Monday, 28 February 2011


Half-term is over and normal life resumes. It felt quite long, my week.

We spent a few days in Dorset and had one beautiful day on which we walked along the ridge to Corfe Castle for lunch in The Greyhound (only OK) and home with a smackerel stop fuelled by the bakers with a cake of choice. Time slows on the Isle of Purbeck regardless of the weather - which is very much its own.
We returned for a special day on Wednesday: Husband graduated as a Master of Research in Statistics watched by his proud wife and father. I hadn’t been to a graduation before so, in case you too have yet to take part in such a ceremony, may I say it is much like a prize-giving? Our graduand’s name was read out, he walked onto the stage for no more than a few seconds, had a brief private exchange with the Chancellor and left the stage to collect his certificate a graduate. I clapped everyone, listened to the two speeches and sang the National Anthem. I was brought up with a sense of duty which I cannot abandon. You will not be surprised to hear therefore that I was not impressed by the number of people who took pictures and clapped only their own student and failed to sing. Gosh I’m stuffy!
We met the girls and esteemed step-m-in-law at the Bath Priory for a very smart celebratory lunch afterwards. Both girls were fascinated by the fine dining experience having watched endless Masterchef, but Eldest thought it pretentious! An indulgence, but it seemed like the right thing to do.
Visitors-from-abroad over Friday night, and not-seen-for-a-while godparents to lunch yesterday, and then it was all over.
Time to tidy the house, catch up with the washing and think about meals – except that I realise I’ve now spent the morning catching up with everybody else in the blogosphere…

Monday, 14 February 2011

May I recommend?

I love to read. I have an eclectic taste, though I will admit to rarely reading non-fiction. So, may I recommend?

I have just finished Every Last One by Anna Quindlen, an American author of whom I had not heard. I googled her here. The apparently straightforward telling of the story, by mother Mary Beth, reminded me of Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin but it all feels much more ordinary.
It begins with a description of family life, and Mary Beth remarks “-every day is like this. Average. Ordinary. More or less.” The prose style is direct and insightful and I loved it!
Of her circle of friends: “Even when we’re honest with one another, we tread carefully; the quickest way to lose a friend is to suggest that she is a bad mother, or to suggest her children have problems, which amounts to the same thing.”
Of her teenage daughter: “she has outside manners and inside manners, company manners and home manners. Or lack of manners. –Only with her father is she always the polite and thoughtful Ruby she presents to the world.”
A lesson to us all: “Here is what I know about dressing like your teenage daughter: She will always look better than you.”
And a warning: “Sometimes I feel as though the entire point of a woman’s life is to fall in love with people who will leave her. The only variation I can see is the ones who fight the love, and the ones who fight the leaving.”

I raced through the book, but with dread! The blurb mentions an ‘unimaginable fate’ and ‘finding the bravery to live as we never dreamed we would have to’. I will not spoil the plot by commenting further; but I am bound to say that we should remember to live in the now and not be too surprised if things don’t work out as we planned: there are so many possible futures.

Anna Quindlen is a columnist but she has written other novels. I shall be looking for them in the library.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


I have a pale mark on my eyelid. It isn’t a spot, and there’s no depth to it, it’s almost as if there were a light reflecting in it. I had an eye test the other day and was told I ought to visit my GP for a cholesterol test as such marks can be an indication of a raised level. Oh!

The test apparently did show that my cholesterol was high, but factoring in my family history, blood pressure and general health the GP felt my risk of an ‘event’ was low but I should think about my diet and exercise, and be tested again next year. So there you are: I knew I needed to do something about creeping weight gain and a sedentary life style, and now I have no option.
Last week’s score: 1 Pilates session and a v. short walk in the village, but I had an excuse. Must do better.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

To list

Did you take part in the Big Garden Bird Watch? I have been doing it for the RSPB in January for years now, but I can’t remember exactly when I started, or which birds I have recorded. And this is odd.

Husband designed a bird table suitable for our sloping garden in Bulford when Eldest was a toddler. It was just outside the sitting-room patio doors and provided endless entertainment. A couple of highlights, though for different reasons: a sparrow hawk flew in in front of my eyes and grabbed a blue tit for it’s lunch, and a regular visitor took understandable action. A squirrel was a source of amusement rather than irritation, particularly when he decided that this ‘magic’ refilling larder was worth stealing, and he set off with the empty nut holder and failed to work out how to get it through the chain link fence. It took the rest of the afternoon to decide not to bother.
Over the years I’ve got better at identifying the birds I see, and I therefore see more variety. Those little brown birds it turns out are not all sparrows!
On Saturday morning I had all the usual garden birds: house sparrows, dunnocks, wrens, chaffinches, blackbirds, collar doves, a pigeon, jackdaws, great tits, blue tits, a robin, starlings and a magpie; the excitement was a female bullfinch that I needed a book to identify.
But there are no lists from previous years. I don’t know what or how many I may have seen. As I said, this is odd as I’m a bit of a list fan.

I have everyday lists of grocery requirements, jobs needing doing around the house, garden or village, meals to cook, people coming to a church fete meeting… And then I have notebooks. There’s one with lists of cards and presents sent and received at Christmas since we were married. Another has an annual entry for each girl about her birthday. Yet another tells me who’s been to supper and what I fed them. But the longest running tells me at one end what I saw at the cinema or theatre, where and with whom, and at the other end which books I’ve read. I’m on my third exercise book.
It is a history of fashion, of friendship, and it takes me back to where and when. I expect I’d better be more organised about the birds so I’ve got something to read in my dotage.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Mixed news

Last week I managed another swimming session (on top of the Pilates): 31 lengths in half an hour and not yet dead.
However I spent Sunday dying quietly, throwing up, with an immoveable headache. I thus cancelled yesterday’s Pilates session and my appointment in school, feeling both weak and wimpy and unwilling to spread unknown germs. In two days I had (eventually) eaten two pieces of dry toast and drunk endless water with the gradual addition of black tea and today coffee and porridge. Do you think my body would rather give up food than exercise?

Microsoft Word is trying to correct my use of ‘drunk’ to ‘drunken’ but as I had had a single small bottle of beer with my curry I think it’s wrong.

Also last week I made marmalade. (The link is here: marmalade recipe.) Hopefully there will be enough to keep Husband in breakfast jam of choice until next year, but as usual I will feel unable to donate any to the church fete just in case. (Is marmalade a jam?)

And my Upholstery class started up again. It isn’t true that I’ve forgotten all my lessons since early December, but it was a slow afternoon accomplishing not a great deal. When (?!) I can add photos I will show you what my sofa looks like now – and you might be able to tell that it will be a sofa again!