Friday, 26 February 2010


Perky perky perky! The default setting is back and for good reason.

Sometimes technology is my enemy. I seem to have spent most of the winter signing up to newsletters, websites, sales pitches, cinema and theatre news, fungi hunting news and garden nursery specialist sales to name a few. The resultant overwhelming chaos has been too much by far. Things were pinging into my mail boxes so fast I wasn't processing 90 percent of it, and the ten percent of it I was left me feeling only 10 percent in control. And precious little of it was worth mind storage. It's been a salient lesson on paring things down to a level where you can cope and be in control.

The time I have gained has been spent well too. Getting hold of some dollars, painting my toe nails, packing clothes suitable for 30 degree heat, ferreting out my favourite (oldest most bashed up) straw hat, bought when the Mink Trumper took me on a yoga retreat years ago. Finding that none of my shorts are any fun any more, I took the scissors to an old pair of Levis and Daisy Duked them. (You cut them as short as you dare and then roll them up to the crotch seam - Dukes of Hazard style). Now here's something you won't read on the Femail page of the Daily Mail. The resultant clump of fabric creates an interesting... well, friction. As I am going on holiday with my folks, that's one issue dealt with. Snort.

Now if anyone can help me find all the things I've lost whilst marking unread e-mails as read, and groaning under the weight of information knocking at my noggin, I'd be grateful. Camera, brown flip flops, earphones, and the password to my Orange account are top of the list.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

46... do I feel any different? No, not really.

The contrasts that co-exist in my life are as dark and light. Some days the colours are vibrant, the noises exciting and uplifting, the smells beguiling and enticing. Other days its all a bit grey. Yesterday had a bit of both.

My husband and daughter both wished me happy birthday, which has kind. And then I logged on to Facebook with my breakfast coffee and within moments I was being wished well and being sent delightful messages. I was genuinely moved and felt very loved and valued. But it real? Who knows, in this virtual revolution of ours.

I had organised to have lunch with a few very close girlfriends in the pub, with champagne pre-ordered by Darling thrown in. This isn't the season for a big party. I keep finding people's mouth fall open when I say things, so I limit my outpourings to the friends I know will stand by me come what may. Kind Wigs was the driver and she came back and had a cup of tea with me and discussed what matters in life. She gave me a wonderful present (thoughtful as ever) of a little bag full of things travelers need. Let's hope it precipitates some real travel, sooner or later. And the Mink Trumper gave me a hand made leather bound pink book, embossed in silver with the words 'Luce's Novel'. 500 blank pages and then a wine stain, so far. Just looking at it makes me weep, like looking at an ultrasound of a foetus. It really reminds me of being pregnant for the first time. The fear, the uncertainty, the awareness of the bleak and frightening truth that if it goes wrong (the book either won't spill out, or worse still is crap) then I am not the person I hoped I was, I am a lesser person. Not so clever and witty after all. Which, like a pregnancy or birth that goes wrong, will lead to intense grief. That was what I was trying to explain at lunch.

And, after all that social interaction with real people, I retreated back to Facebookland (aka Crackbook around here, for obvious reasons) and yet more time spent alone, but not alone, in the way you can only be on the net. I crawled back into my den, and Darling slumbered on the sofa in his. Poor bewildered Darling, who can see the stress written large all over me, and has no idea what to do.

Today a huge step has been made, however. Nina the Cleaner has arrived and is being effective and energetic. So there are four hours a week I have to dedicate to writing, because that was the deal. It is time for Lucy to spit and shake on some of these deals I think. Nina, who is delightfully perky, is polishing brass locks as I type. I am intoxicated by the smell of Brasso and the thought that when I turn around, things will be brighter and shinier.

London tomorrow. I don't want or need anything (this is backed up my most recent credit card bill, which alleges that I have had it all already), but I prebooked the ticket long ago, and for reasons which don't exist now. I'll go though, if only to remind myself what bustling cities are like, and what tarmac under foot feels like, rather than mud. Anything but stay home and write a bit of a chapter..... grrrr

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Half term

Half term drew to a close today with the return of the older two to their Club Quarters. Neither of them seemed remotely phased by it. Probably glad in many ways. Whilst I hope they enjoyed the down time, it was a bit dull. But then the February half term is always dull, and dull is better than disastrous or heartbreakingly awful in other ways. Much to be grateful for.

Having cleaned the house from top to bottom in advance of Nina the Cleaner's scheduled visit tomorrow, (yes, I know) I left the place immaculate when I set off to do my four hour school drop off trip. I came back to carnage. Darling has 'sickups' (you know, the one's that burn) and has spent the whole day wandering about with a sick bowl. Girl 12, was still up and had clearly had a Marmite moment. No one had fed poor Terrier,7, and all the lights were on upstairs. I had to whirlwind clear up three bedrooms (one of which was home to beer cans ffs), and sitting room and kitchen, dispatch Sicknote to the spare bedroom, plump up cushions and generally make the place look like someone with a social conscience lived in it before I got my laughing gear around so much as a glass of water. Now, it may sound mental to have a cleaner coming for an interview tomorrow, and to have cleaned in advance but there is a good reason. The last lot that came out 10 years ago, wandered about, sniffed a bit and then rejected the idea out of hand. Why, they asked, would I think they would want to get involved with Traffic wax, Brasso, Silvo and hard work, when they could get £7.50 an hour (10 years ago remember) for pushing a Hoover around a bungalow down the road. Good point. One I have pondered for many years. Why indeed? Why do I do it, when I could live in a nice warm bungalow down the road?

Saturday, 20 February 2010

A Spring Day in February.

Here we are, racing up the hill at Cheltenham racecourse, the final fence is behind us, the crowd is roaring and we just have to get to the end of winter safely in order qualify. I have heard many, many SOS calls over the last new weeks, the best of which arrived today from a friend in Yorkshire. 'Snow is for Christmas and ski resorts, I wish it would go now'. I agree, enough is enough.

I will never forget the obituary of an old (young) friend in Country Life years ago...'The sun shone brightly at the funeral of...' Well the sun shone brightly today and I made a point of lying in it, for an hour, in the field. The family all went off to Stroud to the Farmer's Market and came back laden with very very little indeed. I don't quite get why they went - perhaps it was to give me some peace and quiet. Eddi Reader, Angels & Electricity filled the silence while I sat and drank coffee and thought. My step-father-in-law once told me that February always steals a day from June... come on February, love, we are running out of time.

And then back they came and Girl 12 asked me to iron her half term project on wind turbines, which I did, to disastrous effect. The heat of the iron made the ink disappear. The subsequent hysterical laughter was as welcome as the sun, and the music. And then I got over ambitious and decided to effect some repairs to Slinky, My Malinky. Washing the balsamic vinaigrette off the sleeve may have been a bit crazy and just didn't work, but the surgery to the seams and hems went well. I hope she recovers her gloss and sheen when she dries.

