Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Sad little wardrobe story

Ever wondered how you would notice that you are getting old? Apart from the greying hair and creaking joints and half a dozen attempts it takes to link the correct name to the child standing in front of you. Your own child.

Where does getting excited about a piece of furniture rank in the scale of getting-old-warnings? I suspect it would be up there with preferring sensible shoes; investing in a wine cellar; and agreeing with a play of reluctance to husband's wish to own a mid-life-crisis car, especially since it meant I could have a puppy! Does that mean that my mid-life-crisis is a dog? Or maybe that my mid-life has gone to the dogs?

Anyway, back to the wardrobe - not the one in Narnia; sadly - wouldn't that be fun! - but the one in our upgraded room in a delightful hotel in Norfolk.Yes! We were upgraded! The manageress put us in a larger room with bath, because "it was free" (otherwise unoccupied) that night.The warm, marble, floor tiles in the bathroom took some getting used to - hot day, hot feet ... hot tiles; hmmm, cold would have been so much better - but the flip side was how quickly the sodden bath mat dried, after the shower curtain proved to be more of a decorative, but useless flap of heavy, damask-like fabric, than effective, spray-shielding curtain. Upgrade! Hot floor! We weren't complaining!

Back to the wardrobe again - dinner, bed and breakfast in a small country pub/restaurant/hotel on the first night away from children and dogs in too-long-a-time, meant pre-dinner march through some woods;

indulging in a bit of phone-tography

with subsequent message to self (definitely a sign of ageing), to add identification of these plants (older!) to list of things to do (ancient!) when get home; and later getting a little bit dressed up for dinner.Think that that 'little bit dressed up' may be a sign of ageing, too: small part - too old to bother any more; small part - don't ever know what to wear anyway; small part - perfectly sure that no-one will be looking at me; and small part - I'm grown up, I'm happy with who I am. However, even casual attire requires dry hair and so to the wardrobe. 

What a wardrobe!

Okay, so maybe I'm a little bit sad, in the way that the children use the word sad, as in pathetic, but just look -

Individual shelves for "Sundries", "Collars", "Cuff-links". A menu for a Cunard line breakfast with the instructions that it is permitted for children to share the parent's order and that United States Rationing advises everyone "to eat more fish".

The wardrobe creaked, its doors only just met in the middle, but it was a beautiful relic of the Titanic era, when travel was slow, formal and dignified. What would they have thought of our hot floor and complete lack of dress shirt, collar, tie and jacket?

They would have liked the food - wonderful! We promised ourselves that we will be back; venue for fiftieth birthday weekend in 2014, perhaps. Cods' cheeks, slow roast shoulder of lamb, elderflower and raspberry jelly with ice cream - all were delicious. And accompanied by the chef as back-drop, cooking meat all evening on a vast open fire in the dining room -  unfussy, unpretentious, good food.

They would have liked the setting too - on the edge of a deer park.

But they would have remembered to pack all the things that we had forgotten. Or rather, their man or maid would have done it for them.

And they wouldn't have been able to take photographs. On their phone.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The best things in life are free

Defining 'Best' depends on the day; the time; the weather; how much sleep I've had the night before; whether someone else has finished all the chocolate; how many puddles of puppy wee I've had to mop up; whether or not I have to work tomorrow;  and how cold the wine is ... among other things.

As the song goes, these are a few of my favourite things:

