likely to start forgetting things and so the delicate balance between despondency at array of jobs and reassurance that I know what I have to do is about to tip.

This is the 4th year of my 5-year plan to come off all committees. Unfortunately it’s still a 5-year plan as I’ve not come off any and have added one. I will leave a committee this summer however, after a disconcertingly lengthy 18 years (how can one stick at anything except possibly marriage and parenting for 18 years?) and maybe that will stiffen my resolve.

Chatting online to a friend this afternoon, he suddenly said ‘have you time for a coffee?’ – and I had. Maybe, though I hadn’t said anything, he detected a slight downness from my usual cheery demeanour. Good to see him anyway, hadn’t for weeks and it brightened our day.

Gargling with champagne

Elder son, the greengrocer, has lost his voice. This is not good news as customers will insist on being friendly and chatting or asking questions. Furthermore his assistant had to take this morning off for a hospital appointment and Friday is a busy day.

Good old mum. Until 11 o’clock that is when I had to leave for a meeting. I can talk audibly now but regrettably don’t sound in the least like Fenella Fielding, just as if I’d be better home in bed. I haven’t spoken to him since, but there’s not much point as he won’t be able to answer me. However, he has the luxury of two assistants on Saturday morning, which counts as Staff, so with luck his larynx will improve a bit.

Driving through town I stopped to let a car across the road, as there was a steady stream of traffic my way and a queue behind him. He flashed his lights to thank me, which isn’t unusual and so did the driver behind him, which is. Aren’t people nice? That little unnecessary courtesy kept me smiling for some time.

And smiling more this evening as my husband, the Sage, has in the last few days has had really good stuff coming in for our next auction in May. Such goodies, how will we bear to sell them? We will of course, it’s privilege enough to handle them and be entrusted with their sale and you can’t buy the stock; that would be greedy. Like a small shop competing with supermarkets, we gain customers, buyers and sellers, by personal contact and deep knowledge and love of the items we sell.
And a really low rate of commission, let’s be frank.
And we pay out quickly after the sale.

Mother love can go too far

My son Baz showed me a flyer from a local restaurant, advertising their Mothering Sunday lunch. Before each course there was a little affectionate filial homily.

The first was ok – ‘Red Roses for My Mother’

The second was truly dodgy – ‘Little Bit More than Love For My Mother’

Then followed –‘I Just Want to have you here Longer My Mother’
‘Love Can’t be Measured as a Weight My Mother’
‘You are Always in Our Hearts My Mother’

To start with (particularly after the second creepy message) I thought of Oedipus. But on second thoughts, it’s more Norman Bates really. I just don’t want my children saying things like that to me.

At the end it said –‘BOOK NOW FOR A NICE LUNCH WITH US DONT MISS THE LAST CHANCE OR EVEN DANCE’. Huh? This is an English restaurant, why do they write as if English is a foreign language – and there’s nowhere to dance anyway, except on the bar I suppose if you clear the beermats.

My daughter rang this evening. Her phone had rung; she heard my sister’s voice talking to someone else – evidently she was on her landline and had accidentally phoned daughter Rosie with her mobile. Rose was concerned for Aunt’s bill as she couldn’t get rid of the call. And she was too deep in conversation to hear yoo-hoos from the mobile. I suggested she unplug her phone. I first thought of that when I had one of those annoying recorded messages that goes on for ages, when I was waiting for another call, it’s the only way I can think of to cancel a call if the other person doesn’t put the phone down.

I have unwisely said I will make vital phone calls tomorrow morning and now realise I’m shopkeeping. Better take the phone book and hope for no customers.