Weird week. Not quite what was prescribed. Let's start again with the old rules, next week.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Lucky me. The crucible of life has dealt me a mini-break, with my parents. I was duped into it by an e-mail from my Father offering me a trip to Sri Lanka.

Having just been conned into scratching a month long hike down Chile by Girl 12 ('You shouldn't have had children if you weren't going to see it through to the end'.....What?!) I jumped at the idea. It was then that Dad told me when he and Mum wanted to go and asked me to organise it. Hmmmm

The most significant result of this is that I have been buying and hoarding books to take with me. My parents are largely somnolent, waking, like male lions, only to feed. (Oh God no, not to mate too... oh no I am getting a mental image that won't go away...not good). I, on the other hand will do just about anything to avoid sleep. So, my iPhone is loading with films I've always wanted to see, music I love and which makes me happy, and which will block out any unwelcome noises ('Luce? Luce? Where are you, Luce?) and books to fill my mind. The 12 volumes of Anthony Powell's A Dance to The Music Of Time arrived today. I have decided that Vol 1 is coming on the plane with me, and nothing else. I'll be like a sow in a farrowing crate.... So even if it isn't the best of the lot I will be forced to get on with and into it.

Coincidentally I also found myself in a British Heart Foundation Bookshop, in Bristol today. I prefer to buy my books in Charity shops rather than on line. Then, if I hate them, I can throw them at the wall and accuse the writer of having had a lucky break, being undeserving of his deal, having family in publishing or just being a total tosser. My investment has been a small donation to charity... no big deal. I also picked up Martin Amis, Money. He may make me puke, but he is good at it. And then some lousy tacky love stories, for break times. Armistead Maupin, Tales of the City and Selden Edwards, The Little Book. Life is a lousy, tacky love story sometimes and if someone can write about it well, and make it bearable, I'm in, and maybe I will learn something.

I leave on the 2nd March and come back 9 days later. Little Lulu, with Mummy and Daddy. Little Lulu and her very own Big Bar Bill. And her charity shop copy of the 2006 Lonely Planet Guide to Sri Lanka. I might as well read about what I would be looking at if I wasn't babysitting the Olds on some Spa compound somewhere... And actually at this point I would like to say that I catagorically do not do 'Fanny Parlours' All that massage, facial, and mud mallarkey makes me very uncomfortable. Give me a tub of Nivea, a good book, a packet of fags and a bottle of Blue Nun any day. And quit your daft whale music too.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Pianist

Today I took a step back from the edge. I took a Mental Health Day and watched Polanski's The Pianist, swaddled in eiderdowns, drinking endless cups of tea and weeping. The film tells a true story based on the autobiography of a Polish holocaust survivor. Clever Boy 16 saw the need for perspective and delivered it, along with all the tea.

It is hard sometimes to appreciate the impact of middle age. I was driving around Clifton, near Bristol recently on a Saturday morning (shortly after a meltdown in PC World which also involved tears and snot and fury) and I saw a couple in their twenties on a motorbike. She was wearing what I would guess was the previous nights micro skirt, thin tights and killer heels and a very large leather jacket. He was doing without his leather jacket. I smiled and guessed that they had met the night before and that the party was carrying on into the weekend. With all my heart I wished them well. How wonderful to be young.

And it snowed again today. Huge, wet flakes of snow, like white mice falling from the sky.

So, onwards. This may not be funny but at least it is calm and logical and not laced with madness and sprinkled with fairy dust. And sometimes, not funny is better.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Bird Of Paradise

Over the last 46 years I have been all sorts of bird.

Posh bird was one of my favourites. For some reason East Enders always call me posh bird. When I worked in the bookshop, my stalker, Carl, who was on 'a programme', (presumably not Blue Peter) used to ring me at work and bellow "Ello Posh Bird!" at me. To which my answer was always "Hello Cockney Lad". We must have sounded like a pair of CB radio enthusiasts to my bemused browsers but it was friendly and harmless and I played along. It took me ages to work out what on earth he was saying, even at volume ten, and so our conversations had a time delay on them while I mentally translated the sweating and spitting and jokes I just didn't get. Anyway Posh Bird was a laugh.

Then there is Angry Bird. Angry Bird is the one Darling and the children sometimes get. Not often but when she blows she is like the Mistral. Unforgiving, harsh and cold. Angry Bird arrived today. Too long a night slumbering through a late night film she knew she wouldn't like just for the sake of giving the young enough rope to hang themselves, coming back home at 0030hrs, clearing up the dinner party, wondering how to restore the sitting room carpet. All good so far, and all trials any mother of teenagers is familiar with. Waking up tired, whizzing out for a blood test, returning, laying on a medieval style breakfast banquet, clearing that away, walking the dog, drinking lots of cups of coffee and talking to the fellow mothers picking up... all good again. And finally, a flit to the station with the last of the previous night's dinner party guests, just in time for him to make the 13:19 Kemble train. Angry bird was calm. Until she arrived at the Mall, to take Girls 12 and 13 out clothes shopping and found that Mother Hubbard's cupboard had been raided. The £160 slumbering in my wallet had left the building, in the style of Elvis, by the Stage Door. One of the young clearly picked up the rope I left out and hanged themselves. Too bad.

Kid's are daft buggers. After we had cleared up they all got up again at 3am and went for a walk and drank more wine. And now, on an empty stomach (as a result of being too busy to eat) I'm having a glass of wine and a whine.

Roll on the Bird of Paradise, the Strelitzia. I have a perfect pink cardigan trimmed with orange feathers that is my Bird Of Paradise outfit. I must wake up refreshed tomorrow and choose her, over all my other bird outfits.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Bach Suites for Cello No2 in D Minor Prelude on damask, with ice.

Oh God, as if thing's weren't already a bit close to the edge.. tonight apparently I have to go and see Avatar in 3D. Boy 16 is having a belated birthday supper party, which thanks to the upsurge in trendy male chefs, he is cooking himself. This is in fact good news because he is genuinely a better cook than I and has far more interest in nutrition in general. I have trained him well and I should really pat myself on the back for that, but I am firstly too stiff after Threading the Needle with Jesus yesterday, and secondly far far too busy beating myself up to stop for a pat.

We missed the dentist by two hours, (I thought the 1 was a doodle so we turned up at 2.30pm) Girl 12 wants a cowhide box for her bedroom so badly she has had the shopkeeper e-mail me with details and dimensions, twice and has been home alone and vomiting (my bug, more guilt) while I was out buying alcohol for underage dinner guests. I paused briefly from speed ironing (similar to speed dating but a little bit less fun, I imagine - you chuck the things you don't have time to do and no one really wants back into the laundry basket) to deliver a short talk on behaviour, alcohol, sleeping arrangements to Boy 16. He laughed, messed my hair, gave me a hug and told me not to worry and that if anything went wrong, he'd call the Allfreys.