  • a cold, wet nose snuffling into your neck when NBFLF (see previous blog) is carried out to the garden at 5.45am to 'do his business'
  • and the way he curls himself into your arms for the journey back; his little whimpers trying to say, "The grass is cold, Mum. And wet! And my paws are damp and chilly."
  • waking up two hours later with a child folded into the space left next to you in bed. Asleep.
  • watching her stir.
  • listening to her sleepy whisper, "I love you, Mummy."
  • a hot shower.
  • proper coffee. Hot! (not the one that resembles an oil slick, thick and separating, and foul; abandoned on the top of a cupboard). Proper coffee from a cafetiere - especially when someone else makes it for you. And heats the milk. And washes up all the fiddly filter bits.
  • smiling. Everywhere people are smiling. It's catching; infectious - it lifts us all. It's watching Tom Daley and his team mates leap elated into the pool; seeing sportsmen win - even when they actually don't. Celebrating life. It's good - all good. Unless you're Chinese. And fail to take home Gold. The shame they feel is hard for us, comfortable,  here in the West, to comprehend, but is so heartfelt as to be almost palpable. For them the 'best thing' is being best; being second in the world simply isn't good enough.I am so grateful to live in a society where the underdog can be celebrated, and is celebrated.
  • a lettuce sandwich - strictly not free, but I didn't pay anyone to assemble it. Slices of home-made bread, a light spreading of slightly salted butter, a little mayonaise and several layers of crisp lettuce.I guess that's a BLT without the bacon and tomato! Delicious!
  • ice-cream - okay, not free either, but I'll get back to free ones in a mo'. None of your synthetic, cheap, shaving-foam stuff, but a really good Italian gelato - preferably dark chocolate and lemon. Oooh! ... and coconut ... and caramel ... and coffee ... and peach ... Mmmmmmmmm!
  • someone saying thank you, particularly when it is unexpected
  • someone liking what you have written
  • chocolate - not free! Wish it was!
  • fitting into some old, once-favourite trousers that you thought you were too fat for
  • the new bloom, open on a flower that you planted
  • picking your own fruit and making crumble
  • wine - chilled! Not free - see chocolate: same wish!
  • the new recipe (the one that you didn't really follow - just read the ingredients; thought "that sounds good"; and made the rest up as you went along).The one that worked! (the one that you probably can't remember exactly how you did it!)
  • making plans with Littlest - new tubs to plant, flowers to choose
  • hugs ... lots and lots of hugs
  • friends: four-legged and two-legged ones.Friends who share their time with you. Friends who phone when times are tough. Friends who care. Friends who laugh. Freinds who love. Friends who get your jokes. Who forgive when you are late.
  • music - not all music (can't listen for more than a few nanoseconds to most of the current female singers - with the exception of Adele). But the sort of music that makes your heart sing - Eine Aplensinfonie, Zadok the Priest, Jerusalem, any of Les Mis, Coldplay's Fix You, my son's music, Caliban's Dream (look it up and listen if you haven't heard it yet - mesmerising!), Annie Lennox singing Into the West from Return of the King; Greatest Day by Take That; Angels by Robbie Williams; Sailing by Rod Stewart; and There You'll Be from Pearl Harbor; and ... and .... and ... so much more - half of which I can neither name, nor identify the musician, composer, orchestra or singer, but know within a few notes that it is one of those many, many pieces of music that I love. Music that lifts the soul, turns a bad day good and makes me smile.
  • a large glass of wine - oops! Think I may have mentioned that already.
  • polyfilla-ing the hole in the bathroom wall (pat self on the back! - not because it was particularly difficult, but because I managed to find both polyfilla and flat tool-thing with which to apply it and fine sandpaper for the dusty, rubbing down bit - all on my own); then painting over it ... in the wrong colour of blue. Which was not obvious until the morning. Best bit of this was the subsequent not-panicking-part and the not-having-to-face-excruciating-embarrassment-part- the sort of embarrassment created by that slow rolling of the eye upwards, that raising of the brow and tutting sound, underlined by that sighing smile which says "It's no less than I expected ...  but honestleeeeee!" Not having to face these, because I have three days to put it right. And whoopdeedoop, I have - Yeah! All on my own! The best things in life are not only free, but are also the things (i.e. mishaps!) you sort out for yourself. By yourself.
  • and the best of the best things - the best thing that eclipses all of the above ... 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Blogging when you can't ... and when you can

How to blog when you really can't blog?

How to write, when what you want to write, is a secret?

How to keep quiet, keep your kids quiet and their friends quiet?

Waiting is hard! Social networking silence is harder.

But worth it:

Littlest marked the occasion with a portrait:

We must be mad. Two dogs. Several children. Jobs!

We even read to our puppy

Walking The Dog or WTD needs to change to WTDs. Maybe.

And Four-Legged-Friend's nephew (!) needs a blog name ...
  • nephew-of-FLF or NOFLF
  • little-FLF or LFLF
  • smaller-FLF or SFLF
  • blonde-FLF or BFLF
  • mini-FLF or MFLF
  • I'll-never-be-as-big-as-the-original-FLF or INBABATOFLF
  • I'll-be-boss-of-FLF-one-day or IBBOFLFOD
  • feed-me-weetabix-and-I'm-happy-FLF or FMWAIHFLF
  • doesn't-mum-know-that-five-in-the-morning-in-play-time-FLF or DMKTFITMIPTFLF
  • so-Dad-can-have-his-four-wheeled-mid-life-crisis-now-that-Mum's-got-me-FLF or SDCHHFWMLCNTMGMFLF
  • I-like-a-better-quality-of-newspaper-to wee-on-FLF or ILABQONTWOFLF
  • and while on the subject of newspaper:

  • ... Four-legged-friend-newspaper-shredder or perhaps FLF-producer-of-slightly-damp-and-chewed-newspaper-confetti, or FLFNS and FLFPOSDACNC
  • but-why-won't-FLF-share-his-toys-with-me-FLF or BWWFLFSHTWMFLF
  • surely-his-food-is-my-food-too-FLF or SHFIMFTFLF
  • nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-I-get-four-meals-a-day-he-only-gets-two-FLF or NNNNNIGFMADHOGTFLF
  • blonde-beautiful-FLF or BBFLF ... or just the initials of my name
  • FLF-who-paddles-in-puddles-of-piddles-and-poo or FLFWPIPOPAP

I quite like the PIPOPAP one but hopefully that description of him will go out of date pretty quickly. BBFLF is easy to remember, but the original FLF could just as readily be BBFLF, if black were substituted for blonde.

Or ... maybe I could just refer to them collectively as Four-Legged-Friends and use their names Mungo, the original, black FLF and Bertie, the new, blonde FLF ... or OBFLF and NBFLF ... ?