Thursday, 25 November 2010

The twists and turns of life and tyres

Life has taken some extraordinary twists and turns in the last week or so and I'm still in the middle of some difficult stuff. I've found myself without time or energy to write despite fragments of ideas coming to me at strange times and places when I am without pen, paper or computer.

So much has been happening but so much that I can't write about for various reasons. I'm finding it hard to put words to emotions anyway - something which normally comes easily enough to me. There is much around me at the moment that is in limbo, and limbo is a state which is always de-energising.

I have found this brief moment to write while waiting at Selecta Tyres to get my winter treads put back on. It hardly seems a moment ago that I was having them taken off, yet here we are suddenly only a few weeks away from Christmas (quick panic attack). Mercifully, unlike the first time I had this done, I have snuck in before they have felt the need to drape tinsel over the tyres in the waiting room or plug in their flashing 'Merry Christmas' sign above the drinks dispenser. Instead I am just freezing cold and am dying to go to the loo. I came in at 3.30pm, they said I'd be done by 4pm and it is now nearly 5pm. All the other things I planned to do I've had to abandon and I've just texted E to let her know I'll be late collecting her from choir practice at school. I'm watching MotoGP on a loop - lots of fast bikes and nasty crashes (obviously haven't got the right tyres on) - and trying to decide whether this is preferable to the promotional video about the benefits of wheel alignment which I had the pleasure of seeing about 50 times while I sat on this same sofa last year.

Two years ago everyone looked at me slightly quizically when I said I had winter tyres on my car. I was clearly a bit of an oddball. But having lived in northern Europe where winter tyres are obligatory in many places, and now ensconced in a suitably harsh climate in the UK, it was a logical step. Now, of course, after last winter's countrywide freeze, the whole nation has suddenly decided that it's not such a silly idea after all and I'm now pissed off that I can't seem to get tyres for N's car for love nor money. In retail speak, There Has Been a Rush on winter tyres and now I'm irritated that I've been beaten at my own game. Should have kept my mouth shut. Particularly annoying as I am due to go to York this weekend and snow is forecast and we need the bigger capacity Volvo. Still, there's a spray can of 'Liquid Chains' on the counter. £28.99. That will do. And if it doesn't work we will be enacting one of the alarming skiddy shut-your-eyes horror crashes that I have just been witnessing on the reassuringly large Sony flatscreen. At least I am mentally prepared.

Watch this space.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Things I have done today

Friday 12th November 2010

Things I have done today:

1. Woken up to Classic FM – Saint Saens ‘Dance Macabre’ – scared the cat off the bed.
2. Woken girls who fell back to sleep after their alarm went off.
3. Made cup of tea.
4. Fed cat.
5. Chivvied children.
6. Taken them to school bus.
7. Missed bus.
8. Taken them to next stop.
9. Gossiped with neighbour.
10. Made another cup of tea.
11. Emptied dryer.
12. Paired a laundry basket full of almost identical (but not quite) white socks.
13. Done an hour’s ironing while watching ‘Lorraine’. Apart from the fact it was with Fiona, not Lorraine. Not good. Remind me not to do that again. Felt slightly queasy by end.
14. Made toast and marmite.
15. Texted friend whose father gravely ill. Felt very sad.
16. Emptied dishwasher.
17. Loaded dishwasher.
18. Unloaded dryer and washing machine and put stuff in dryer.
19. Put dark wash in (two muddy coats – one is the gardener’s which was lying around the potting shed and I felt generous; the other is mine from when I went arse-over-tit in the mud outside ballet on Monday).
20. Took rotting stuff out to compost heap.
21. Noticed bird feeder on ground (blown off in gales) and brought inside to wash having learnt on Autumnwatch last night that greenfinches currently dying hand over fist due to dirty bird feeders. Mine even had bird poo inside it, so clearly high time to do some Bird Housework.
22. Missed a phone call from Brother-in-Law while dallying at compost heap.
23. Phoned Brother-in-Law back. Informed me that Woman’s Hour about to do a feature on the exhibition I went to see with him at The Lowry while he was visiting earlier in the week. Discussed Christmas presents and plans for New Year.
24. Listened to the feature on Woman’s Hour and then got sucked into another one on Housework. Very apt.
25. Called School Bus company to see if friend’s child’s mobile phone been found (doing this as favour to said friend’s mother who’s currently looking after children for two weeks while friend in Mexico. All right for some.) Phone found. Phew.
26. Phoned worried grandmother to give her the happy news. Offered to pick it up for her on Monday. Offer accepted.
27. Stripped double bed and put clean sheets on (including pillowcase protectors which have been meaning to change for months).
28. Made girls’ beds (they should have done this – considered leaving them but have babysitter coming tonight and did not want to appear slovenly or uncaring, especially in light of radio feature on Housework).
29. Had shower.
30. Sorted out a pink wash from the girls’ dirty clothes baskets.
31. Taken out previous wash and hung up by Aga to dry.
32. Set pink wash off.
33. Made cup of frothy cappuccino and eaten two Abernethy biscuits (reward).
34. Texted N to wish him a good lunch (posh one at L’Escargot in London to celebrate (??) 25 years of working for the same company)
35. Swept up leaves (as gales conveniently blown them into relatively neat piles and currently neither howling gale nor pissing with rain – grab moment when you can round these parts).
36. Potted up two cyclamen and put by front door. Rearranged pots, cleared leaves and took pumpkins inside (never did get round to carving them).
37. Pruned, in slightly desultory fashion, cotoneaster, a rose and wisteria. Will return to do more thorough job when have more time.
38. Cleared up debris and made mental list of everything there is to do in garden (including major tree surgery).
39. Put fat balls in feeder and noted continued presence of mouse in potting shed eating bulbs and bird food.
40. Looked over piles of crap in stable and felt faint.
41. Peered into plastic shopping bags and sorted Christmas presents into a box.
42. Took box down to cellar.
43. Looked over piles of crap in cellar and felt faint.
44. Fiddled around down there for a bit trying to impose a little order on the chaos. Tip of iceberg.
45. Made lunch (wrap with houmous, rocket and cherry tomatoes).
46. Sent text to friend about travel arrangements for tonight.
47. Turned on computer.
48. Checked emails.
49. Sent email.
50. Got phone call from friend about tonight’s travel arrangements. Sorted.
51. Called to arrange massage and spa session in Buxton spa before gift voucher (given to me for my birthday in June) expires.
52. Made mental list of everything I still had to do before picking up girls from bus.
53. Felt faint.
54. Collected girls from bus.
55. Listened to girls’ tales from school.
56. Made lasagne from the weekend’s Bolognese sauce.
57. Helped with homework.
58. Got ready to go out.
59. Drunk too much.
60. Suffered legless husband, freshly pissed from Big London Lunch.
61. Gone to bed too late.

