Category Archives: family
Some of you may recall that I recently had a bit of a run-in with one of my neighbours. Welcome to the second instalment…
About ten days or so ago I decided to order a copy of this picture as a large canvas print.
It was meant to be for my fab hubby to remind him of our perfect Caribbean holiday, which seems so very, very long ago now. We’re having a bit of a tough time right now, what with dodgy finances and (the FAB Hubby’s) heart surgery and a distinct lack of purpose in life, coupled with an increasing feeling of having been tossed onto the scrapheap of sentience. I don’t want to impose my life complaints on everyone, but these circumstances are not helping my increasingly severe depression and most days I spend staring at my computer screen, trying to find any kind of motivation to get something achieved.
I have occasional spurts when I try to ‘pull myself together’ like a pair of curtains, but these rarely result in much tangible success, although I do keep on trying.
So actually gathering enough *oomph* to select and order this picture was a major happening for me. I was so pleased with myself for achieving something.The picture is particularly sentimental for us as it is of Pebbles Beach, in Carlisle Bay, Barbados, where I learned to swim as a small child. Taking Mark there was one of the first things we did when we got into the hire car – the satnav wasn’t working, but I managed to guide him to the place without too much of a detour, largely based on forty-year-old memories and a keen sense of direction. To be fair, the island is only 14 miles by 21 so it’s pretty easy to navigate around, but I was still chuffed to have found it so easily.
Standing on the exquisite white sand in the most brilliant sunshine, I was suddenly eight years old once more, in my tiger swim-suit (long story !), whiling away my days, collecting precious shells and rolling in the surf on Pebbles Beach. The Aquatic Club bar – ‘Pebble Beach Inn’ as it was known then – also had a swimming pool although it’s gone now, having been redeveloped in the intervening years. Patrick (my bestest of boy-friends) and I spent day after day either in the sea or the pool, only being dragged out to eat or drink something then back in the water we went, like a pair of water babies. It’s a strange misnomer, because there isn’t a single pebble on Pebble Beach – and there never has been as far as I can recall, so it was shells that we collected on the rare occasions that we emerged from the water.
Showing my husband of thirty-six years this precious memory meant that finally we could share it together and this of course called for a stroll along the length of the beach. I snapped the picture from the top of the steps, then he helped me jump down the steps and being a rather rotund shape these days, I tippled forward and he, being the gallant knight that he is, staggered forward to help me, so that I would be spared the indignity of rolling into a ball on the hot sand. He’d been taking his specs off and replacing them with his new sunglasses – another, whole different story – so this process was interrupted during the rockin’ and rollin’ around in the sand.
Fast forward for about an hour as we stroll the entire length of this gorgeous beach and begin our return journey. By now, the heat has gone from the day and the sun is beginning to set -the light is fading exquisitely albeit rapidly, as it does in the Caribbean, being so much closer to the equator and all that. I’m happily snapping away with my new camera at the scenery, the sand, the water, the sky, everything in fact. I turn to take a snap of the FAB Hubby; he’s looking puzzled and just ever-so-slightly panicky.
‘Why’s he fumbling in his shirt pocket?‘ I ask myself. Then I ask him the same question of course, to which his terrified face blurts out ‘I’ve lost my specs!’.
Now, I should probably explain here that FAB H is virtually blind without his specs. Modern technology has reduced the thickness of the glass these days to something that resembles one of those convex coffee-table paper-weights that people have favoured pressed flowers encased in, as keepsakes or whatever. Jam jars are a thing of the past. Well, mostly anyway. The thing is, he genuinely cannot see a thing without them. So this was a BIG deal.
The entire holiday was on the verge of ruin, for without his eyes, how would he see everything? How would we manage? Plus, the damned things had just cost an arm and a couple of legs to ensure he had them in time for the holiday. Usually he has photo-chromic lenses which means he doesn’t need separate sunglasses, so there was considerable cursing of the incompetent optician’s assistant whose fault it was that we were now having to negotiate our holiday of a lifetime, minus the ability to actually see anything, since the actual reading glasses had taken themselves off for a little holiday of their own.
It’s quite a long beach it turns out.
We retraced our steps, trying to remain positive, in spite of the increasingly fading light, turning every grain of sand over with our hands and feet, checking to see where they may have been washed into the sea, for, of course, just to complicate matters a little further, the tide was coming in. Fast.
We’d almost given up as we arrived back at the steps to clamber back into the car.
And then I saw them, quietly, even contemplatively, watching the sunset sitting squarely in the sand, exactly where he’d knocked them out of his pocket when he chivalrously came to my aid earlier.
Lost. And then found again. Just like the beach was.
Now, let’s get back to the present shall we… stop all this lazing around on tropical beaches!
So, I’d ordered this picture to remind him of our wonderful holiday and perhaps to help motivate us both into better frames of mind. I got a great deal and ordered it in a large size – my pictures are meant to be viewed in large formats. This one was about 60cm x 80cm. That’s about 2 feet by about 2 feet 8 inches for those who don’t do decimals.
Thrilled I was.
When I received the email saying it would arrive on Tuesday, I was still feeling thrilled.
