Saturday, 16 December 2017

Whatever Happened to Nigel and Clare?

When the children left for University it was the end of twenty-one years of family life. 

We would be brave and stand back while they found their wings.

We expected to be sad, and for a time we were.

But soon we found compensations.

Just to go out on a Saturday and enjoy lunch and a walk with Gill and Graham, Nick and Jackie or Jenny and Terry.  
Without having to make a picnic for my whole voracious family.
We could even afford a pub lunch when it was just two of us.

And then the twins graduated and returned home.
We know it’s temporary, so we are enjoying their company while we have it.

But this Saturday, as we tried to lure them on a day out, Christmas party aftermath overlapped with urgent shopping and they declined blearily.

I was tempted to stay home.
Nigel said “We should still go.”

So we drove to Grafham Water where I proved myself a hopeless nerd by getting overexcited by goldeneye and goosander ducks. The words “Just look at that!” may have been over-used.
Then we explored the twinkly market town of Huntingdon, drifted into a few shops, appreciated a Mediaeval church and bridge. 
As we drove home, I said to Nigel, “That was a good day.”
Meanwhile, the twins had begun to text us. 
Looked like we’d see them tomorrow.


As if we cared!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Just Stop

A few years ago when I trained as a teacher, I had a placement in rural North Hertfordshire.  Showing me round,  the pupils focused on the most important thing of all – the procedure for snow days.  
It was only September, but they already had an eye on a day off.  And I quite liked the prospect too.

From that day to this, however, there has been no snow day in Hertfordshire.  Until today.

Even today there is not really a snow day off school as it is Sunday. 

However, there is the same delightful feeling that whatever we were going to do today, it will not be done. 
And it is not our fault.

It’s a very busy time of year, preparing cards, gifts, food and social life for Christmas.  But today it’s as if God just shook his finger at us and said “Shush now – doesn’t really matter.  Settle down.”

We put on our boots and did the things that counted - got to church, called on an elderly neighbour, filled the bird feeders.

But then everything slowed down – home made bread, the wood-burner lit, an old film on the telly.

And a nourishing day’s rest in Advent.


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Happy Hair

The order in which information is delivered really matters, and this Saturday proved it.
We had just been en famille to see the Tove Janssen (Moomin) Exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

I find it particularly poignant to revisit activities which I associate with my children when they were small and innocent on a day when they are bleakly hung-over and straining not to be surly.

Afterwards, we parted on Dulwich High Street when Perran went off to get a haircut. 
“Be careful,” warned Carenza “– Could be pricey here.”
Nigel and I were on the train going home when texts started to arrive from Perran.

IT WAS SEVENTEEN POUNDS
--------
£70
--------
SORTED OUT MY EYEBROWS AND GAVE ME SOME AFTERSHAVE
--------
THEY JUST KEPT GIVING ME FREE BEERS AND NICE COFFEE
--------
ALSO HAD THE NICEST HAIRCUT
--------
I MISHEARD
--------
BUT ALSO DID EXPECT IT
--------
From this, we figured Perran had gone into a nice barber’s, asked the price, misheard, had a great experience but then been horrified at the true price.

We felt a little sorry for him until he came home and explained that his texts had arrived with us in the wrong order.  Looking back at his phone, there was a very different story.

He had asked the price only after the haircut.  By this time, he had received such amazing service that he feared it would be expensive.  
He DID mishear – what he heard was £70.  
What they actually charged him was £17.  

The story was one of triumph NOT disaster.


And significantly, it was also a story of beer.


Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Sound of God Laughing

They say “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.”

The plan was that I was to have a foot operation to relieve painful wear and tear.  I would be off my feet for six weeks. 
I had painstakingly arranged my teaching work around the operation.
I had done the Christmas shopping and made the cards. 
The only part of it I was looking forward to was reading books by the fire.
Nigel booked a long weekend in Falmouth, so we could see my parents, but also spend time together before the operation.
Then, only a week before, I received a phone call.  My surgeon had a family emergency and had cancelled his operating list. 
After Christmas was no good for me.  I would have to be back at work.