This is a family joke. After 7pm I am slightly unreliable and after 8pm his father is asleep. The Allfreys are a very strong, firm, reliable, straight family who live down the hill. If we weren't us, we would be just like them. Occasionally we have partied with the Allfreys and they party very very well, just not everyday. And if Daddy Allfrey ever gets stressed, he seems to hide it better than Darling does. Or perhaps we just wear our hearts on our sleeves. And Mummy Allfrey works so hard and does so much for the community and church. The two Allfrey children are polite and dependable and incredibly bright. Can you feel my pain?

Right now I am typing from a damask table cloth, surrounded by helium balloons looking at some stunning parrot tulips . My DJ is playing me Bach, Cello Suites, which always breaks my heart, because he knows I can't type and listen to lyrics, and my wine waiter (same chap) is bringing me a spritzer with ice. I hope his party goes well.

Back to Avatar. I hate science fiction. And I wear glasses. Like so many things in life, I can't see this working out.

Monday, 15 February 2010


Well, as experiments go that was interesting. I abandoned this blog nearly two weeks ago in a tidal wave of creative juice. The deal was, that rather than writing for 45 minutes a day and slamming out a sloppy blog, I delegated the Goat-feathers* and sat down and got on with writing The Book. The book, which has attached itself to the side of the womb and will grow, given luck and time.

The result was that I looked for a cleaner, the laundry piled up, the log baskets emptied, the unopened post piled up and little by little the straight jacket buckles tightened. Finally, it was half term and the filthy house was delightfully full of hungry mouths and enquiring minds again. However, I hadn't written a word, and it wasn't just a lack of discipline, it simply that, in the same way that these guys are unable to accept the idea of me wandering off around the world and exploring, they and the running of the house are also not ready to give me indulgent grins as I sit at the computer at the kitchen table for two hours a day writing. Even now there is a mountain of ironing giving me looks from the other side of the room. I just flicked it a 'V'.

So, in the style of the News In Brief columns down the inner margins of the broadsheets,

Last Hen Karks It
The last of the hen bit
the dust at the hand of her
loving owner last Thursday
She was never going to pull
through after the savage
attack of the bastard fox
who is still on the run.

Lunch With Dad

Luce and Roger had lunch
last week. The sun shone.
She had the carpaccio, he had
something else.
Discussions were had about
a consolation trip to Sri
Lanka. Passports and credit
cards were photocopied. He
paid. For everything.

Nina The Cleaner
Luce did her best. Nina's son
was ill. Luce will try again
next week. After she has cleaned
up after half term.

Story of my life, really. Disappointment, consolation, compromise, salvage. It's the same for all of us. x

*'Goat-feathers are the distractions, side lines and deflections that take a man's attention from his own business and keep him from getting ahead.'

Ellis Parker-Butler 1919

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

As experiments go...

That was a good one.

Being ill disciplined and chaotic, I have always found excuses for not doing the hard jobs. Pink jobs yes, hard jobs no. So, while the house runs relatively smoothly and laundry logs and lunch get done, the real work never does. And the real job is to write a ditzy novel that tells a funny, contemporary tale of love, with an edge.

Forty posts wasn't so hard. I managed half an hour a day, just about. If I employ a cleaner I can't stand the sight of, for two hours a day and lock myself away in the drawing room with my dongle while she cleans, I will either land up with a very tidy drawing room and desk, or something to work on.

So that's the end of the blogs. I hope I can bring you something a bit more structured in due course. And finally, maybe, achieve something, apart from my lovely children and tidy house and garden and the oaccasional well presented meal containing all the major food groups, that I can be proud of. You never know.

Louis, thank you. Thank you for asking me to do this. I notice the quid pro quo didn't go so well, Gentleman Snapper!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Old School Reunion

I went to several schools in my 5 year period of secondary education. No, my father wasn't in the army, or a gypsy, but that's probably enough on that subject. Old School Reunions are not something I would generally bother with.One I went to offers Afternoon Tea, a tour of the school and a chapel service regularly. Frankly I'd go a long way not to have to put up with that sort of treatment, and sadly, that dry and dusty all girls school was the one where I spent the longest time.

The one I managed to stay at for three and a half terms was rather different. Mixed, anarchic, creative and stuffed to the gunwales with, what were then, just kids. Having made friends with many OB's (can we leave it at that?) over the years and months on Facebook, I had a mad moment last autumn and called an AGM. Brick Lane for a curry was decided, and at one point 30 people were lined up and called to arms. Remember here that I didn't KNOW these people at school. They were all three years above me... so how did that happen?

It was a heartwarming event, which may or may not have been improved by the gift of a two litre vodka box with one of those intriguing taps that looks like a pigs head and makes you keep wanting to press it. And then the curry itself. And lots more beer. And Moriaty, who cried everytime I held him. But he is only 6 months old. And Tim, I am so sorry that you landed up coughing up for the £100 unpaid balance on the bill. We'll have a whip round at the next one and see you right. Obviously Maths wasn't taught very well at that place.

After the curry we wisely went to the pub around the corner where we met the barking mad woman called Liz who had just come back from somewhere in South America but either she didn't seem sure, or I wasn't listening. Actually I wasn't feigning indifference by that stage. The lock-in only made it worse. I have no idea what time it finished.

So, 17 years of laundry logs and lunch followed by a weekend of utter madness. I was glad to find that she is still there, the girl I miss. In fact, that was almost as good as my brother's wedding which was also a vodka frenzy, so perhaps vodka IS the answer. As far as I can see from sifting through the wreckage of posts, the only two real casualties were my chickens which got eaten by the fox while I was away, and Louis's tripod which I left somewhere...So, now what? Pull on the boots, paint on the face, pick up girl 12 from school put the ironing away and serve the red meat stew. And I'm sorry it took me so long to blog. I couldn't have done it over the weekend. I'd have trashed the netbook.

And if anyone is concerned that this may influence my children badly, I know that Girl 13 has had her laptop and mobile confiscated as the result of the previous weekend in the London when her crazy gang over did it, and none of them care less anyway.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

One of the side effects of spending a great deal of time 'social networking' is that when I do go out, I find it much easier to speak to real people in a positive way. I have learned from Facebook that real people like perky people, that everyone likes to be spoken to as an equal and that eye contact and flattery will get you everywhere and everything, almost. Infact, I think I just find people more interesting now. I went to Bristol today on various fools errands and goose chases.

First off I watched a woman passenger get out of a huge jag and do that silly hand signal back back back STOP! thing for the man driver. He came within a gnats whisker of whacking the hell out of his tail lights and she was beating on the boot and shouting. When she saw me laughing, she laughed too. We agreed she'd had a close call and on we went with our days.