Things I have not done today.

1. Too numerous to mention.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Coming Home

Coming back from holiday is rarely joyous: mountains of mail blocking your front door, a reminder of all you left behind; dust and cobwebs; sagging house plants; the dead flowers you forgot to take out of the the vase in the rush to leave. In our case the house was also perishing cold as our heating is leading a life of its own at the moment and clearly decided to take a holiday too.

Yet, despite all this, for once I was neither downcast nor despondent. I put on the kettle to make a cup of tea and let my eyes fall on the garden, so changed since we left just over a week ago. The late afternoon light was golden, warming the burnished autumn colours still further.The skeletons of the trees were starting to reveal themselves a little more clearly as they slowly shed their yellow, brown and red coats onto the still green lawn below. The sky above was clear October blue. I stepped outside and smelt the subtle shift in season too: a new sharpness to the air laden with woody undertones and memories of Autumns past. How strange it is that at this seasonal winding down towards winter and hibernation, Autumn, which holds the new scholastic year, is a time of new beginnings for so many.

As we had flown back into Manchester, for once through cloudless skies, I chanced to look out of the window just as we were passing over Combs Moss - the magnificent horsehoe of high moorland which cradles the glacial valley in which our village lies. I had never seen it so staggeringly clearly before, standing proud and unmistakeable in the Peak District landscape: the iconic shape of Castlenaze and its Iron Age fort, the deep V-shaped cuts in the mountainside down which wild streams flow, the bumps and grooves of its majestic silhouette which I have come to know so well. It is this view that I look out on every day from my windows, a view which never ceases to inspire in all its seasonal moods.

I returned to the boiling kettle and made a cup of tea. We were home.


September rainbow

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Dolphin Delights

Just as an aside, I wanted to alert anyone who's interested to the programme I watched with the girls (when they were meant to be doing their homework!) on dolphins last night as part of BBC 2's Natural World series. Not only was the photography stunning and set in the extraordinarily remote and beautiful Shark Bay in Australia, but the insight into these remarkable animals is unmissable.

I always knew how intelligent they are but this programme revealed whole new levels of knowledge on the social framework of dolphin communities - with one of the central characters being a female who they have been watching for 23 years I think it was (one of the girls spoke just at the wrong moment!). This soulful matriarch, with her family of at least 8 I believe, could teach lessons to many a human mother, that is for sure.

The other point of interest for me was that, by strange coincidence, I have just finished reading Bill Bryson's book on Australia, Down Under, in which he makes a visit to Shark Bay to view some unique and fascinating things called Stromatolites which are the oldest known form of life on the planet. Having read the passages he wrote on this with great interest it was good to see the physical reality and beauty of Shark Bay on screen.

If you have enough broadband width to watch BBC iPlayer (sadly I don't), then make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, or pour yourself a glass of wine and click on the link below (or the one in the opening paragraph). And in the process of writing this post, I also came across a great site which had an article on Shark Bay, the dolphin project and the ecological significance of Shark Bay. It's worth reading. Here are the links again:

BBC 2 Natural World

Shark Bay
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