It was all off. 

However, we continued with the trip to Falmouth. 
Romantically, we caught the sleeper from Paddington.
We explored the coasts of the Fal Estuary – golden hedgerows under cobalt skies, and the wistful cry of the curlew.  We visited twinkly craft fairs and cosy tea rooms. It was a brochure-perfect break.
But lulled by my pleasure in the trip, I let one of my rules slip.

On our last night I ate an oyster – part of a starter.  I love shellfish, but, as they say, they don’t always love me.

The train on the way home was wedged crowded and it was like a game of Twister to get to the loo.  However, this didn’t stop me being sick.  To minimise this, I didn’t drink anything.  For five hours.

By Paddington, I had a teeth-chattering temperature.

By Tuesday, still high temperature and bad pains in new places.
Doctor suggested I submit a urine sample.  It was so evidently murky that I was almost proud as I handed it over at reception.

I had managed to transform my food poisoning into a urine infection.

At home, waiting for the antibiotics to kick in, I decided that after all, I would have just one afternoon by the fire reading a book.

And at least that went to plan.







SADLY, NO PHOTO OF ME  THROWING UP ON THE TRAIN!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

You Have Saved the Best 'til Last


Driving down the dual carriageway, I peer out the windscreen and say anxiously to Nigel, “How much longer will they last?”
“Another week maybe?  Not long?”

I love the way that trees which seem a uniform green in Summer each choose a different colour.  The beeches are copper, the birches gold.  I love the way the spindle tree, drab and insignificant for ten months of the year suddenly becomes the Rupaul of the hedgerow - camp pink berries and fabulous, flame coloured foliage. 

But now the leaves were nearly all over for another year.

I was supposed to be going for a last Autumn walk with Carol, but unfortunately something came up.

I decided I’d go anyway.

It was early, bright and frosty.
And the colours took my breath away.

This wasn’t so much the end of Autumn as a grand finale.

As an empty-nester, one of my preoccupations is a regret for the passing of time and the shift from one generation to the next.

But when I saw the trees that morning, a phrase from the Gospels kept going through my head – “You have saved the best 'til last.”




Friday, 17 November 2017

Pigeon postscript















1st pigeon:  “Sparrowhawk! Sparrowhawk! Let’s get out of here!”

2nd pigeon: “But wait, aren’t we flying directly towards some artwork by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, that master of Art Nouveau design?”

1st pigeon:  “I don’t care!  There’s a sparrowhawk, I tell you!”

Me from the sitting room:  “Did anybody else hear that loud bang at the kitchen door?”


Sadly the Charles Rennie Mackintosh window decals haven’t worked.

(The picture above is the print of fine dust which a pigeon leaves when it hits our patio door.)

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Pigeons.

I have never before asked myself whether pigeons might like the Art Nouveau designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

But I am about to find out.

In our garden, we have a cluster of bird feeders.  They attract every kind of finch and titmouse.

Woodpigeons lumber beneath, hoovering up dropped seeds.

However, five times now, we have discovered the complete, yet ghostly, outline of a pigeon in flight on our patio door.  
When they hit glass hard, fine dust flies out of their feathers and makes a print.

But why are they zooming into our patio door?  
There’s no window on the other side to trick them into thinking there’s a through-route.

Fact is, we’ve made our garden such a great place for sparrows that we’ve also attracted a sparrowhawk, skimming stealthily along the hedge, scaring the grit out of our little birds.
I’m guessing it’s blind panic that stops the pigeons from spotting our door.

So how to warn them off?

At the weekend, we visited 78 Derngate, a house designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  I oohed at the luminous stained glass,  aaahed at the detailing in the woodwork.

But the best thing of all was in the gift shop – window decals.

“Do you think the pigeons will appreciate Art Nouveau?”

“Maybe not, but they’ll enjoy not bashing themselves on the glass….And besides, there aren’t any Art Deco decals here so they'll just have to make do.”