Then the moody mare in the changing rooms. I had to woo and beguile her, but I won her over in the end, after the fourth visit. The girl on the till was great. She didn't mind when I took three things back five minutes after buying them, because I made fun of myself and explained (untruthfully) that I was taking pills for it but they hadn't kicked in yet. Same with the Security Ape holding the door in Harvey Nix. I said 'Hi, thanks' walked in, stopped stock still, looked around like the dinosaur sniffing the air for edible kids in the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park. Security Ape almost grabbed my arm and led me to a chair, but instead asked me if he could help. I explained that it was my age and that I didn't know why I was there, laughed and went for lunch.

The Apple shop was the most fun. I almost started a rave in there, music, headphones, silicon covers and a good loud play on the iPad which looks like it will be a must have when they iron out the inevitable glitches. The geek serving me had the thickest glasses on I have ever seen and was charming and energetic and enthusiastic. His beardy weirdy fellow technogeek (aged about 50) was wearing an Apple t-shirt over his shirt but wry and witty inspite of that sartorial confusion. Clever than he looked, obviously.

So, in this current Pollyanna frame of mind, I'm off to the pub, singing 'I'd like to teach the world to sing..' by the New (thank you Nicky, Ed.) Seekers with butterflies rather than frogs flitting about in my headbox. I can feel a Coyote Ugly session coming up, but that is possibly best left until Saturday night. No partying on school nights.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

What are Hippies FOR?

Years ago when the smalls were tinsy wee, I remember overhearing Girl 5 ask Boy 7 what hippies were for. He replied, 'To keep your leggies on' which I thought was s smart response.

Well now aged still just 45 I have found out that hippies can be a damn nuisance. I was born with hyperflexible hips and as a result splent most of my childhood upside down, doing walkovers and sitting comfortably in 'the splits'. Unthinkable now. Pay back for the party trick has snuck on me over the last few years and I was finally driven to wave the white flag and surrender down at the doctor's surgery. The subsequent X-ray has revealed that I am 'Normal. No Further Action' Snort! That's what they think. I hate doctors. They always think they are the only intelligent person in the room. Anyway I've been batted away as usual but the dull ache in what Jesus Jones the Pontius Pilates teacher would quaintly call my 'seat bones' remains. As I am still not rock and roll enough to get addicted to Benzadrine, or whatever it is they all seem to live on in LA, I'll just have to lump it.

Looking for reasons has never been one of my weaknesses. Stuff happens, we all know that. However, I think a winter of sitting on the kitchen bench or perching on the radiator downloading songs and films and ordering books and chatting with friends on the internet has not just affected the state of the housekeeping, but also narsed up my arse, as it were. Jip in the hips. Now where did I leave my zimmer? If only I could find my glasses... Bugger I'm going to miss Emmerdale at this rate.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

I'm on Fire!

I was persuaded to write a Press Release today. It had to be done on the spot, so armed with a certain amount of info about the product I resolved to get on with it and it was scary just how much time it took me. I realised how, since the internet really took off in my head, just how butterfly brained I have become. One minute I'd be sitting at the Research Station that masquerades as the kitchen table and my desk, the next I'd be in the laundry room, or outside talking to the chickens or pulling on my coat to walk the dog. Back in the day this just wouldn't have happened. I'd have sat down, written it, and then checked the list for the
Next Most Important Job.

It took hours and in the end even I was sick of all this goofing off and nailed my Tinkerbell arse to the chair and created what I hope will pass as a straightforward and interesting piece, of readable quality. The knock on was that I then reached for the list, and cruised through not just the next most important, but every last thing on the list. Fairly extraordinary behaviour that has left me feeling liberated, and able to move on. Inevitably as soon as I was through I had to start a new list, but at least it is full of new items. God I was sick of that last lot.

So the hens have clean sheets, and the old sheets flung into Green Waste the microwave was lobbed into Metals (by Mike)and best of all, the recyclers finally turned up and removed the 5 empty tins of Quality Street and many, many empty bottles. Mike is a chum who occasionally drives us (nuts with his talking) places. We were laughing about his 30 year old son who has a 19 year old girlfriend - the usual matey 'Ha ha lucky bloke, cor!' stuff. I thought about it and then said I didn't think I could handle a 19 year old. He has clearly given it a deal of thought and thinks it would be a Good Thing.

So that's why I'm on fire. Not because I have found myself a 19 year old in the form of rather dishy Adam, who works up at the tip, or lovely Josh with the rasta hair who helped me dig a trench last summer (another story) but because I did a tiny bit of proper work and then got through the to do list.

Perhaps I should start tomorrow's list 'Find suitable Old People's Home and book self in'.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Lefty loosie, tighty righty.

There is something very exhausting about being in trouble, I'd forgotten. But recently I've discovered that it's even more wearing and upsetting to be the Mother of Captain Cock-up. You can see the blunders lumbering over the hill, but somehow you are powerless to stop them. Poor Mum - no wonder she never really liked me.

I have done nothing but field calls, reassure, be shouted at, told white lies, rung people and discovered facts, repaid cash, sent parcels of clothes back to the lenders and apologised for the last 48 hours. I've dispatched bunches of flowers left right and centre, and all I suspect to precious little effect. I wasn't even the one having the fun.

Boy 16 on the other hand has gently strummed along, new strings installed.

This brings us to the lefty loosie, righty tighty thing. I'd never heard that one and thought he was muttering about pants. Tighty whities were what we used to call Jockey Y fronts when he was small, and needed serious, zero fall-out factor pants for junior rugby. Today, I couldn't understand what he was on about and thought he'd gone mental. When we finally sorted out the mutterings, I swapped the knowledge for bLue to Left, bRown to Right. Between us now we can re-string a guitar, switch off a valve and change a plug. What a team. (Just wait till I try and teach him about buoys and night time navigation... green to green, or maybe not, it sounds a bit dodge put like that).

Girl 12 is doing my nut in. Anyone would think I was leaving the building forever not just taking a trip. After 17 years of child labour a girl (45) should be able to wander off into the wilderness for a bit and restore her equilibrium. And now they are talking about what they think I will leave for them to eat in the freezer and who is in charge of the chickens and who the dog. Wait til they get to grips with laundry, logs and lunch. Talk about a guilt trip.

Lets hope I made a mistake and sent myself all the flowers. Which reminds me, it was darling's birthday, and I forgot. Someone light the pyre now... I'll just leap on. Oh and the recyclers haven't been and if they don't damn well turn up tomorrow I'm loading the whole lot into the car and taking it around to the Council Offices and flytipping it under the inevitable car park cctv cameras. It's been a month now and those gd tourists are getting on my tits. Eighth wonder, my arse.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Leave away weekend kicked off with a big hug and a flit into Oxford to take back some of my more self indulgent purchases from earlier in the week. The florist gave me a strange look but I must have had my 'Don't eff with me Dude' face on and she just sighed when I said I'd changed my mind about them gave me a full refund. Then a dippy hippy lunch in a veggie shack and lots of laughter and then ages in the travel section of Blackwells. It seems I am not the only armchair traveller in the family and if he didn't have GCSE's around the corner and I was more organised, I think we'd both be stitching union flags onto Berghaus's right now.

