Saturday, 28 March 2015


In December, Nigel and I travelled to Brighton to see the murmurations – the patterns formed in the sky by flocks of starlings as they ready themselves to roost on the pier.  The sunset was spectacular and the flock swirled, twisted and glinted in tight formation. 

Then, all of a sudden, as if at some invisible signal, the starlings poured into the space beneath the pier and stayed there.  I had not expected this and it made an impression on me.

This Friday, I was reminded of that moment when all my “starlings” converged on their home perch.  My own evening was supposed to be dinner with some women friends, but before it began, Carenza and I had already been to the station to pick up Will.  
During my dinner, Perran arrived at the station from Bristol Uni, and I texted him to get a taxi home.
After dinner, I drove again to the station to pick up Nigel (a business dinner in London), 
then twenty minutes later, back to the station to collect Pascoe, home from Edinburgh Uni.

But by the time the last family members had returned safely to their perch, the youngest had gone out again for drinks with other friends, also freshly returned home.

Not quite like starlings then.

Pascoe making his way across St Pancras.

Friday, 27 March 2015

How to Deal with a Canvassing Politician

Out hiking with my friends this morning , I was watching a lapwing through my binoculars when my phone dinged.

It was the family Whatsapp group.

Carenza, who is registered to vote and has particular political views had just encountered the local Tory MP with whom she has no truck.

“Ohhh guys I just had theeee cringiest moment ever: Anne Main knocked at the door canvassing and I couldn't be bothered to talk to her, so I pretended I was too young to vote (I said I was 17 really unconvincingly).
Then I remembered it was a school day so pretended I was off sick and no one else was home then she looked a bit concerned and asked what school I went to and I told her and she said that she was there yesterday doing a husts thing and asked why I hadn't been there so I coughed and pretended I'd been off all week SO EMBARRASSING OMG she KNEW I was lying.”

I was still pondering the first message when another came in:

“She kneeeeew.”

I turned to Dee, “Do they still have truancy officers?”

But Whatsapp dinged again immediately, and it said,

“But it’s okay – I’m sure Anne Main’s too busy canvassing to call Social Services.”

Carenza is clearly better at dealing with her mother than with Tory politicians.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Breaking Bad II

A few days ago, I blogged about how my old friend Rosie put the wind up Nigel and I by quietly letting herself into our house at 11pm when we weren’t expecting her.
She came round early on Friday morning so we could watch the eclipse together and we laughed about the incident.
Ha, ha, ha.
It was just the two of us as Nigel had been away at a work do the previous night and was catching the train straight from work to his parents’ in Northumberland that evening.
In the face of cloud cover, we gave up on the eclipse, stowed our colander in the kitchen cupboard; and had resorted to the telly and unrivalled views of Brian Cox.
“The picture’s gone a bit dark – I can’t see Brian properly.”
“Why has it gone dark?”
Then -
“Wait a minute, what was that?”
We had heard a sound from the front door. 
If only we still had that metal colander.
Make lots of noise to scare the intruder away.  Never corner them.
We BOTH got up and went out into the hall….
to find Nigel.
“What are you doing here?”
“Hello to you too.   I’m going to work from home today – thought I might need to take the car to Mum and Dad’s later, instead of training it.”

Phew.  For a moment there, I thought I was going to have a Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Friday, 20 March 2015


Pascoe captures the start of the eclipse
I  thought I didn’t really care about the eclipse that much.  I had vaguely noted that I could improvise a pinhole camera with a colander if I needed to.  (Although wouldn’t a colander be better suited to a sci-fi fantasy novel, where a planet might have many suns?)
Then the hype started and I wished I’d sent off for special specs (or at least, knew where I’d put the ones from last time).  But I went to the cupboard and checked.  My colander might be missing a handle, but it was still full of holes.  Everything would be okay after all. 
As a snapshot of my family: I invited Rosie over, but it was overcast, so we ended up ditching the colander and watching it on the telly.  Carenza and Nigel were both stuck on trains, also with nothing but white cloud overhead.   
Perran had not responded well to my advice to be careful what he did or he could go blind (which sounds like the kind of conversation fathers used to have with their sons a couple of generations ago).  Following the eclipse, he texted  “Don’t use a stoooopid colander, three pairs of sunglasses does the trick.” 
The triphids are waiting, Perran.

Pascoe, however, was not only the true scientist, but also the best placed of us, in Edinburgh and sent us these great photos.

Thursday, 19 March 2015


You could tell the life-stage that Nigel and I are at from the parts of the budget that made us prick up our ears.
There will be a lower cap on pension relief allowance. 
Pensions – when did we start being interested in pensions?  Yet suddenly we are.  Until the children left we felt we were living in the epicentre of our own lives, but now one of the big conversation topics  among our fellow empty nesters is “How long before I can retire?”
There is to be a new ISA designed to help first-time home buyers.
In the next few years, our children will start work, and may be joining the battle to get onto the property ladder.   
Suddenly our focus has changed toward making savings – both for our own decrepitude and also to compensate our children for the fact that they will have to earn their living and raise families in a world much less economically hospitable than we did.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering what part of the budget made my children prick up their ears and very much hoping it wasn’t that bit about a penny off a pint of beer.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Unexpected Mother’s day Gift

My mother and my daughter
I was making conversation with some small boys in between lessons.
“So,” I asked wistfully, “What are you guys planning for Mother’s Day?”
“Do you think I should get her a present?”
“I’m sure your Mum isn’t expecting you to spend lots on her.  But she’d probably appreciate a home-made card.”
Of course, I was talking about myself.  So to whoever that Mum is who now doesn’t get an expensive present, Sorry.
For me, I had thought Mother’s day was a thing of the past.  It is cruel of the gods to place Mothering Sunday in the middle of university term time. 
Except of course, that some universities have ridiculously short terms. 
Last year, wonderfully, Carenza was home in time.  This year, however, she planned to stay on to do some work, which is exactly what I used to do.  So I had gathered my expectations up and locked them away in a bottom drawer.
But then, we got the text:
“Can you collect me on Saturday?  Want to come home for a break.”
Was that Handel’s Halleluiah Chorus I could hear playing?
I turned back to the boys:
“Breakfast in bed is good too.”
“I dropped mine half way up the stairs last year.”
“I didn’t even get out of the kitchen with mine.”

Again, Sorry.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Breaking Bad

For the first time, we’re doing the box-set thing and working our way through the great Breaking Bad. It is, after all, addictive.
It was eleven o’ clock on a Friday night and we had just watched a scene where Pinkman breaks into the creepy house of a junky couple, ending with a woman crushing her partner’s head under an ATM.
Then: “What was that?”
We have two front doors, an inner and an outer, and I thought I had just heard a noise at the outer door.
We turned the TV down.
Then we heard the inner door open and shut.
When suspecting a break in, make a lot of noise to signal to the intruder that the house is occupied.  Do not corner the intruder.
Nigel, unarmed, went straight out into the hallway to investigate. 
He immediately relayed the identity of the burglar.  Apparently, it was somebody called,
Luckily, there was simultaneously another voice going,
And I recognised the voice, the voice that was saying “I left a message on Clare’s mobile, and another on your answering machine….”
It was one of my oldest friends, Rosie, who mostly lives in New Zealand.  She is over in the UK helping out a sick relative, and a couple of weeks earlier I had given her the house key in case she ever needed a bolt-hole.  And then I’d forgotten all about it.

It’s just as well we didn’t have an ATM handy.