Friday, 10 November 2017

My Family and Other Animals

Pascoe was home for the weekend. Although we’ve had holidays together, it’s the first time he’s been home this year.

It was time to become Mumzilla.

I put out a three-line whip.  For one Saturday, we would ALL do something together. 

But what?

Lately I’ve felt nostalgia for Whipsnade Zoo.
But it was risky – the forecast was cold and rainy.

More than that – nostalgia can backfire - it’s not always wise to go somewhere you have fond memories of.

We went.

Sure enough some old friends were missing.
Where were the white wallabies?  Where Horatio Hornbill?

Until we went back, we had been able to imagine Horatio still perkily offering gift-twigs to visitors.  But now…

We had to rescue the day, and fast.

We rushed to lay down some new memories.

I will always remember sleek lionesses playing with giant bags of rustling paper and catnip only feet from us, like lethal kittens.
And the warmth of the butterfly house where dazzling blue morphos alit delicately on our shoulders.

Only the dusk persuaded us to go home.

We had planned to go out to a fireworks display, but there was something we had forgotten.

The perfect end to a tiring day at breezy Whipsnade is to snuggle down by the fire. 
And that’s what we did.
Nigel lays an egg: flamingos outraged!

Three-line Whip







Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Werewolf

The earliest stories about werewolves are in Latin literature.  When I teach fabula mirabilis in the Cambridge Latin Course, I make it spooky for the children with candles and creepy sound effects.
I also have a happy schooldays memory of the werewolf story from Petronius.  The way I translated it made it sound as if the werewolf was exposing himself.  My lovely teacher, Yvonne Simmons, roared with laughter – “It’s not that kind of story, Clare.”

So you’d think I’d be alright with werewolves.

But I’m not.

They are my pet fear.

So when Ann and Steve invited Nigel and I to go and see An American Werewolf in London, my first impulse was to say “No”.

“Oh come on, Clare.  It’s very tongue in cheek.”

Surely I am now grown up enough to sit through a light-hearted horror movie?

I could do this.  I really could.

“Look,” said Steve, “Great seats – right at the front.”

Turns out that I am now so grown up that I lasted only half an hour – even less than last time.
Luckily the Odyssey has a cool bar and I have a Kindle. 

After an hour of sipping a G & T and reading Naomi Alderman’s The Power, I began to believe that we women would one day gain world dominance.


This is possibly even more improbable than the existence of werewolves but at least it took my mind off them. 


Friday, 3 November 2017

Modern slavery

On Saturday night, a blonde woman was sitting in a darkened kitchen, forced to work by candle light.
In front of her was a huge bucket of muddy windfall apples. 
She had been asked to peel, core and slice them.
She was many miles from her home, and she was sniffling.

So where was this sad scene?

I am sorry to say, it happened in our kitchen.

Charlotte was visiting from Glasgow – she was in the South East to give a talk on Martin Luther.
At our house, that Saturday, all the lights went out.  Peering through the window at the entire street in darkness, we deduced a power cut.
We lit the candles in the warm kitchen and began to cut up the cooking apples which Chris and Christine had so generously given us. 
Charlotte came and joined us. 
Unfortunately, the eighties music we were playing gave her a head-ache.
Plus I had forgotten she was allergic to raw apples.

And there were an awful lot of apples.

All I can say, Charlotte, is sorry.  
But on the bright side, when you next campaign or speak on social justice you will have extra knowledge of how modern slavery can exist even in seemingly respectable homes.


Thursday, 26 October 2017

Love Autumn!

chestnuts and a parasol toadstool
I heart Autumn.  I really do. 
In education Autumn represents the start of a new year.  Full of promises and excitement.

BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY

My birthday falls in Autumn.

The trees are all wearing MY colours.

And Nigel and I get to forage.

This year we had the added bonus of David and Carolyn coming to stay.  Carolyn wears Autumn colours too, otherwise I obviously wouldn’t have invited them.