The enormous pot holes in the road left over from last weeks snow made the trip home rather exciting. A-holes driving too fast to spot the hole before they were upon it, then not wishing to scuff their alloys or take out their exhaust systems, they swerved with near fatal effect. This happened three times but I was ready for them all. I'd taken the same route there as I did coming back and I knew where it was going to happen, because I'd done it on the outwards trip.

Night fell and we flopped down with a weepie and a glass of wine (me, not him). Kind Boy 15 (til tomorrow) provided the chick flicks. Another one of my guilty pleasures, a film to let me cry. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist pushed all my buttons and I was a snivelling wreck about 4 minutes into it. And then it was 1.30am and then the 'phone went and we had a Man Down. Girl 13 had opted to spend the first night of leave out in London with friends. I'd confirmed with the mother that she was expected and welcome but the call I took told another story. They'd been home alone paid a hobo to buy them a bottle of vodka. There was crying, talk of two hospital visits including a cat scan, police, everything. I couldn't get any sense out of her, so Boy 15 took over and calmed the whole thing down, sifted through the facts, established that they had found a responsible adult to rescue them, and most importantly shaken off the feds.

We took three more calls between then and 3am and then agreed that we were sure she was safe. She made it back on the 9.15 train and is a bit irritable but contrite. She wasn't the hospital victim either... so we can't blame her for the fact that this poor bankrupt country can't afford to fix its roads up. I wish I could honestly say, 'Well she'll never do that again' but experience tells me that this is unlikely.

I was fibbing about taking the flowers back. I just liked the idea of trying it.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


The true extent of the way in which my day could go wrong has only just revealed itself. Having upset just about everyone I know by being a thoughtless git, I decided that I needed to get out. To alter my frame of reference.

Last autumn I bought a small sailing dinghy. I love water, I love to be outside, I love being scared and I love being the Captain of anything. Master and Commander. In control (I wonder why). I am a fairly competent sailor with experience in dinghies and racing yachts, but this thing really frightened me. It is whippy and unstable and agressive and I need more time during milder weather in order to tame the beast. I had a few goes before it got really cold, but then I put it away and resigned myself to a winter of laundry, logs and lunches for the men. Or so I thought.

I woke up in the middle of the night recently, firstly bemused by a friend's claim that the only photograph of himself in existence is a passport photo (think about that one, we'll come back to it) and secondly, vaguely remembering leaving the boom and sail of the boat in the Clubhouse. I'm not generally a flake, so this bothered me. So, my plan to get out settled on going there, unlocking everything, looking for the bits and taking the small white terrier for a run around the lake. Found the sail. Forgot to look for the boom. Forgot to walk the dog. Forgot I even had a dog. Would appear that the jerkishness is going to run and run, so sorry everyone. And Mink Trumper,sorry, I totally messed up lunch.

So is he a spy, or a criminal, or a nark? Did a past life explode, or his house burn down. Or perhaps his ex got custody of all the photos including the ones of him as a baby, (unlikely surely, why would he/she want them?) I don't dare ask. Well, not while I'm putting my foot in my mouth every time I open it.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


How weird. You spend months wondering what is wrong with you, and then one day you wake up and find that its nothing a couple of cashmere cardi's can't sort out.

I went to Oxford today on the way to see girl 13. She is having a ne-naw ne-naw moment away at boarding school. Septic self- pierced ears, boys, hormones and the rest, so I felt blessed, loading up the car with fresh fruit and veg. I was glad to be needed. I met her on Big Side and we goofed about in the shadow of the chanting and drumming and watched Stowe beat Abingdon, but not easily. She has such interesting friends - pretty and witty and daft and constantly in trouble. All the third formers do is ogle the boys and choose who's next. The sixth formers have clearly decided and were all draped all over each other. Its heartbreaking. If only they knew.

And then the trip home was good too. The sun was setting in a peachy forgiving sky, the day has lengthened. Everything I looked at pleased me, except perhaps the coffin dodger in the lime green micra doing 50 in the lane I needed. Jeeeezus! Fifth gear felt good again, which was a relief because I was running late for girl 12's pick up so had to take the course at a gallop.

Oxford is my favourite city. Full of youthful life, foreign languages, beautiful architecture, energy. I should go there more often. So Friday is looking good too as one of the cardi's is crap and has to go back. I'd rather spend the money on flowers.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Press ups, with just one arm.

Today was one of those strangely optimistic Spring days. Plenty of light, plenty of birdsong, strange growing noises coming from the undergrowth. (Or a 'rustling in the hedgerow' if you are a Led Zep fan, which I think I once was. Back in the day when things like that defined your personality.)

I won the class spod prize at Jesus Jones's pilates class today. His iPod had collapsed, and I not only had mine, but a lapdog, dongle and mobile phone, all in the same neoprene wetsuit baggie thing. None of my fellow flakes had ever seen a girl so speckked up and they were impressed. So I won the nickname of 'Geek' and even Jesus admitted that he might have to buy the Thomas Newman album I shoved on. The class was hard work - one armed press ups are perhaps not the ideal way to start the week, but certainly focus the mind. And in my case, I had to concentrate so hard on getting it right I managed to ignore the getting it wrong I seem to have made in real life. I suppose that's why I go. To give the poor sore noggin an hour of peace a week. And to stretch and align.

And then lunch with the Mink Trumper. What a wonderful friend I have there. She asked what I wanted to eat ('Just veg') cooked me a feast, emotionally hugged me, stroked my ego, reassurred me that we would all be fine and generally left me feeling amazingly loved. And all this with bags of laughter. Thank you MT.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Thomas Newman- Dead Already

Years ago I had a nightmare I've never forgotten. It's been like chewing gum on the sole, and it went like this...

I walked into the laundry room, and looked right, out of the window. As I did so, the laser lights of 21 guns lit up, picked me out and shot me. The window glass shattered, I felt my mouth fill with blood and my knees weaken. I knew life was over and that these paratroopers would storm the building in moments, and that, in my crumpling state, I'd never be able to fulfill my motherly duties and get up the stairs and herd the children to safety. So, I died, on the laundry room floor and they would too, in their beds. I woke up choking. You can imagine the internal carnage.

