Friday, 30 September 2016

WhatsApp ruined my day

I have just had a MEGA birdwatching experience.
Like all the best sightings, I was completely not expecting it.  Like so many of the things that I hold special today, it has its roots in my childhood.  I remember in Truro Museum, I would often return to  a tall stuffed bird with its glassy eye on a level with mine.  It had a weirdly shaped beak which used to fascinate me.
I was walking along the Truro River with my parents.
We had spotted the teal, shelduck, curlew, redshank, godwit plus mallard and dabchick.
In the estuary, the tide was just up and the water was bubbling with grey mullet enjoying a feeding frenzy. 
It had been a good walk and we were returning to the car when a large white bird took off over the water. 
“Egret” said Dad.
“Too big,” I replied and indeed there was an egret close by – it was smaller.
I had a gut feeling: “Spoonbill!”.
As it came closer and finally flew right over our heads, every doubt was banished.
Thrilled, I WhatsApp the family:
“Guess what flew over my head today?”
Answers:
“A helicopter?”
“A highland cow?”
“A Moomin?”
“Carenza?”
I tire of their flippancy:
“A spoonbill.  AN ACTUAL SPOONBILL”
Then there is some old chat from Carenza and Nigel about what they are having for dinner.
“I said, A SPOONBILL.”
Perran: “Is that a kind of tractor?”
Nigel: “Are you sure it wasn’t a heron? To the untrained eye they can be easily confused.”
Carenza: “We know that bird watching is challenging for you.
I’m sure you’ll learn soon though.”
Pascoe: “I think it was probably a heron holding a very small frying pan in its beak.”
I give in:

“Yep. That does seem to be the most plausible explanation.” *Sighs*

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

You again

It seems like only last week that I was driving Perran to Bristol and bidding him a sentimental goodbye.
Wait a minute, it was only last week.
But tomorrow I’ll be seeing him again.
He has left all his lecture notes carefully stashed away for the Summer on top of his wardrobe.
He texted to ask would I mind posting them.
If there is one thing I hate (and, just for the record, there is more than one thing I hate), it is finding a cardboard box that hasn’t been crushed by a retailer, wrapping it up, taping it, addressing it, glueing stamps to it and loitering at the post office where the person in front of me always has something bulky/complicated which contravenes post office protocols.
I hate parcels and all their kind.  Nowadays, I even hate receiving them because private delivery firms seem to hire employees with black belts in “knock and run”.
Luckily I’ll be driving to Cornwall to see my parents tomorrow and will therefore transport the gear to Perran in Bristol.
A cock-up like this hasn’t happened since Carenza’s Great Bedroll Omission of 2014 so I guess I should be grateful.  And it’ll give me a chance to see how Perran and his mates have made a home of their little student house. 
I like to picture my offspring missing the comforts of home but not completely overcome by squalor. 

And I guess I can take him a jar of my newly made chilli chutney – I certainly wouldn’t have sent that in a parcel!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Equinox

I drove Perran back to university today.  On the long journey back alone I heard poems on Radio 4 to mark the Autumn Equinox.
I had plenty of time to think. 
It struck me that our family has reached an Equinox too. 
Grandparents are all ageing, Nigel and I still have maybe a decade of working life ahead.
And the children, although they may often find themselves at home with us are launching on adult life.
For a while Nigel and I are still the fulcrum of our family.
I’ve always enjoyed the Autumn – the briskness in the air, the fiery colours of the leaves, the cosiness of the evening fire.

So can I convince myself that Autumn is as wonderful as Summer?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Heels

Part of the qualifications for getting a degree should surely be the power to pass on information.
Luckily for me Carenza has gained this skill.
For, on Saturday, it was her graduation, the type of event where one wears a hat and high heels (or at least the Mums do, though not most of the Dads).
In the end, there were very few hats although Will did mention he’d seen some unusual “fascinators”.  I explained to him that these were mortar boards.
Shoes, however, were de rigeur and there was a fair sprinkling of vertiginous heels.
And this is where the bit about passing on information comes in.
Once robed up, the graduands of St Hugh’s process around a mile to the Sheldonian Theatre where the ceremony takes place.
They process accompanied by friends and family.
In their heels.
It seemed that not all the proud Mums had been expecting this and by the time we reached the Sheldonian, not all the tears were tears of sentiment.
Ironically, within the Sheldonian, the junior proctors who were conducting the ceremony were dashing young women in shiny black high heels and sashayed up and down the aisle as if it were a catwalk.  Presumably neither of them had had to walk quite such a long way to the ceremony.

My flat sandals were dowdy by comparison, but at least when it was time to walk back to lovely the reception at St Hugh’s, I was ready!

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Wind-up

On Monday, received an email from the Blood donation service:

“Dear Clare,
This is a reminder that you have an appointment to give blood again on 15 September 2016.”
On Tuesday I received a text saying,
“Your appointment to donate is in 2 days. If you can’t make it please tell us now so we can offer it to another donor.  Thank you.”
On Thursday, another text.
“Hi.  To help keep you well please remember to drink plenty of water before you come to give blood today. We look forward to seeing you later, Many thanks!”
So, with my bladder creaking like a well-filled hot water bottle, I drove up to the designated church hall.  Last time there had been a problem with parking, so I was not surprised when I saw a woman in day-glo directing traffic.
I wound down my window.
“Sorry,” she said, “It’s been cancelled.  There’s building work going on elsewhere in the church and it’s making the hall too dusty.  Perhaps you’d be kind enough to book another appointment.”
After the long suspenseful build-up I actually felt disappointed.
However, I now had an hour to myself that I hadn’t thought I would get.
I could do anything, go anywhere.
Only thing was, it would have to be somewhere with a loo.


Thursday, 8 September 2016

On Fire

Eversheds were throwing a launch at the Museum of London for the amazing Fire! Fire! exhibition which they have sponsored.
Nigel was invited and asked if he could bring me as a guest.
The stories about the Great Fire of London have always captivated me.
Did Charles II really organise the fire in order to demolish the crowded city?
Was it really fewer than ten people who died?
Thing is, Perran and Carenza are home.  They have been a shortage item in my life for such a long time, it’s hard to pass up on spending time with them.
Just at the moment, a night in can be tremendous fun.
“They’ve got a great range of original documents at the exhibition,” said Nigel, “And crockery and metalwork that got burnt in the actual fire three hundred and fifty years ago.”
So I went.  The reception was generous with drink, canap├ęs and good company.
The exhibition was intriguing – it told the story of the Great Fire clearly and colourfully.
And when we finally got home, we discovered that the children still were not back from their various social engagements.
All in all, a good decision then.





Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Last Blast

Last blast of the school holidays for me is the Greenbelt festival. 
This year was one of the best – Josie Long, James Acaster, The Barely Methodical Troupe, Vanessa Kisuule all blasted it.
At the open-air communion, thousands of us were led by 20 kids, the Archbishop of Canterbury and a host of kazoos.
All weekend, I wandered the festival, sometimes with Nigel or other mates, but often on my own – it’s the kind of place where people strike up conversations easily and help each other out.
The best bit was on the last night when Ster, a senior steward, hurried up to me in the dark and said,
“Your purse has been handed in, Clare.  You can pick it up from the information desk.”
I hadn’t even had time to realise that I’d dropped my purse.

When I collected it, I didn’t bother to check the contents – they would be fine -  this was Greenbelt.