The other really cool thing about them was that even after knowing us for twenty-five years, they still took our word for it that the big toadstools were edible and consumed my risotto without blenching.

They’ve gone home to the North East now.  I’m sure we’d hear if they’d suffered from our toadstools. 

Unless of course they’re seated paralysed and drooling in a layby on the M1.

But they won’t be.  Things never go wrong in Autumn!

Autumn’s so great.



Friday, 20 October 2017

No More Empty Nest

Recently we redesigned our back garden. 

We made sure there were holes in the base of the new fence for hedgehogs. 
We put in a pond to attract newts and frogs. 
We hung up birdfeeders to encourage finches and tits.

And now we are rewarded by seeing the little creatures in our garden.

Meanwhile, in the house, we have at last mended the hole in the bath (long story).  We have also installed electric blankets.  We have packed the fridge full of wholesome food, especially hummus, lots of hummus.

So what kind of wildlife have we managed to attract to our house? 

The answer is Twins. 

Perran and Carenza have both begun their working lives in the London area. 
For the time being, they are living with us.  
I put out fresh food each night and mostly they return.

But when their post-university bank accounts have recovered, they plan to move out and rent a flat.
I feel sorry for them that housing is so expensive right now, but quite glad they are stuck with us for a bit.


Just hope we don’t have to cut holes in the fence for them though.
They would be enormous.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Generation Sandwich

Being in the Sandwich generation leads me into absurdity.

To my children, I seem “unutterably old”.
At least, that’s what Perran said when I asked if I might go with him to a Mr Scruff gig.
I try not to tell too many back-in-the-day stories as I hate to see the incredulity on their faces.
I can’t possibly have been the girl who danced in the street during a thunder storm, or who experimented with home-made fireworks and set off all those fire alarms.

Yet to my parents, I am forever young.  
When my mother leans on my arm for support, she doesn’t realise that my back hurts.  She thinks the walking stick in the boot of the car is a spare for when she forgets hers, not an aid that I use when I go walking.

But there are advantages to being in my mid-fifties.  
At my age people are reported to be at our most content.  We have achieved some of our goals and relinquished our most unrealistic ambitions.


Better enjoy the view from the top of the hill while I’m still at the summit. 


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Tapir

Mark and Adri were coming to lunch with their offspring, Thea and Ben.

Adri texted, “What would you like us to bring?”

My fingers hovered over the key pad.

The designated reply, in accordance with Middle Class Politeness is
“Just bring yourselves.”

On receiving it, Adri and Mark would scratch their heads and probably resort to flowers.

All seemed so dull.

I found myself typing,
“I have always particularly wanted my own tapir.”

ADRI:  “That may be difficult to arrange at such short notice.”

ME:     “You are crap guests.”

In fact, they thoughtfully brought a clematis to cover up our unsightly exposed fence.

But then, a week later, a package arrived by post.
I had ordered nothing and could not think what it might be.

Inside was a beautifully carved and painted wooden tapir.


Adri and Mark, thank you so much.

And particularly thank you for not sending a live specimen.  I understand caring for them can be ...tricky.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

University Reunion

As we drove up the A1 for the reunion, I said to Nigel,
“I can’t believe that all that time, next to our hall of residence, there was that great big orchard and we never scrumped the apples.”
“I suppose we were too busy with our friends.  Well, the apples should be ripe now.  And there are carrier bags in the boot.”
“We’ll get some after the reunion.”
We had a companionable dinner with old friends.  The next morning we attended chapel and then over breakfast, Rosie suggested we collect the key and climb the stairs to the tower. 

I have thirty-three year old photos of a whole gang of us standing up there in front of the low parapet, arms round each other, our hair blowing in the strong wind. But nowadays only four of us were allowed up at a time and a metal bannister stopped us from accidentally toppling over the edge.



When we looked out over the view, there were more changes.  Beneath us our redbrick college still glowed and its grounds stretched out green.  But beyond, in nearly every direction, new buildings were going up, including a whole new village called Eddington.  I felt like a creature from a bygone era.

