As ever, packing was a pain – particularly as I was trying to think about the almost inevitable chill on Islay’s beaches whilst sweltering in Bristol. In the end the heat clearly addled my brain and I arrived with only one decent jumper, no hats, scarves or other useful bits of layering. Luckily I went into auto-pilot for the girls so they are just about ok. But yesterday was completely glorious – bright blue skies, sparkling sea, impromptu paddling and lots of seal watching – from the garden! Time for the annual mermaid …
One morning last week, as the end of term chaos reached its peak, I tilted my head back all the better to yell something along the lines of “please do hurry up my darlings, we are really rather late”, and my neck went ping!
And that was that.
I’ve been in bed or at the osteopath ever since.
But this morning, all the pulling, pushing, twisting and prodding, not to mention pill-popping, of the past five days has finally worked, and I woke feeling bruised and stiff, but able, at last, to move my head without pain.
Hurrah! The girls and I celebrated with homemade lemonade*.
Interestingly, although I was completely incapacitated, the world continued to turn, and the house appeared to run itself rather efficiently without me. Not sure how I feel about that.
*Home made lemonade – recipes for this abound. We took the peel from four lemons and steeped it in around 1ltr of boiling water along with 100g of caster sugar, for three hours. I then squeezed the juice of the lemons into the pan before straining it all into a jug. The colour you see is entirely natural, the flavour is delicious: not too sweet or sour, but properly lemony. The recipe comes from the River Cottage Family Cook Book.
This time of year always catches me out. For some reason I imagine the last few weeks of the summer term as a gentle stroll towards the holidays. In my dream version of June into July, it is comfortably sunny, meals can be eaten outside, everyone is in a permanently good mood, the house is miraculously tidy and children skip happily to school. There is no homework, there are no lost shoes or jumpers, packed lunches are not found squashed at the bottom of school bags. Nits have been eradicated from the planet.
The reality is of course quite different. Over the last month one child has been to camp and back, returning with a sack of muddy clothing, a headful of nits and totally knackered, but happy; another child has been to Germany and back, returning with broken walking boots, muddy trainers and clothes which look as though they haven’t been worn at all (v. strange and concerning), she too is knackered, but happy. Admits that she got lost for an hour in a vast theme park and didn’t speak a word of German all week - apart from mumbling something as she fumbled for the card she’d been given by her teachers on which was printed “the bearer of this card is a foolish english school child, who is no doubt scared and lost, please can you guide them to the nearest phone and dial this number….” or some such, but I can’t be sure as it’s all in German.
The youngest has been in a swimming gala, “it was rubbish mum, I came last in everything, I’m glad you weren’t there. Why weren’t you there?”, not so happy. The middle one, who was in the same gala, thought it was all hilarious, as woggle races tend to be, and had to borrow swimming things from a friend because her older sister had taken her swimming costume to Germany. Yup, that’s right they share a swimming costume.
Tomorrow the youngest has a big school trip requiring spending money, “remember, mum, £3. You promised you wouldn’t forget like last time”. And the eldest has a big exam, which we all thought was today, but mercifully wasn’t as she hadn’t really prepared – she went to bed last night saying, “just wake me up really early dad, I promise I’ll do some more in the morning.” She was found up and dressed at 6am today, back in bed and unconscious at 6.15. To my every enquiry as to her progress with revision this evening she has answered, “yeah, yeah muuuum,” which I guess translates as “whatever, shut up”.
And as for me, I am meant to be chasing some feature ideas, and finishing off the DIY projects that I so unwisely decided to tackle in the middle of all this mayhem. The DIY stuff is now officially on hold, which actually means that three paint brushes have dried solid in their pots. But I will continue to chase the work, even though I know that a deadline in August is the last thing I really need. Hey ho.
On the upside, the garden is looking good in spite of evil slugs and my total neglect. And James, my other half work-wise, and I have a nice feature in this month’s Homes & Antiques – a crazy Georgian town house stuffed with dolls.