Today I had another one. But strangely and horribly, I was awake. In short, Darling went out on a 40 minute max trip to collect Girl 12 and didn't come back for 3 hours. I imagined the worst, went outside, had a smoke, looked at the snowdrops, imagined the woman cop walking down the garden path, planned the funeral, chose the flowers and hymns. I looked at the roast chicken, bread sauce and stuffing and felt very sick and wondered why I'd cooked it, and what would happen to it next. I wondered what I'd do with the house I've never loved. I hoped Girl 12's black coat had survived the impact from the cracked out fucker that had crashed into them and taken their lives, and wondered what happened to him, and if her coat would be do for Girl 13 at the funeral, next Friday. And then I wondered if I'd missed the bit where darling had said 'I'll pick her up and take her out for lunch, see you later'. But then I remembered, he'd watched me prepare it all... so that didn't add up.

But then Darling rang and apologised. He'd had coffee with David and Natascha. And I did well not to rip his head off.

If that tells you something about how close to the edge I am, maybe it will explain a thing or two. It doesn't help me one bit.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Perkily Purple

When I was about 13, my mother finally caved into my whining and let me go to London, on my own on the train. I will never forget that feeling. The song in my head was Georgie Girl and this was back in the day when there was no such thing as a personal hi-fi, and phones lived in big red boxes and took tuppenses and ten penny pieces.

One of the things I wanted to do most was hang out in a boutique called Miss Selfridge. They did the best (affordable) make up with great packaging, and I wanted eye shadow. The one I bought that day was purple, and it was called Berry Wogan. It didn't come with a brush so you had to smudge it on with your finger tip and the resulting mess was very pleasing, to my eye.

I've worn purple eye shadow ever since and some of the names have stuck with me forever. There was Bluebirds Over, Beautiful Iris, Plum Perfect, and Papal Purple to name four. I remember sitting at a funeral five years ago with my Step Father in law trying to make sense of another senseless premature exit and making crass remarks to cover my sense of loss. I whispered to him that at my funeral, no one would be allowed in the church, unless they were wearing purple eye shadow. He is a lovely, gentle man, and he agreed that this would be a brilliant (note, lowercase b) idea and that he would certainly play along. So that's the deal. No purple, no pew.

But don't dash out into the cold January sales and buy up the cosmetics counter just yet. Darling is on his way back from the airport, the house is clean warm and tidy, the snow has melted and I can see the shoots from the bulbs I planted pushing up through the ground. And strangely, thinking about it, the flowers will be mostly purple. Perkily purple... why didn't I get a job as an eye shadow namer? It would have been practically perfect.

Friday, 15 January 2010


Back here where I come from we have an Elder Statesman who very efficiently and generously keeps us villagers up to date with all the local news, social and political. He does this wearing a PCC hat, but in truth, its more like voluntary community service. Having been snowed in for a week, I could hardly believe my eyes when todays e-mail notices warned of flooding, with a tongue in cheek editorial note warning of plagues of frogs. I am particularly sensitive to this idea as I travel in the knowledge that somewhere in my pre-frontal cortex there is a box of frogs which lies doggo for most of the time, but leaps into action if nudged. However the snow is melting and nothing could compare with the horror and suffering in Haiti at the moment. The hungry and thirsty there are becoming desperate and angry and I cannot imagine how it would feel so be so violently and terrifyingly dispossessed, or worse.

So yes Nick, when I say 'I can't take anymore!' you are right to answer 'Oh yes you can...' Of course I can. This is nothing.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Private Jet vs Cabin Fever

Hmmm. Girl 13 has just e-mailed me to say Darling is in a private jet somewhere over the Nevada desert. As the person charged with Keeping The Home Fires Burning why do I find the contrast between our days somewhat irritating. Having been comprehensively snowed in for over a week, I have started each day, not with a prayer or yoga, but by cancelling anything and everything in my diary. And in one or two cases, this has been dispiriting, to say the least. I have managed not to bite my lower lip and cry, but only because there is no one here to see me and sympathise, so it would be a waste.

However, today I achieved one good thing. I told a lie, sucessfully. Without flinching or blushing.

I blamed the snow for the fact that I had failed to return my sailing club forms and managed to blag my way onto Ken's very popular Laser racing course. This may not score particularly highly against a private jet to Vegas, but when you are a bottom feeder you have to exist on detritus.

Without coming over all bitter and twisted, I'm not sure who's zooming who out there, but I damn well hope they're loving it. And that Lady Luck smiles on them.

*STOP PRESS* They lost a mint on the craps tables after the David Copperfield magic show in which Darling was called up onto the stage, asked to expose his boxer shorts (which we all know will have been immaculately ironed by Yours Truly) and had a car lowered onto him. A bit like home really then. Except you are more likely to be t-boned by a car skidding on ice than have one lowered onto you.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Eighth Wonder of the World

I live on the top of a steep hill. There are three roads in or out,and none of them are passable in the ballet shoe that masquerades as my car which is currently parked in a snow drift outside. The Bin Men and Recycling gang (who I note made it up here for their Christmas tip) have also failed to rock up. The resultant Monument of Twenty First Century Shame outside on the roadside will shortly and undoubtedly get classified as the Eighth Wonder of The World. I anticipate coachloads of Japanese tourists arriving any day now, camcording the hell out of my boxes of Quality Street tins (5) cans, bottles, newspapers and milk cartons. Perhaps, if they are lucky I will go out there like Rhys Effans in the film Notting Hill and raise my arms in triumphant recognition of what we have achieved of late. After all, it wasn't all me. If it was, I wouldn't be able to move from my specially made bed for Obese People and would have to make do with posting gory images of me having my bed sore dressings changed on YouTube.

As it is, this last week of enforced captivity (yesterday doesn't count, I was in a borrowed car and had to dash back) has meant that I have spent a bonkers amount of time sitting at my lapdog. And far from feeling guilty (as I do about the recycling) I have really enjoyed it. I have downloaded some toptastic tunes, read loads, chatted with friends on the phone, on Facebook, researched various schemes and made some great plans for the future. But in the absence of the Mastermind chair I really aspire to, I have been perched on a tiny bench at the kitchen table, surrounded by books, maps, diaries and a camera. Maybe, one day, when the sores on my arse have healed, I'll post a picture.

Or maybe the Japanese tourists will snap me through the kitchen window and do if for me, before they move on to Dylan Thomas's boatshed in Laugharne.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Truly Great, better than Brilliant

I wondered what I looked like setting off across snowy fields with a gritty grin and wicking lycra, heavy walking boots and the fur at half past eight this morning. Daft punk or Yummy Mummy looking for her Monday morning pilates fix with Jesus Jones, aka Mike the Instructor? Either way I made it, thanks to Darling parking his car in the foothills. We are now big in the bog paper department too, as I took my granny trolley out for another trip and stocked up on the essentials. The Seige of Leningrad this is not, and Terrier, 8, can rest assurred that we will not be roasting her in the Aga this week or next. Darling left for La La Land and Vegas later in the day too, so food reserves will stretch just that little bit further.

I am not sure how many more times I can be bothered to drag fresh stuff up the hill though. BBF 1996 canned sardines suit me just fine, and girl 12 will be back in school soon and the snow will eventually melt. And then I will be (Boz Skaggs) All Alone.

