Friday, July 28, 2006

I'm off

We’re off on holiday for a week, as from tomorrow. We’re going with the extended family to two lodges in the grounds of Crieff Hydro (see above) – one lodge for the oldies and one for the young

Crieff is a pretty, small town about an hour north of here, at the beginning of the Highlands. My family holidayed at Crieff Hydro from 1953 (when I was 3) till 1961, and then intermittently since then. My husband and I went there for our honeymoon, and we’ve had various holidays with the kids and other family members over the years. Once the kids grew up, it became rather expensive (they were no longer allowed to share our room) so we’ve tended to take the self-catering lodges since then. We’ve done the extended family thing before too. We’re all going (our lot and beloveds, my parents, my brother and his family) except that Son can come only for the weekend, and his girlfriend not at all, because they’re back at uni and she’s on placement in the south-west at the moment.

So our poor son (check out the hardship):

1) can’t have the holiday
2) can’t have our second car, which is normally his to use, but which will be at Crieff
3) and most importantly – will have to spend all the weekdays WITHOUT SEEING GIRLFRIEND FOR TWO WHOLE WEEKS (reunited at weekends)

He’s being stoical about it, but he's suffering in anticipation. Ah, love. I hate leaving him behind, too (also love, of a different kind) and she’s a really nice girl, so it would have been good to have her along.

We have good fun at Crieff. We do our own thing during the day, though with frequent visits to and fro between the lodges, and then all eat together at night in one lodge. There’s plenty to do: tennis and badminton and squash and table tennis and swimming and hills to climb and so on. The only thing is that it’s really been too hot for strenuous activity recently, so we’re hoping for a bit more typically Scottish weather.

Better go. We had some Ugandan people to stay the night before last – Watoto Children’s Choir members (the children are Aids orphans or similar, and came to sing at our church). We had 3 children and their “auntie” here. They were really lovely kids – beautiful and giggly. So yesterday I had to unmake their beds and wash the bedding, and now must make two of them up again for Daughter 2 and her boyfriend, who arrive tonight, having been at his sister’s wedding. Then I must go and buy enough food for 13 people for the first two days of our holiday, to save going to the supermarket when we arrive. And I have to prepare dinner for those 13, or certainly 11 of them, for this evening (they came last night as well). And pack. And stuff like that. At least I’ve caught up with the ironing – not a fun activity for this weather.

You know how the compensation for middle age is supposed to be that you’ll have more time to yourself?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Jigsaws in the morning

My two daughters are very different from each other, though they get on very well.

Daughter 1 is dreamy and rather disorganised. Or at least, she was very disorganised when she was a child. As a little girl, she was forever getting lost. Well, not strictly lost. She knew where she was. It was just that I didn’t. I can’t count the number of times I agreed to meet her in a certain place at a certain time, and she would forget and wait somewhere else, or wander off home by herself. I attribute all my grey hairs to her. However, she’s also very good-natured, loves books passionately and is probably the world’s quickest reader. Her first degree was in English and French; her Master’s in Shakespeare Studies.

Daughter 2 is very efficient and can always be relied on to be prepared. She tends to be elected as secretary of school or university organisations and her room is usually a model of neatness. Her degrees are in architecture, and while she likes reading, she’s mildly dyslexic and doesn’t read particularly quickly. She’s also a lovely person and has a wide circle of friends with whom she keeps in constant touch by text message and email.

Which one would you expect to lose her train ticket?

Daughter 2 was going down south at 12.05 pm today to attend her boyfriend’s sister’s wedding on Wednesday. She bought the ticket a few weeks ago, packed her case last night and this morning gave her room a final tidy, since it’s being used by a visitor in her absence. At 10.30, she checked that her ticket was in her wallet.

It wasn’t.

Panic. Old tickets were there, but not today’s one.

She looked everywhere she could think, but no luck. Because she’s tidy, there were no horrible heaps of paperwork sludge as tends to accrue in her sister’s room, so there weren’t that many places to look.

“I must have thrown it out, “ she mourned.

I got ready to leap into motherly action by raking through the rubbish bags in the dustbin. “When do you think you threw it out?” I asked.

“Oh, a week or two ago. Remember when I was throwing out various bits of paper from my handbag?”