And I will finish by apologising for the rather random and unrelated photographs – the cable which connects my camera to my lap top has vanished, the vaguely relevant photographs which I was hoping to use are currently trapped on my camera. I should add, the first photograph, a road sign in Wales, pretty much sums up my current state of mind.
Today is midsummer’s day. And it’s raining. Only lightly now, but I’ve been drenched twice. My anemone de caen are trying to flower, but it’s hard when there is so little sun.
I keep overhearing gloomy conversations such as “they say we’re going to get three months’ rain in the next three days”, or “they say it’ll brighten for the weekend and then get really, really wet again,” or “they say that in 1976, when we had a proper drought, it was actually really rainy until the end of June,” or, and this is my favourite, by which, of course, I mean it’s the worst of the lot, “they say it’s going to rain until September.” Please no. We’re off to Scotland in July for god’s sake.
How can it possibly be midsummer, when we haven’t even had more than three sunny days in a row since March? But there’s no denying the date on the calendar. It is the 21st of June. And at about this time every year Joe and I like to have our annual is-this-our-wedding-anniversary conversation. It’s a moveable feast, a bit like Easter, and takes place any time between the 21st and 28th of June and during the course of the debate we always decide that June 21st sounds about right. More often than not we’ve missed it.
Today is not our wedding anniversary though. And the debate ended, as it always does, with me pointing out, for the sixteenth time, that we would surely have remembered having a midsummer’s wedding. But then again, when midsummer’s day feels so very
un-summery, perhaps we wouldn’t. It turns out that our wedding anniversary is the 22nd.
We were in Hay last Thursday because Joe was appearing at the annual Hay Festival with Frank Cottrell Boyce, whose book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, Joe illustrated.
They gave a lovely talk about the delicate business of bringing Ian Fleming’s famous flying car back to life, and then Frank read whilst Joe drew Chitty. The session ended with some very sweet and occasionally hilarious questions from the audience.
Despite the dreadful weather the festival was packed with happy, if soggy, visitors, and we had a wonderful time. If you’ve never been, Hay is a fabulous, very family-friendly literary festival and really worth visiting. The atmosphere is incredibly relaxed and
there are lots of interesting things for all ages.
Next year, and I’ve been saying this every year, long before Joe started illustrating and writing children’s books, we’ll be really organised: we’ll book a cottage and plan our half term around the festival and all the events. Ha! As if – although clearly lots of people do.
I’m off to Pembrokeshire for a few days and although I’ve been looking forward
to it for months, I’m worried that the rest of my tulips will appear while I’m
away: all over the garden they are looking ready to pop.
But as this is the time of year when the garden suddenly goes up a gear, it’ll be exciting to see how it has come on in my brief absence. The daily changes are quite dramatic at the moment, and it feels as though you can actually see things growing: the nepeta at the top of the steps was only the size of my fist three days ago, but this morning it’s a clump the size of my head.
Anyway, better get a move on. There are children to chivvy, a car to pack, and,
having enjoyed these flowers over breakfast, I’m giving them to my neighbour – don’t want dead smelly flowers on our return.
Last weekend, at Bea’s insistence, we had a go at blowing eggs. As with my pudding post, I don’t ever remember doing this as a child, though I can imagine that it’s the sort of thing I might have done when I was briefly a member of the Brownies.
Luckily Joe had done this before. So whilst I would certainly have created a dreadful mess of broken shells and yolks, he and the girls made a delicious frittata as well as completing the first stage of the egg decorating. Stage two (more painting and lots of glitter, apparently) is planned for next weekend.
For my part, I cut some hazel twigs and put them in a jug. Bea plans to hang the eggs from this twiggy arrangement when they are finished, and wants to set it up in the sitting room a bit like a Christmas Tree. I think it will look better on the kitchen window sill.