Mike is a great instructor. He was surprised to hear that even my teeth hurt after last weeks (my first) session. I was thrilled when he told everyone else (ok the other person) to get her head on the floor, 'but not you Lucy, yours is already there'. I have always yearned to be a teacher's pet, God alone knows why.

So today was a good day. Not brilliant in the old sense, and neither was yesterday or the day before. Perhaps I have turned that point, and can settle for truly great instead.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Wild Theme by Mark Knoffler

With more snow forecast and the bog paper situation nearing critical, Darling woke full of resolve. He set off boldly with Boy 15 and Girl 13 and only jolly well did it. He got them back to school. He is not back yet, and should have been ages ago but apart from being marginally concerned I have had a good day.

I had totally underestimated the effect of filling a house with big, loud, squawky, gawky mini-humans and what that alone can do to your head. If you then factor in feeding the beasts and trying to keep all the other domestic plates spinning, metaphorically, and being the driver and entertainments manager too then it is hardly surprising that things (I) have not Been Good of late.

When I loaded the car this morning I remembered my lovely friend from school, Tara. My mother was meticulous with my packing and made sure that I went back to my all girls, very dry school with my trunk filled with all the prescribed items, ticked off and accounted for, in good order and named. From Surrey, in the car, with both parents in attendance, on the right day.

Tara arrived by train from Notting Hill, stinking of Marlboro Red Tops, late, and with nothing much in her holdall, unless you count the half bottle of vodka and Clash album. And believe me, we did count those two things. And in those days Notting Hill wasn't so much cool as sodding dangerous. I made friends with Tara within about one and a half seconds of first meeting her and together we made it through the system, sharing my kit. We had some amazing adventures together too. In anticipation of ever finding a boyfriend we once tried to explore each other's erogenous zones so that we could direct operations to our satisfaction when our time came. Our housemistress, a spinster who we called 'Dave' for no particular reason unfortunately walked in on us, after lights, in the dorm, while Tara was licking my back. Amused she was not and we were immediately separated and never got to share a dorm again.

I spent some of the happiest times of my childhood at Tara's Mum's Notting Hill home. Connie had had six children by three different men, none of whom seemed to feature much in her life. Connie only really kept the house as a place for the kids to hang out whilst she shacked up with a publisher in Little Venice and it was anarchic. Whilst living for four days on toast with peanut butter (because that was what there was), staying up all night with the Taylor boys and mad Suzi might be fun for a while, I imagine that as the oldest child of six as Tara was, it may have felt less like freedom to her. I lost touch with her after school.

Anyway, my children have been returned to school and they packed their own bags and they had plenty of luggage. They had regular meals consisting of all the major food groups and access to fruit at all times. So I am not going to beat myself up too badly.

Tara turned out well. I read her (published) writings regularly.

Friday, 8 January 2010

The Mink Trumper is on your rabbit thread.

As all parents of school age children know, Facebook is evil and should NOT be allowed in the home of any loving caring family.

This was the message that was sent home from my children's school about three years ago and has given me hours of entertainment, and even, on some occasions real happiness. Naturally as soon as I read that Headmaster's letter I was intrigued (in a bad way) and set up an account. I sat back and waited for the paedophiles and perverts to come and groom me. I waited and waited, and whilst I waited I looked about a bit and found a load of friends and family also mooching about. Some I knew well, some not so well, some not at all but who have been introduced to me. The group of friends grows almost daily and the good humour, mutual emotional and creative support and encouragement and genuine empathy (particularly for the bereaved and the insomniacs) has been almost breathtaking. Anyone who thinks that all human kind is cruel would have to perform a swift volte-face in the face of my facebook.

The point is, that Facebook isn't evil, but young people can be cruel, and that kindness sometimes has to be learned. Maybe, like youth being wasted on the young, Facebook is too. You have to have been kicked about a bit in order to know that kicking is bad. And Facebook isn't a replacement for real friends and real life. It just runs alongside it, enhances it. And when you are snowed in, or alone, you aren't.

And as for the title of this piece, The Mink Trumper is on your rabbit thread. Well, it was a message I got last night and I have been laughing about it all day. It would take too long to explain, but she knows who she is and I am glad she got home safely. And to date, not a single perv.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


The lillies in the kitchen smell of jasmine, strangely, and every time I get a waft I am taken back to San Pedro de Alcantara in February 2001. It was a hard time back then and life was a minefield to be tiptoed through, so during the February half term we scooped the children up and flew off to San Pedro. Afterwards they told us that the best bit was the lemonade and peanuts on the aeroplane. They had never flown before and aged 7, 4 and 3 didn't grasp the magic of sunlight and warm wind on bare skin in winter. And perhaps they forgot about the terrapin we found on the beach called Terry. And maybe they didn't smell the jasmine.

We stayed in one of those desperate all inclusive compounds, where the red wine is sweet and fizzy and the white wine is just sweet and the coffee seems to lack a vital ingredient. Actually, the entertainment in the evenings lacked something too. I think we only went once, out of curiosity. I remember that the week cost £1,200 for the five of us and neither of us complained about any of it. We were just grateful to be somewhere different. Light in the darkness.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Transformation and the Epiphany

Last night the kitchen transformed into a cyber cafe. Boy 15 sat at one end of the kitchen table, Daughter of Eve, 45 at the other, girl 12 at what used to be the 'art table' on the family PC, and girl 13 curled up on a big leather chair on her Blackberry. The arse fell out of that chair about 5 years ago so it stands in a permanent puddle of hessian and horse hair and it was once heavily patched by me, using UHU and a piece of leather that I found in the garage. My iPod did its usual trick. It lulled us all into peaceful melodic silence playing David Gray and Eva Cassidy and then suddenly threw something really heavy at us just to make sure we were still listening. Darling was next door watching Sharpe DVDs, his Christmas present from Boy 15. And he was wearing the socks I gave him. If he'd given me the iPhone I was after I might have been in there too, but as it was, there was a companionable atmosphere in the kitchen, broken only by occasional laughter or an entreaty to come and look at something on a screen. And I suppose 12 pairs of socks wouldn't really be fair exchange for an iPhone.

I wonder if this calmness comes from knowing that whatever is in the diary cannot be done? Or from David Gray. Or if it's my hormones. Or if it is something else that I don't even know about, an epiphany. I am going to pour myself a glass of wine and ponder that one on the back door step whilst I get some fresh air. I hope I see a shooting star.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Alarm bells ringing.

I woke at 2.30am to the noise of the barn alarm going off. I leapt out of bed, pulled on my mink to cover my nakedness, grabbed the hockey stick, ran down the stairs, pulled on my gum boots, unlocked the backdoor and realised two things. Firstly, it wasn't our alarm, it was the farm across the fields. Secondly I had a hangover. Not good hun... where did that come from? An inventory of the empties suggested that I'd got the Louis Allowance single bottle of dry white to stay down using a litre of Peroni. Well what the hell? Worse things have happened at sea. Rum, buggery and the lash for instance.