Afterwards, amid embraces and farewells, we went back to the car park where there had once been a sheep field, and drove away.

“Darn it,” I said, “I forgot to pick any apples.”
“Well.  Clearly then, some things never change.”

Postscript:
I reconnected with Andrea Skevington who also has a blog. Her amazing poem about spiders has resonated with me in the days since.  You can find it here:


Then

Now - photo by Rosie

Now - Photo by Rosie

Friday, 22 September 2017

Fencing Champion

A mere fraction of our fence
For over two years now, we’ve been in our new home, and all this time, we’ve been staring out at a featureless rectangle of grass bordered by sinister dark green shrubs.

Finally we found some nice landscape gardeners who were able to drill out some old foot-deep concrete, lay a patio and dig out a pond for us.  They also removed the laurels as we requested.

And now the dominant note in our garden is very much “Fence”.  We have unbroken wastes of wooden slats to gaze at.  We could not have more fence, even if we had joined Fenceflix and ordered the boxed set of Fence.

This Autumn we have gathered a fantasy football squad of new shrubs – some gold, some silver, some with berries, and have ranged them along the Fence.  We have planted them what seems like an unrealistically huge distance apart to allow for growth.  So we still have a pretty much unimpeded view of Fence.

Perhaps in three or four years’ time, when our little elaeagnuses and pittosporums have heightened and thickened, I shall turn to Nigel and say, “You know, I really miss seeing our fence.”


But I don’t think so.


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Anyone for dinner?

Strata of saved dinners are stacking up in the fridge. 
Cannellini and spinach is piled on veg moussaka, is heaped on bulgar with peppers.
Why are the meals uneaten?
Does it represent a breakdown in communication between the cook (me) and the consumers (Nigel and Perran and Carenza)?
In fact, it is a symptom of a few weeks which have been busy and uncertain, but for the very best of reasons.
Perran and Carenza have both recently started work and they are in response mode. 
Some days they plan to come home, but work mates propose a drink, and it’s a good idea to join in. Purely for professional reasons, of course.
And then, there are old friends who have also ended up in the London area.  It’s great for them to be back together again.  Purely for social reasons, but no less important.
As a result of this, the fridge abounds in cling-filmed plates.
Plus, I have recently developed a highly sophisticated system which I use to regulate supply and demand –
at 5.30pm I WhatsApp – “Who will be home for dinner and who wants dinner keeping?”
And the twins hold up a finger in the wind and reply.

And if they get it wrong, another ratatouille joins the heap.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Starting Work

Carefree, earlier in the Summer
There’s a nip in the evening air and the nights are drawing in.  Term has started and I am madly preparing lessons.
But it’s only when I take a peep at FaceBook that I realise what I have forgotten to do. 
When the children started primary school I took a photo of them with forced smiles on their tiny worried faces. 
When they went along to big school, the same story – little faces peeping out from massive blazers.
However, over the last couple of weeks, both Perran and Carenza have started jobs in London and I didn’t take the pictures!  First day at work.
How could I have been so remiss?
This time round, they ironed their own shirts and bought their own blazers and they look somehow more grown up than me now. 
I’m not sure they would have let me line them up on the doorstep for a happy snap. 

But as they stepped out into the next stage of their lives, I could recognise once again that same old brave but slightly apprehensive smile.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Welcome Home, Carenza

