Monday, June 29, 2009

Jolly Boating Weather

The weather is unpleasantly warm and clammy at the moment, the sky oppressively a uniform grey, no breeze...every thing smells moistly of the grave. It was with a great sense of relief that I observed the bluey blackness of an approaching thunderstorm yesterday, the turmoil of trailing mamma bulging and curling from the clouds above us. And yet.....nothing! Thunder rolled in the distance, the cool pressure wave of air rustled the drooping flowers, huge blobs of rain spattered on the patio promisingly....and then an unnerving calm fell....the birds, which had fallen quiet started to twitter again. The storm front passed silently peeling back to a brilliant blue sky and hot evening sun. Weird! Today is grey and humid once more, and the forecast looks as if it will remain thus for the rest of the week.
Daughter no.3 has taken up rowing. This is a big commitment time-wise: it seems to be a given that she will be competing at a junior novice level by next summer, and that her practice sessions will reflect this. Initially rather nervous and shy, she seems to have taken to the new sport with enthusiasm, exhibiting a determination and organisation that I would not have expected of her a few months ago. It is quite tiring for me too, as I have to taxi her to and from the rowing club each time. Still, it is great to see her confidence growing, and I think it is very healthy to have an absorbing sporting activity during the tricky early teenage years. here's hoping she carries on enjoying it as much. It is very peaceful sitting by the river watching the scullers, and watching the more experienced and older athletes is akin to watching racehorses go through their paces, a harmony of muscle and motion. I can almost feel my heart rate and blood pressure dropping as I am lulled by the lap of the water and oars. I am not so certain that it will be as relaxing in the middle of winter, or even in foggy April or rainy October. The warm weather of the moment certainly contributes to the pleasance of the experience as I perch, coffee and book to hand, gazing across at this most historic of cities.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bloody, bloody, bloody....

The sudden death of 'the King of Pop' at fifty has been for me yet another unwelcome intimation of mortality. This, plus the recent passing of an old friend and my own confrontation with the (happily unfounded) possibility of illness, has had the unpleasant effect of bringing me up short to look at the briefness of life in an uncomfortable, clear-eyed way. And I don't like it much. I am well aware that I am growing ever older - I'm showing the signs of age that we all do: loss of skin tone, grey hairs, excess weight, age spots (sounds lovely, doesn't it?). But more uncomfortably, I've become pathetically obsessed that every little ache or pain or cough is an ominous portent of Something A Lot More Serious, and that really, really bugs the hell out of me, that little old granny of twittering caution and alarm. I've always been what you might call 'insouciant' (some might say cavalier) about my health and illness in general, not giving much thought to what I've taken into my body. And now it all seems to be coming back to haunt me, all unwilling, in the dead of the night - hypochondria - big style. I lie there awake and uncomfortable and fret. Dawn arrives, and I haven't been back to sleep, so I start the day irritable and lethargic. I'm restless but unmotivated, bored with the quotidien but incapable of showing initiative.
Mal de siecle and it's only 2009! Pass Les Fleurs du Mal, I've come over all Baudelaire!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lumps and Bumps on Life's Road

Went to my old friend's funeral today. It was beautifully done and I'm sure she would have loved it. These things are never easy though, and this one - for many people, and a variety of reasons - particularly so.

I'd had a very stressful couple of days for a quite different reason: a routine medical screening was swiftly followed by a recall to look at an anomaly. The clinic involved was absolutely marvellous, but the hierarchy of tests involved just lead to a mounting sense of panic and, by the end of it, a feeling of inevitable doom. It was with immense gratitude and relief that I heard from the doctor that the area of concern was in no way sinister and required no further exploration. Having spent a couple of nights of broken and troubled sleep, waking to a sense of panicky disbelief and unreality, I walked out of the hospital practically kicking my heels together (as did the husband, whose two hour solitary wait had seemed intolerable). I am so, so pleased that everything is fine and feel so much heartache and empathy for those whose diagnosis is not so favourable. Including my poor old friend, who must have gone through a similar experience, but with no happy outcome. Things are pretty peaceful tonight: I am anticipating a long, quiet night of dreamless and restful sleep. I hope that she too is resting peacefully, under the heavy blanket of earth that covers her, calm, healed, untormented at last. We knew each other for over twenty years and I miss the old times and her wry humour and her unconditional friendship. So much.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


An old friend of mine died of cancer at the early age of 49. We'd become friends when our children were born within a few months of each other, and in the old days we spent many, many hours in one another's house. Various changes in circumstances, some very painful, meant that we lost our connection over the years and parted last year on acrimonious terms, for which I take full and abject responsibility.

Still, I often thought of her with affection and hoped that she'd eventually come through her storms, although the omens were not good. But she did not, and when I think of her I feel very sad and wished I'd been a better friend and had managed to hug that slight frame one last time.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Nights, Saturday Mornings....

This is my favourite part of the week. Work is finished and the weekend stretches before us. The husband and I generally have our evening meal after the children have gone up to bed: it's the one thing we insist on, and something that none of the children have had a problem with, even when in their late teens/twenties. Mum and Dad need an evening to themselves! It's going to be steak, chips and salad tonight with wine. The children eat early and are in their rooms by nine - they can watch any suitable telly (Have I got News for You is popular) - whilst we chill downstairs. Saturday breakfast is leisurely: croissants and jam, a big cafetiere of coffee and the papers before we go off to do our various things. The evening meal is usually home-made pizza so that we can accommodate whoever wants to join us to eat. Last week we had seven at table. Sunday may start early, with either Mass or a junior football fixture, with something quick for lunch like hotdogs or pittas and dips. If there's any motorsport on, we'll sit and watch that together in the afternoon or we'll go to the gym. In winter we have a roast dinner for which the husband makes some form of dessert. In the summer, it may be a barbeque if the weather's good, or a home prepared curry which has been slowly cooking all day, with bhajis, naans and pickles. sunday evening is prep night: shoe-polishing, pack-ups, ironing (if it's not been done before that), packing schoolbags for Monday. No-one ever goes to bed late in our house. Eleven pm is exceptional and usually means we've watched some sort of match on telly. And then it's Monday again. I know a lot of people would find this sort of predictability stultifying, but for me it encapsulates the harmonious rhythm of our home. Our freedom lies in knowing what's what - there's a liberation and contentment to be found in it. Other folk argue for spontenaity, but I know a lot of spontaneous people who live reactively rather than proactively and don't seem to be either happy or comfortable with taking life on an ad hoc basis, although they claim they do.
Rhythm, routine, ebb and's a heartbeat from nature itself.