Saturday, 15 November 2014

Feet under the table

When I started this blog, the twins were polishing their applications to apply for university.  Only two years on, I have just popped in on Perran who is now happily ensconced in Bristol at the top of a Georgian house full of students.  From his palatial room, he surveys the university he has come to love.  
He had not told us that he’d had the bravery to join the 150 dancers auditioning for a few places in the much-hyped Fuze fashion and dance event.  
But he did tell us once he’d been selected.
Meanwhile, Carenza had casually mentioned that she also had a fish to fry.  After harsh parental interrogation, she divulged that she had launched a bid to become president of the JCR at St Hugh’s College.  
Even to stand demanded grit.  She has published a focused manifesto and spoken at hustings in a packed and beery bar.  She also had to eat a punishing number of burritos (apparently). 
On the night when the votes came in, I was visiting my parents in Cornwall, Nigel was with his in Northumberland.  Perran was waiting in Bristol and Pascoe had joined Nigel in Northumberland.  Over the course of the evening, we each, in our separate locations, kept taking out our mobiles and frowning at them thoughtfully.  Finally, at around 9pm, Carenza sent us her news.  
She was president.  
It was only a text, but we could definitely hear the chink of champagne glasses in the background.
Two years on, the twins could be said to have their feet under the table.

Saturday, 8 November 2014


I used to have a face-painting kit and regularly appeared at school and church fetes to depict spider man, a tiger, or butterflies on chubby cheeks.    Conversation-wise it was as challenging as being a hairdresser,
“So, have you had a go on the tombola…?  I see.  No I wouldn’t want old bubble-bath either.  But you’ve had some sweets from the sweet stall then?  Lots of sweets.  Lots of sugary sweets.  Please do try to sit still for just a bit longer.” 
I’d have been very happy to continue face-painting – I thought I did it well.  But once my children reached eleven and left primary school, nobody asked me again.
The thing I had not realised about this art-form is that it is genetically determined. 

Yet just last weekend, I received solid proof that both of the twins have inherited a talent for face-painting.  

Friday, 31 October 2014

Are Pumpkins Essential?

Perran and a pumpkin of Yore.
Last year, the family pumpkin had hung around for a week with me muttering “must get round to that…” but not actually getting round to it.   
Finally, Pascoe heroically took up a Sabatier and hacked a toothy grin into the orange lantern, setting it outside with its candle just minutes before dusk fell.
This year, with our children all away at university, I didn’t bother with a pumpkin.  So not only did I not have to carve it, I didn’t have to pretend I enjoyed the pumpkin soup afterwards.
BUT, this evening, as Nigel and I tapped away on our laptops, we could hear outside the shrieks and giggles of children.  
I’d invested in sweets and put them by the front door.  But without the sign of the pumpkin lantern, the giggles passed by our door.  Nobody was knocking.
“How does one lure small children?” I asked Nigel.
“Perhaps a gingerbread house?” he suggested.
As we met eachother’s eye, we decided to stop.  After all, one doesn’t want to sound TOO much like a witch.
Instead, Nigel looked out some dinner party candles and set them ablaze outside.  Within seconds, tiny witches and skeletons had knocked at our door.  Within minutes, the first pack of sweets had gone and we were scratching about for more treats.   

And I was glad – who would want to miss out on so much fun?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Pastimes Past

In the dark recesses of many lofts are musical instruments, hockey sticks, tap-dance shoes.
When did they get put there?
Often, the answer is during the owner’s time at university.
School days are packed full of parent-pleasing, CV building activities that get slotted into the routine.  Often Mum/Dad pays any fees, encourages practice, acts as chauffeur and proudly attends performances.
But one day, the youngster wakes up in their stoutly built undergraduate bed, nursing a hangover  and says,
“You know what, I’ve quite enjoyed playing the euphonium, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it, but it was really Mum’s idea, not mine. In fact, I think she projected all her own euphonium-playing hopes and aspirations on to me.  I’ve been living somebody else’s glittering dream.”
As they trudge to the kettle for their first cup of coffee, they realise that if they ditched the euphonium, they might have time for what they really want to do. 
Smiling to themselves, they cram the musical instrument as far into the back of their wardrobe as it will go, pack their fire-eating torch and box of matches into a hold-all and head off for Circus Skills club.

So it was with great pleasure that last weekend, Nigel and I went to Bristol to watch Perran in a performance of the Nutcracker, and discovered how much, after all these years he still loves ballet.


Friday, 17 October 2014

Downsize the house

Not really our house
Sometimes, during university term time, I walk into a bedroom and feel the fine strand of a spider web across my face.  It feels a little chilly and smells only of air-freshener. 
It makes no sense to pay a mortgage on space that we’re not using, so we’re downsizing  to smaller premises.  Friends who are a few years ahead of us warn,
“But they’ll come back – it’s tough to get on the property ladder nowadays.”
But we’re taking a calculated bet that not all three will want to live with us at the same time.  Risky, I know, but the parts of us that yearn to be greener are rejoicing.  We will consume less heat and take up less space on this crowded planet.
And the cleaning, the house maintenance, the lawn-mowing will all be delightfully lighter.
The to-do list pinned up in the kitchen could be halved, our free time doubled. 

We shall have less, but we shall be and do more. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Count Your Chickens

Plans shift like the sands.
“Were we this bad when we were their age?”
Probably not, simply because before the advent of mobile phones, last minute changes tended to result in somebody being left standing on a corner in the rain.
On the positive side, you don’t even hear the term “stood up” so much any more because a person who has changed their mind about a date will often at least text rather than simply not turn up.
It is now so easy to change social arrangements that they swirl and shift like sands sculpted by the tide.
Having three young people in my family, I keep my diary in pencil only.  Who knows when staying in for a family dinner will morph into the youngsters going out clubbing until 3 am.
So when I heard that all three of them would be at home for a whole weekend, I did not count my chickens.  As it got closer to the weekend, those chickens were positively jumping up and down squawking “count me, count me.” Yet still I did not enumerate.
But actually, the weekend arrived and we reached the desired total of three chickens at home with us for one whole day.

It was lovely.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Family Walk

On a Sunday afternoon, I used to say cheerily to the twins,
“Who’s coming out for a family walk then?”
Neither was enthusiastic.  In fact, they’d do pretty much anything to get out of it, only just short of cutting their own leg off with a blunt handsaw.
The other day, I came in from work:
“Hi, would you chaps like a little walk in the woods?”
“Yep. Fine.”
“Sure.  Just a mo. While I put my boots on.”
What was going on?  Were they being ironic?
Sadly not.  It was a sign of the times – family walks are now in such shortage that it is possible to be nostalgic about them and to look forward to them as rare and special occasions.
Sure enough, we had a rare and special family walk and I took some nostalgic photos.

Maybe we’ll do it again during the Christmas hols.

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