The train journey back from our lovely holiday in Orkney was a little melancholy.
But the gold at the end of the rainbow was that Carenza was returning home after three months’ solo back-packing in South East Asia.
I had never met anybody at an airport before and neither had Will.  My only experience was watching Love Actually far more times than I care to recount.  Will, who came too, had more experience – he had seen the Gavin and Stacey episode where they return from honeymoon.
“The Mum makes this stupidly huge banner, then she forces the Dad, who’s embarrassed, to hold the other end at the airport…….What’s that you’re carrying, Clare?”
“Um.  A banner.  I’ve rolled it up to make it portable.”
“Looks quite… large. How big would you say it was?”
“Kitchen table sized.”
To do him justice, when we reached Airport Arrivals, Will barely put up a fight as I placed the stick in his hand.  He also held up his own discreet and beautifully made banner.
Many people who came through the gate crowed with delight at the large pink banner.  Blonde girls seemed particularly to like it which was a good sign.
However, it clearly ruined some people’s day – those who were being met by relatives with less sizeable banners expressed their disappointment  resentfully.
For quite a long time we stood there at the ready. 
“I’m beginning to get banner burn.”
“Yep, my banner hand’s gone numb.”
But when Carenza finally arrived, the banner didn’t matter at all. 

After she had diplomatically expressed appreciation for our art efforts, we rolled up my banner , thrust it in the bin and went home with our girl.

Friday, 11 August 2017

When holidays end.

















Every night of our holiday we had been gazing out of the window at the ferry, moored overnight and glamorous with its lights on. It had added to the scene.
But this morning, when I looked out at the growing dawn, I realised with a shock that the ferry was actually there to take us away. In a sense, it had been all along.
Holidays are like that - hopefully you have such a good time that you wish it could go on forever. You begin to consider the local jobs market; slow down as you pass the windows of estate agents.
But however enchanting a holiday is, it will end. That's the very paradox which makes it so attractive.
I guess the only thing we can take back with us is our reflections.
I don't bother with New Year's resolutions, but at this time of year I do generally have a think about how to live more as if I'm on holiday even when I'm back in the daily grind. For me, it will probably be
getting my sketch book out more.
We'll see if I manage it.
And if I don't, well, property on Orkney did look very reasonable.
And I'm pretty certain I could retrain to work on a fish farm.


Monday, 7 August 2017

Tourist trap?

I've been  thinking a lot about tourism lately and the good it does versus the damage. 
Recently on Orkney we visited Maes Howe, the stunning Neolithic chambered tomb, where later, Vikings had left their graffiti. 
So often, I had pored over pictures and now I was about actually to enter the tomb.  Anticipation made my blood run faster.
We checked to make sure that no massive cruise liners would be disgorging their passengers on Orkney that day, then booked our half hour slot. 
We arrived fifteen minutes early, as instructed, and loitered in the gift shop full of tartan packs of shortbread and Celtic jewellery.  
By this time, the mystique had dissipated rather.  
As we waited,  I saw Pascoe trying out a virtual reality headset. It was for people who were not able to enter the tomb - not everybody could crouch down to get through the entrance passage. 
I tried it on.  I could see clearly the stone construction of the tomb around me.  Circles indicated where there were graffiti.  If I clicked on them it showed me the Viking runes and translated them into English. I could explore the tomb with an uninterrupted view
Why did we even need to go in, damaging it with our breathing and touching?

At last our turn was called, and a guide escorted us and sixteen others to the entrance to the green Telly-Tubby style tomb mound where swallows flittered round our head.
We crept along the lengthy passageway and the first thing I saw on entering the tomb itself was another swallow.  While everybody was assembling in the beautifully constructed stone chamber, I pointed out the swallow's nest to Pascoe, close by on the wall.  The guide said "Ah yes, those chicks are nearly ready to fledge."  As he spoke, the four young birds launched from the nest and whirled around our heads inside the ancient monument.
"Correction," said the guide, "The chickss have fledged."
Now a moment like that, I could never have gained from a VR headset.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

