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.