Bleak day. Bleak mood. The first day of April, but where did Spring go? All is grey and chill without, and reasonably similar within. Rest assured, not as bad as a week or two back, but sunlight is certainly lacking in mind and soul.
I should have used this grim day to get to work in my study: I could have been clearing it out (the teetering piles are clogging all thought at the moment) without any worry that I should be outside enjoying the elements. I could have been adding some more paragraphs to my book (a task I should be completing daily but at which I am failing dismally). I could have been revising for my gardening course (more exams loom after the Easter holidays). I could even have put a wash in. Instead, I have driven three girls to school and gone to the gym where I had a positive enough experience last week to wish to repeat it.
Before you get the wrong idea, I have not been to the gym for months and months. I have lost track of how many it has been, but it must be getting on for nearly a year - and if it's not a year, then the times I have been in the last twelve months must be countable on one hand - or hoof. Thus last week, having had to drive eldest in to school after a doctor's appointment, I decided I would Bite The Bullet. Now, if you went to your local leisure centre and asked at the kiosk for 'One adult to swim, please' and they piped up 'Thank you, that'll be £200 please', I trust you would tell them where to get off. But, effectively, my swim last Friday must have cost me about that. Mad, isn't it? Yet I know that if I cancel the membership I'll regret it and will then only have the local leisure centre pool to resort to for exercise. Which I would never do because the last time I was ever there I saw a man blow his nose into his hands and then swish them around in the water. I still feel queasy thinking about it, despite the fact that I know far worse things have no doubt gone into that water - not least the levels of chlorine. But it's the whole package isn't it? The wet, muddy changing room floor with the ubiquitous grubby plaster. The wretched metal lockers. The whole echoey unpleasantness of it all. All of this being the reason I cling to my gym membership so, at the very least, my swim can be half enjoyable and I get to go in a jacuzzi and steam room as well. And have a nice cappuccino and a nice slice of brown toast and honey and a nice large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (no bits) served by a nice lady.
So that is how I spent the first couple of hours of my morning, though less enjoyably than last week because I was looking out on a cold grey car park rather than a bright warm sunny one as I did last week while sipping my coffee and catching up with my emails. And also the stump man was there - the one who leaves his leg propped up by the side of the pool, complete with blue sandal - a little unnerving the first time you see it. He is a wonderful man, of course, and fantastic that he keeps up his swimming clearly on a more regular basis than me but, I am reluctant and ashamed to admit, I am Not Good With Stumps. Despite my youthful desire to enter into medicine, I had the presence of mind to understand that there are many aspects of the profession that I probably wouldn't cope with: deep slice cuts, jagged bones poking out through flesh, scalps being torn back prior to brain surgery and stumps being just a few of them. I fear age has not lessened these aversions, something of which I am not proud. However, I am not scared of mice.
Before the gym interlude, I had been to the Co-Op and bought myself a whole pile of housey type magazines (we're embarking on much needed work on the house and I need inspiration), together with The Economist (so as to gain a better grasp of all that is going on in the Middle East), and a copy of the Macclesfield Express because it had an article in it about the retiring Head of Foundation at the girls' school - and in which I gleaned that he is 58, his wife is an historian, he likes travelling and gets the odd photograph published in National Geographic. However, this does not excuse him, in my view, for winning the raffle at the school musical last night and not having the good grace to turn it down so another member of the audience could benefit. Call me old-fashioned.
From the gym I wandered into town (sporting my bright pink raincoat which I found in the boot of the car in an attempt to lift my spirits) because I thought there was a lunchtime concert at the Church which the school was involved in and which I enjoyed very much the last time I went. But there wasn't. So, to make the most of the extra hour I had just paid for parking, I popped into Fat Face for a browse. I managed to find 8 things to take into the changing room. All hopeless. Please remind me that I am now a middle-aged woman and that pretty Little House on the Prairie style floral print tops and dresses Do Not Suit Me Anymore. If they ever really did. Whatever, they certainly don't now and I could have saved myself half an hour. From there to The Works to check out the gardening books. Picked up three, including one on growing fruit and one on growing vegetables. I don't really need them as I have all my gardening course notes and a hundred books at home already, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I also picked up another one for 59p which was full of quotations around gardening which I shall pepper about the place in subsequent posts. Bet you can't wait.
Thence back to the cold grey car park and over the equally bleak (but beautiful) Cat and Fiddle (lots of moorland, lots of sheep, lots of out-of-place speed cameras) to Buxton's industrial estate. I lead a glamourous life, I can tell you. I found my way to Swift Welding to pick up our Volvo wheel. N hit a pothole the other day on his way to Manchester which not only burst the tyre but cracked the wheel too (he swore he was only going about 30mph...). Enquiries at garages had us staring at a £500 bill for a new wheel. But my old friends Selecta Tyres had mentioned a local welding operation so I had gone to check it out the other day. While stumbling around the industrial estate, rather incongruously set amongst the hills and dales outside Buxton, I discovered a huge depot for Norbert Dentressengle, a French haulage operation which I associate with our times in France rather than the grit and limestone of deepest Derbyshire.
Swift Welding, on the other hand, was certainly devoid of any Gallic glamour. Its yard was like a scene out of Steptoe and Son and the 'office' was a ramshackle old caravan pitched at an unnerving angle as if one were on a boat furnished with a counter top and two manky chairs two manky dogs in residence on them (one with a dodgy white eye which gave me the creeps). The place stank and the stench was still trapped in my nostrils half an hour later. Incongruously, in amongst all this, was a very nice lady whose style and manner rather belied her circumstances. Let's just say that if you saw her in the street you would never imagine that this was where she spent her days. We had a nice little chat and she said that fixing the wheel would be no problem - they do hundreds of them - so I hauled it out of the back of the car and left it with her, remembering only at the last minute to ask how much it would cost. £30 she said. A little better than £500 don't you think? So, tip of the day: if you crack your wheel on a pothole, find your local welder. Good as new.
From here I resisted the temptation to go via Waitrose to pick up some food for the weekend and instead headed back to Chapel to Morrisons where I knew I would contain my spending. I got a brisket of beef and some root vegetables, in case you were wondering. Then I went to the petrol station where Unleaded has reached new heights at 132p per litre. My final stop was the dry cleaners to pick up N's shirts and chat to the lady who works there whose husband dropped dead in January. She's only just come back to work, poor thing.
Once home I unpacked the car - wheel included - and put the kettle on. The girls would be home soon for a quick tea and turnaround before heading back to school for the final night of the Year 6 musical. Last year, you may remember, it was E's time to shine as Belle in Beauty and the Beast. This year G is bouncing around in the chorus of Guys and Dolls. Such a different show to Beauty and the Beast and, I must admit, I wasn't sure how good it was going to be. But I am suitably humbled because it is fabulous. This year's Year 6 is a particularly large yeargroup with 75 children - about 20 more than last year. So they fill the stage with colour and energy - the set's fantastic, the main parts all perform brilliantly, having really grasped the American accent and the swagger of the crap shooters. It is hard to believe they are only 10 and 11 years old. As last year, I have again been one of the Props Ladies and we've been having a blast. It's great fun to be part of all the backstage shinnanigans and you really get to know the children and parents that you previously hadn't come across.
So with that, dear friends, I must leave you. The Show Must Go On, after all, bringing some much needed light, colour and music into an otherwise grey April Fool's Day.