Over the last week or so I have been wrestling with a storage crisis. Not, for once, a crisis involving the children and their reluctance to use anything other than the floor for storing their clothes and all their possessions – that one continues, of course, but I’ve downgraded its status to merely chronic because I just can’t cope with the level of engagement that a crisis requires. (I must add in my defence, this downgrade led to a distinct improvement in general levels of happiness over half term which, I am pleased to report, was one of the nicest we have had even though we did nothing much at all.)
The storage issue I’m currently battling with is right here, in front of me: it’s my computer’s refusal to add to the 13,000-odd photographs I’ve stuffed onto it. It seems that all the photographs I’ve taken with my new camera are too large. Last week I finally changed the setting, but it was too little too late, and these re-sized photographs have nowhere to go. The most frustrating thing of all is that I’ve been here before: last year iPhoto went bonkers and at one point we thought all our photographs had been corrupted. It took weeks to sort out. Joe installed an external hard drive – the computing equivalent of a nifty Ikea shelving unit – only now I’ve filled that up too.
The fact is the computer can take no more. It is, in Mac terms, pretty ancient
and its operating system is not compatible with any of the brilliant online album and book-making packages, any one of which would deal with the problem rather neatly.
So for the last few days I’ve been sorting through photographs dating back ten years or so, again, editing ruthlessly, again, trying to create more space, but progress is slow.
I hope to have the problem sorted soon, but for now here is half of half term. The half in which the girls painted and I watched the latest wave of bulbs.
For the first two weeks of the holiday the girls go to swim school every day. We have established a little routine: they swim round and round with varying degrees of enthusiasm, whilst I sit on a hot and humid balcony watching their progress. And as they swim, I knit. Round and round. One sock down, No. 2 is on the needles. And as with my plant labels, I’ve managed to lose the yarn details – ball band filed in the bin probably.
Phew! what a week this has been. Nothing has gone to plan. We have been running a nonstop marathon of school events ranging from exams (wail, panic, didn’t know anything about it, haven’t revised!) to a rainy sports day (where are my trainers, no not those ones, they don’t fit anymore!), a non-competitive beanbag fumbling fitness-fest (but mum, why don’t you want to watch?), with a swimming gala (but I told you I was doing the woggle race, why can’t you come?), and art week (we’re doing this thing and I need you to give me everything in the recycling box) thrown in for good measure. Oh and we’ve had piano lessons, brownies, and god knows what else filling every other waking hour.
In the middle of this we achieved our most impressive parental fail to date when, on Wednesday, Joe and I arrived in the nick of time for Matilda’s first dance performance at secondary school, only to discover that we were actually two hours late for her debut.
As each day has dawned a new opportunity for me to run around in a rage, riffle through the laundry, write out a cheque or chase up a permission slip, has been thrown my way. One cheque has been commuting between school and home in my daughter’s bag for a fortnight. Yesterday I emailed her tutor and asked him to take it from her bag, only for him to reply saying that he’d tried, but it wasn’t there. On a hunch, I spent the next ten minutes crawling around on my daughter’s bedroom floor where I discovered it perilously close to the waste paper bin. This morning Martha announced that she had to wear black and white striped tights, a twirly skirt and a homemade pom pom for a performance which would be taking place this afternoon. A quick analysis of the clothes strewn across her bedroom floor and heaped in the wardrobe (who needs drawers or hangers when piles are so much easier) made it clear that this was impossible. We managed the pompom, but only because it was kindly provided by more organised parent.
I take comfort in the fact that every other family I know is going through similar trials.
It feels as though it is worse than the run up to Christmas, but it’s probably not. I expect
I will be posting a similar tale of woe in mid-December, although the offending events will have different names: carol concert, Christmas fair, end of term party, nativity play…
To add to the general sense of gloom this afternoon’s deluge has flattened my Perovskias and seen off the decorators (back of house update soon). And of course all of the above have derailed my plans to write various posts. I was going to add that normal service will resume next week, but the thing is, this is normal. However, we’ve just been treated to a magnificent rainbow, so things are certainly looking up.