Moments later I was fast asleep again, conscience and hangover put back into the box with a triple paracetamol washed down with a Berocca on the rocks.

When I woke for the second time I felt as if I'd been cage fighting all night. Even my teeth felt loose. This must be the after effects of that Pilates class I went to yesterday. They all looked like flakes so how come it hurt me, the tough little yoga bod so much? I mixed another Berocca (can't be too careful) which I promptly knocked over and then had to spend half an hour on my hands and knees mopping up bright orange sticky liquid with bog paper. Today it was important to be fit, be well, be perky and get my children back to their schools, a 200 mile round trip, without showing how much it hurts. I always pray for sunshine on days like this, so I can wear my sunnies.

And then the snows came. We decided after the third snowflake settled that enough was enough and binned the Back To School plan and went for a great walk in the snow. As we walked home, I noticed that next door's cows were singing Meat is Murder by The Smiths. Truly. Listen to it. Maybe the alarm was cattle rustlers over at theirs?

Monday, 4 January 2010

Shooting cans off a shelf at the funfair, in spite of the crooked sights.

This not getting sloshed/applying the brakes mallarkey of my mentor Louis's has some interesting side effects. Firstly, it is truly wierd to lie in bed from 11pm to 2am, not sleeping, but not being that bothered. I remember my asking my Great Aunt ten years ago when she was dying if she would come back and haunt me. She said, no, but when I was curled up foetally in bed and unable to sleep, I should imagine her arms around me. She was a bit gross, physically, so I edit the image and take comfort from the idea.

And then to wake and think logical, ordered thoughts. Odd but good.

During the last few week we have worked out that there would need to be changes. One (which Louis didn't come up with because he is too polite) was that I should do more to help other people and stop being so infinitely selfish. On New Year's Day I received an e-mail asking if I would man the Safety Boat during Sailability sessions at the lake where I sail. Sailability is sailing for the disabled. I agreed very happily. What a great way to help out, zooming about in a speed boat and looking out for other people. One improvement in place.

Secondly, we decided that I should take more care of my muscles and bones and thirdly that I should try and mix with interesting creative people more often and stop sitting downing gallons of wine on my own every evening. Darling and I went out to see friends later on NYD for a Bloody Mary, and within moments of arriving two women I don't know bounced up to me and begged me to join their Pilates class. One was an artist, the other was a writer, and the Pilates teacher is a musician who used to be a rock star. Two and three. Bingo, I think. Bingo, I hope.

I went to Pilates today and managed not to fart or fall over. An improvement on the last six weeks already.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Sunday Roast

I woke with that feeling of impending gloom that comes with the belief that it is Monday morning. And then I remembered we hadn't done Sunday yet, and there was a huge hunk of beef in the fridge waiting for me to come roast. And Uncle and Nephew on their way down from London to visit us. So I went and got tea and snuggled up with my Pete McCarthy book for an hour.

When I finally tore myself away, I realised I hadn't left enough time for all my chores (laundry, logs, lunch) with the additional embuggerance of Getting The Sunday Paper (which no one will read), making a pudding (which I certainly will not eat) and the pleasure of popping down to a neighbour for village bonhomie to fit in. So,I asked Darling to make the ice cream which he is so desirous of - having bought the machine and ingredients. The answer came, 'I am in the middle of doing something, and you are asking me to do something else which I have no interest in'. Me too, and it's the middle of my life. I hate ice cream so much I had 'a note' from Mum at prep school to say I didn't have to eat it. And I loathe gadgets of any sort. I can just about handle a wooden spoon and a sharp knife.

If I sounded bleak yesterday by the way, I am back on it today. No reason to mourn for the loss of approval forever. It isn't how it should have been, but it's not all bad and I am a tough little sod.

So meat was roasted, spuds and 'snips gilded and Yorkshires ready for the off. But by lunchtime itself I begun to doubt to arrival of the rellies. I telephoned and my doubts were confirmed. They had forgotten. So I went to the village party for a preprandial and said hello to the new folk I'd been wanting to meet and kissed or smiled at the others who are all decent and kind and generally OK. I guess I conformed to the rule 'Always leave them wanting more'. I was only there for twenty minutes and I would have been happy to do the full two hours. But I was alone, as ever, and there was lunch to serve back at base camp.

And finally after everyone had used 'their fists and the back of their spoons' (stolen from Pete McCarthy) to ram yet another damn meal down their overstuffed gullets like a flock of foie gras geese, I took the dog out for her pre-birthday walk in the freezing dusk sunlight. The iPod gave me Jem Its Amazing, Sonny J Can't Stop Moving and Labbi Siffre Something Inside So Good. Good call DJ. Tomorrow is Monday and I am sticking to the rules.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

January 2nd 2010

We went to my parents. My cousins, nephews and nieces were there. I drank champagne and sat in the garden with my sister. She gave me a product called 'Piss Off' for christmas - it's to wash my wetsuit. I gave her something called 'Bugger off' to keep the midges off. We planned our summer camping holiday together.

Nothing else funny happened.

Friday, 1 January 2010

New Year's Day 2010.

To get the full impact of this one, you will need to download Nina Simone, Feeling Good and play it damn loud.

So Happy New Year (kiss kiss) all round and on we slog. It was a blue moon last night and I didn't get paralytic because I don't really know my hosts intimately enough to go into total free fall. And anyway, I am limbering up for the New Order, remember. We had a good time, I got to suck on a Cohiba and compare two ports, and whilst I didn't grow a beard on the spot I was grateful to be treated like an honorary boy. And, to top it all, we got a lift home which was a relief. Whilst the blue moon was interesting at 8pm going downhill, I suspect it might have lost it's thrall at 1am slogging up a steep hill through woods, quagmires and muddy muddy fields.

I woke early and smug. After all, by normal standards, last night was a quiet night in. I lay in bed and read McCarthy's Bar by the hilarious Pete McCarthy for an hour whilst Darling went off in a hungover huff to chuff on his roll-ups and drink coffee in the garden. But then he made a tactical error. He came in and apologised for being wantonly blind and brutish recently. Dear God, I cannot deal with that level of despair. No one ever surrenders in this warzone. I, in turn disolved into floods and together we hatched a strategy for surviving 2010. It was like a football match in No Man's Land. We made deals, agreed terms, spat on the palms of our hands and shook on it. We left no grievance unaired and touched on some dangerous ground but got through it. We drew the line at cutting open our thumbs and squashing them together though.

And no, this isn't a euphemism for an intimate fireworks party Rupert Garcia you perve. That is what happened.

And I'm feeling good de dum, de dum, de dum.