This is the life

I owed Perran a post exams trip. He chose Sofia. We broke our flying ban and went.
My objective was to live the high life. I wanted to come back with glamorous photos that looked as if I were saying "This is the life".
Only problem was that I was already completely wrecked from attempting to combine end of term lessons and admin with the London Summer School in Classics.
I managed the Roman archaeology and ancient churches, a slight sheen on my clammy forehead. I managed sitting in the many little parks staring blankly into space. I dragged myself around the controversial Soviet memorial. I enjoyed early evening cocktails, delicious Bulgarian dinners.
But then, when it was time to show what a cool and trendy Mum I was and to prove that I was not over the hill, I limped straight past all the bars desperate for my comfy hotel bed.
I was letting Perran down.
Until the third and final night. By eschewing the famous Bulgarian red wine and by simply inserting matchsticks to prop up my drooping eyelids I was finally able to stay awake through one cocktail at the Absolut Beach Bar.
Fairy lights and iridescent hearts twinkled in the lime trees. And a great live DJ mixed sounds. Perran looked at home. And for three quarters of an hour I felt like a grown up.
This is the life.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Beetroot crisps and kettle descaler

Didn’t get a coffee at church as I was on prayer duty after the service.  Arrived home gasping.  Delighted to find the kettle already half full of water, I flicked the switch, made two coffees.  The milk sank straight to the bottom.  That was odd – it couldn’t be sour as I’d only bought it yesterday.  Desperate for coffee, I took a gulp. 
Uuuuugh.
Should have spat it out, not swallowed it.
Vaguely, I remembered Nigel saying something about descaling the kettle.  After the last time I drank descaler, we had an agreement that Nigel would label the kettle.  Clearly he had reneged.
I drank lots of water.  Then a bicarb solution on the grounds that it was alkaline. 
More uuuuugh.
I rang 111 hoping for some sensible first aid advice. 
Apparently now was a good time to play twenty questions.  Was I breathing fast, bleeding from anywhere, in pain?  Somebody would ring me back.  Eventually.  I was busy throwing up when they finally did.
Cindy from 111 had a very comforting voice, but my confidence was short-lived - I had to spell the name of the descaler twice while she looked it up on her poisons database.  She put me on hold for a very long time and afterwards began calling the Kilrock descaler “Kilroy”.
Then she began the same game of twenty questions again.  Half an hour had passed and I had still received no sensible advice. 
“Tell you what,” I said, “Let’s say goodbye.  I’ll ring you back if I feel worse.”
In fact she rang me back. “When I looked Kilroy up on my database, it said you should go to A & E.”
Nigel calculated by how much he had diluted the acid and we thought we could probably take a risk.
So we went for the Sunday walk we had planned.  About a mile from the car, my gut was churning  and I had to race off into the undergrowth.  One of the twenty questions had been about whether I was passing any blood.  Now I looked down aghast.
Everything was red.
As I picked my way back to the path, I was wondering how I would tell Nigel I was dying.
Then I remembered – I’d eaten beetroot crisps the night before.

Tempted to fake that I was dying anyway – that’ll teach him to descale his wife.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Graduation

11.20 am
As I write this, we are sitting in nose-to-tail traffic on the M4.  Perran is to be in his seat in the Wills Building by 12.45 at the latest.  Before then, he must have picked up his gown and graduation tickets from the Richmond Building.  But our ETA is currently 1:40.  We have already abandoned hope of the photo session we’d booked.  And even when we get there, parking will be tough – we thought we’d left plenty of time, but apparently not.
There has been a crash ahead.  As callous human animals, we are measuring only the inconvenience to our own lives.  I force myself to say a prayer for those whose world has just been turned upside down by the road accident.
But then it’s back to us again.
This was supposed to be a carefree day, all dressed up in our best clothes, tipsy on sunshine, prosecco and happiness. 
And now Perran might miss his own graduation ceremony.

8.30 pm
On our way home now.  It has been a splendid occasion.
This morning, the traffic had started moving and our ETA dropped rapidly, like a tide of disaster ebbing. 
We rubbernecked at the wrecked Landrover.  The headroom was largely intact so we hope the passengers and driver survived.
In Bristol, the graduation ceremony was brisk yet meaningful, cleanly choreographed and garnished with homilies of good advice. Afterwards there was the pleasure of meeting the parents of Perran’s friends.
It rained heavily, which shouldn’t be allowed at graduation ceremonies, but we were just pleased to be there.  Even the rain made us happy.

And now it’s time to say a little prayer that we get home safely.