Not worth dustbin raking, then.

“You can get another ticket,” I suggested.

She went online. There were none available.

A later train? Same story.

“I’m such a fool,” she said. “Don’t you remember me saying that you should always shred airline boarding passes because criminals can find out all about you from them? Well, I thought I might as well shred these old train tickets, too.”

“You shredded them?” I said. “Well, they might still be in the shredder. Maybe we could …”

Even as I suggested it, I knew it was silly. But we took the shredder from the study into the kitchen, poured the large spaghettified heap of paper on to the table, and started sorting through it. It was now 11 am. We always allow about 40 minutes from leaving the house to stepping on the train. The train, you will remember, was at 12.05.

It helped that train tickets have orange bits on them and are printed on thin card, whereas most of the rest of the paper bolognaise was on white paper. Still, it took a long time to find all the bits of ticket and to separate the strips of today’s one from the fragments of the old ones that she also shredded. She needed her seat reservation card, too. But by 11.28 we’d got them both. We stuck all the slices on to a piece of cellophane so that the backs were visible as well, and tore out of the house.

The ticket-checker on the train had a good laugh, as did the lady in the seat beside my daughter. The chap didn’t punch the ticket. As he pointed out, it had enough holes in it already.

I think we need a new shredder, though. If we can do it, so could a master criminal desperate to steal our identities.

PS. Since writing this post, I've been on the phone to Daughter 1 in her new house, arranging to meet her at 10.30 tomorrow morning at a big department store, in the furniture department, which is at the entrance to the restaurant. I then told her the saga of her sister's ticket and as I was about to ring off, said, "Now when and where are we meeting tomorrow?" I know her of old.

"10.30," she said triumphantly. "But I don't think we arranged where - unless - was it the china department?"

See what I mean?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Island of Bute

My husband and I have just returned from a few days on the island of Bute, which is off the west coast of Scotland. We'd never been there before, though we love the island of Arran, which is quite close to Bute - indeed, the mountains of Arran loom in the distance when you're on one side of Bute. Bute is less hilly than Arran, and indeed generally less inhabited, apart from in the (only) town of Rothesay. Rothesay has six thousandish out of Bute's total of seven thousandish inhabitants. The rest of the island is very peaceful: mainly just seabirds, cattle, sheep, sand and rustling grass.

These photos are views from our bedroom window over to the mainland. The weather was hot - it crept up to about 80F, 27C (or something) in some parts of Scotland, which is about as hot as it ever gets here. Our first morning there, however, we woke up to mist, which gradually lifted to reveal the ferry coming into Rothesay bay - above.
And this was the sun setting behind the hills. It made us glad to be alive.

Our bed and breakfast place was lovely. Most B & Bs I've visited have been heavily into frilly curtains and collections of horse brasses or novelty teapots. This one had neutral colours and furniture with clean lines and etched glass - all very stylish. It made me want to come home and throw all my old stuff away.

However, their garden was mainly paving and gravel. It was good to come home to my flowers.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Heatwave and snacks

The city from Arthur's Seat (a hill).

It's sunny and warm today, as it was yesterday. Don't know the temperature, but it must be about - oh, maybe 75 Fahrenheit or somewhere in the 20s Centigrade... Celsius... never really got the hang of these modern versions of temperature. Anyway, it's too hot to garden.

The cafe (don't know how to do accents, sorry) round the corner from us has a lovely engraved-effect slogan at the bottom of its window declaring that it sells "Coffee's". Ouch. And now it's sprouted a notice advertising "Scrumy snacks". Is it me, or does that sound rather revolting? Green and somewhat furry.

I'm wondering if I'm alone in not feeling like writing a post unless I've got at least one comment. It's strange, since I'm quite happy to write my handwritten diary for no one. Indeed, I very much hope that no one has ever read it, in its 40 year history. I now don't know why I go on writing it, but can't stop. (I don't write every day.) That diary may be pointless. But somehow it would seem even more so to do this blog to no audience at all.

Except that it's quite fun. Certainly more fun than most of the useful tasks I should be doing and am going to start on right now...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

First chicken leaves the nest

At last I got round to taking Daughter 1's wedding dress to the dry cleaner's last week, and collected it yesterday. It's not the place I normally use but someone told me that it was good for delicate things. I was writing a cheque to pay for it, made out to the shop by name, and had the feeling that, although this name was "Prestige", it was spelt as a pun above the door.

