Friday, 30 September 2011

Indian Summer

Monday 26th September

I read in the newspaper this morning that we can expect an Indian summer this week with temperatures reaching the low 80s farenheit. This would certainly be very welcome at two levels: one, because it has been almost relentlessly grim since we returned from France; and, two, because G has a camping party in the garden this weekend as a belated birthday treat. When I was out paddling around in soggy grass and cool, dank, drizzly autumnal air last week I did wonder as to the wisdom of the project; but if it is going to be warm and feel like a last taste of summer, then all should be well. With any luck the campfire will glow and the marshmallows will melt - and they may even stay outside under canvas the whole night. But I'm not holding my breath.

Meanwhile I can hardly believe that it has now been four weeks since our return. Frankly, it feels more like four months. We had a rushed few days getting sorted for school as they were back on 1st September, and then I went into a sort of zoned-out mode for a week when I really couldn't get geared up for normal life again - a sign, at least, that I had had a more restful summer break than perhaps I had realised.

Looking back over my diary there have been a smattering of events: I have caught up with a friend in the village over coffee, another over lunch, and another over tea; I have had a dental appointment, done the car M.O.T. , been to a charity afternoon to help a friend raise money for a walk along part of the Great Wall of China, been to a work dinner in Manchester, run a fell race, been to a barn dance and a drinks party; I have planted new plants in our garden, re-started the Infant School gardening club and re-enroled for the second year of my gardening course; I have counselled four friends all suffering in life right now; I have had my brother-in-law and his dog to stay, been to see Alan Carr at the Manchester Evening News arena and gone to a Brian Wilson (ex Beach Boys) concert at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester; I have been to a country show and climbed a climbing wall; I have taken one daughter to the dentist, supported another in a cross country running race, been to a Beer Festival and done all the usual running around after children, household chores and broken lawn-mowers.

On a broader scale, I have organised for someone from John Lewis to come and help me re-do the curtains in almost every room in the house; we have planned and largely booked a sabbatical in New Zealand for six weeks at the end of November and....we have got a dog.

I suppose, when you look at it like that, I have done quite a lot. It is not surprising that the summer holidays seem a supremely distant memory - a sunny blink of the eye in the tidal flow of life.

How are you doing?


Monday, 12 September 2011

Memories of 9/11

I will never forget where I was for 9/11. We were with friends on a beach in the Western Algarve, a favourite place. E was two and a half and G was crawling around on the sand as a13-month old. L had not yet made it into the world and our friends had a new baby.

We wandered over to the restaurant for some lunch and were vaguely aware that something was going on inside. There was much talking, but there was no television. We could never have imagined the news that was clearly filtering through somehow to this remote restaurant perched under the rich red cliffs of this idyllic curve of sand.

Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I asked one of the waiters what was going on. He told us what he knew of the horrors which were unfolding in New York, that cloudless blue September morning across the very sea which we was lapping at our feet. From the western tip of the Algarve, the next stop is America. Suddenly our happy family session on the beach was turned on its head and instantly transformed into a world where, in the matter of a few moments, all had become utterly surreal. It was almost impossible to believe that we could be fortunate enough to be on a beach holiday with loved ones and friends while thousands of other people were being submitted to unthinkable trauma across the water. There was an extraordinary sense of bewilderment, grief and guilt. Walking back to our little camp, we tried to get a handle on what on earth was unfolding across the water, but we had no television or radio to help us understand. Instead we just had a picture of our three little children sitting chubbily on the sand with big smiles and shiny eyes, innocently oblivious to the hatred and horrors which exist in the world in which they had recently arrived.

We have often returned to that villa and that beach, but I will never forget that September lunchtime.

Where were you? I would love to hear your stories of the moment you witnessed one of the most extraordinary, heartrendingly awful events of modern times.

I will leave you with a story I heard on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 on Friday. It was the story of a firefighter who, before leaving home to start his shift the day before 9/11, left a note for his wife saying:

Dear Stace
I can't believe that I still love you so much even now. Can't wait to come home and see you again.

He never came back.
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