"Is 'Prestige' just spelt the usual way?" I asked the lady.

"Yes," she said. "P-R-E-S-S-T-I-G-E."

Well, it probably seems usual to her.

Daughter 1 and her husband have moved out! Very exciting, though also a bit aarrgh. Unfortunately, not all their stuff has yet moved with them. They went on Sunday but have so far had all their evening meals back here, mainly, I think, to alleviate my separation anxiety. They're nice people. SIL is back at work, so that's good, at least till the next crisis.

Daughter 2 is on the train on the way home from Lisbon, via her aspiring-actor boyfriend's parents' (that's a lot of adjectives) home in Nottingham. Can't wait to see her. Of course, D1 and SIL have to come here to eat with us all this evening too. But tomorrow I'll let them eat at... home.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Toys back in pram

Many thanks to Dietgirl, Lainey, Anne and Gina for their kind words in comments about my previous, somewhat hissy-fit blog. They made me feel much better. I was just a bit overwhelmed with problems. The biggest one is the son-in-law's state of mind. He's a lovely chap, and very very clever, but is sometimes overcome with terrible depression which completely floors him. What he sometimes does, unless someone is around to catch him on the way down, is to go to the doctor, and since doctors don't have magic wands, they tend to sign him off. This hasn't happened much, and indeed this is the first time he's been signed off since he's had a proper, grown-up job. But he's had this job only since October, and he and Daughter 1 have just bought a house (not that they've moved into it yet) and he needs to keep this job, even though he says he hates it. Daughter 1's job, to add to the joys of the situation, was only ever a one-year contract and ends soon. But this isn't the main problem, since she'll get something else, though it may take her a while to get something in her chosen field.

This week, which is the first of my holidays and the only one for which I was expecting to be alone in the house (in blessed peace, able to please myself for once in my life) I've been jollying the SIL along, persuading him to get out from under the covers, leave the house and come for walks with me, and then taking him to their new house to do things such as construct their Ikea bed. He's really quite cheery once he gets going, or at least workably sanguine. And he can be great fun, though not necessarily this week. But it's hard work being relentlessly upbeat, especially when one doesn't really feel optimistic about the situation.

Plus the Daughter 2 Boyfriend's situation, plus the parent situation.

However, the diamond wedding party went well, and my parents liked their jug - see above. At the party, the slide show organised by Husband and Daughter 2 was a great talking point - pictures from all stages of my parents' lives - and the young people's songs went down a storm. We managed to borrow a good keyboard, which my brother or my niece played to accompany the singing.

Son and Daughter 2's boyfriend sang Flanders and Swann's "Hippopotamus Song" - which is a funny love song about two hippos. The boys both have lovely voices and are good friends, and the audience joined in the chorus, and it was great. Then D2's B (yes, I'm not above exploiting the lad even though I'm not sure that he's the right one for D2) sang a Stephen Sondheim song, "Marry me a little", and finally the five grandchildren sang words I'd written about my parents to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan's (or in this case, just Sullivan's) "And now I am the ruler of the Queen's Navy" song from "HMS Pinafore".

I know this sounds rather toe-curling - children doing their party pieces - but they actually all sing well, and it was a great success. Much applause and laughter.

So life's not all bad. In fact, it's often good. One just has to get up each day and keep trying to be positive. And I've often found in the course of this life of mine that the things I worry about aren't the disasters that actually happen. Which is why I attempt to cover most possibilities in my spectrum of anxieties.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Gosh, I'm exhausted.

It's my birthday. Not my most restful ever. Happy Independence Day, America.

Diamond wedding party: great success. But tiring.
Son-in-law: off work with depression.
Daughter 2: off to Lisbon for holiday with unsuitable (well, in as far as he's an aspiring actor)
Parents: somewhat falling to bits, especially father.
Parents' relationship: pretty ropey.
Me: fat.

Light at end of tunnel: somewhat hard to distinguish.

Why am I writing a blog?

The picture shows me taking a picture of a clematis. I feel a bit like that shadow.