On Tuesday I went out of the house for the first time in about … well forever… to go help some friends hang an exhibition in Scarborough hospital. I almost asked my other neighbour to keep an eye out, but she was busy with her three children, so I left it, thinking ‘We’ll be back in good time, it’ll be fine.‘
Famous last thoughts. ‘It’ll be fine.‘ HAH!
Upon returning home the neighbour and her offspring were still in their garden so I asked about the parcel and she told me our other neighbour, the chap from downstairs, the evil one who made me clean his drains out recently, he was the one who’d taken it in. I sent my son round to go pick it up, but there was some confusion about my apparently ambiguous instruction and the long and short of it was that no-one went to get the parcel that evening. I fretted and worried and got antsy and my *long-suffering men* ignored my slightly manic state and pressed on with the heavy responsibility of watching TV (or rather, snoring in front of the telly) and raising hell in some imaginary computer game world. Ahem.
Fast forward again to the next morning, when, as usual we were woken by the sound of the recycling truck and staff collecting the recycling waste. Thinking nothing more than ‘Did you put the bins out?’ I turned over and went back to sleep, whilst the FABH got up and pottered about downstairs for a while.
When I rose, Cleopatra-like, from my slumber a little later on, my first thought was about the picture so I asked if FABH had yet retrieved it and he agreed to put some trousers on and go to collect it. It’s best to not ask about the trousers – just let that one go for now, OK?
He returned, empty handed, reporting that our (despicable) neighbour had no knowledge of any parcel whatsoever.
I was distraught.
I was beside myself with tormented thoughts.
It wasn’t adding up.
How could he not have known about the parcel? What could have happened to it? Where did the UPS chap leave it? Did anyone see what he did with it? These and many more questions began encircling my tiny brain – like the little cartoon birds that used to fly round Sylvester or Tweety Pie’s head when they crashed into something.
I fretted a little more. I envisaged every and any possible scenario regarding my parcel’s fate. Each a more grisly fate than the last.
The FABH of course remained implacable in the face of potential chaos. He phoned the delivery company (UPS) and we had a delightful conversation with a lovely lady called Sarah, who assured me that the records showed that the parcel had been left in a porch around the back. I explained that this property isn’t what it seems and that ‘around the back‘ are two separate, distinct apartments. She sympathised and suggested that the delivery man might call me himself to explain where he left the parcel. We thought this was an excellent idea and readily agreed.
Then we waited.
Only, I’m not really very good at waiting.
The ants in my pants told me to do it.
I went downstairs and around the back and knocked smartly on my (beastly) neighbour’s door. He was on the phone and clearly, visibly, ignoring me. I could see him through his window. Eventually he gesticulated for me to let myself in, which I did. I asked him about the parcel and he flatly denied all knowledge of it.I described it in detail and he shook his head and threw up his hands, asking me what I wanted to DO about it?
I asked for permission to check his outbuildings- an aluminium shed and another, smaller, store-box, but it wasn’t there. I was even more puzzled now and asked him what I was supposed to think when I’d been told that the delivery man had left it in his domain, but it seemed to have simply vanished. As he sagely nodded his head and attempted to stand up to encourage me to leave, he slumped, in a drunken stupor, to the floor. After helping him to the nearby sofa, I took my cue and left. Clearly, I wasn’t getting anywhere there.
Upon my return, the delivery driver, Carl, rang and we discussed the situation with him. He suggested that usually in these cases, the ‘thief’ makes the mistake of putting the packaging into the rubbish bin, to which the FABH calmly stated that it’s unlikely he’d find any rubbish in the bin as today was collection day… and then we both looked at each other in horror as the realisation of what might have happened set in.
With tears (of anger, frustration, utter disbelief and the ultimate pain of loss) rolling down my face, we thanked Carl for agreeing to pop by the next day to check on the location of the parcel and then all we could do was sit and wait. Again.
I am really rubbish at waiting – we’ve already established this – so around six-ish, I went to call on our other (Polish) neighbour to see if perhaps Carl had been mistaken and left it in his kitchen instead. He hadn’t. And it turned out that our Polish friend had actually seen my parcel in the other neighbour’s kitchen.
What can you do when faced with such evidence? Clearly, I live next to an unstable and apparently vindictive man who thinks nothing of stealing our mail. I considered going to the police, as well as our mutual landlord, but persuaded myself these options seemed drastic. I even emailed the council in the hopes that someone might have spotted the brand-newness of my parcel and put it aside perhaps… to no avail of course. I didn’t sleep a wink and when Carl arrived the next day having taken a good look around the neighbour’s property, he agreed that the only thing to do was set everything in motion to replace the picture. He promised to drop the necessary paperwork off early next week and then he left.
Imagine how delighted I was yesterday morning then when Carl arrived with my replacement parcel! He confided that the paperwork hadn’t been required since, upon ‘further investigation’ (I know not what that entailed), my dastardly neighbour had admitted that he’d taken the parcel in and then put it straight into the recycling collection. Part of me still mourns for that lost picture, but at least now it’s sitting where it’s meant to be – above the sofa across the room from the FABH, so he can be re-inspired each time he looks at it.
Lost. Stolen. Recovered. Or at least replaced.
It’s a picture with a story to tell…
Thanks for reading again!
It’s been a busy day, with some success and a spectacular failure – I messed up finding the location of a wonderful workshop in Scarborough, but thankfully I think I will be able to recover that at least partially, so not an actual disaster then. I just look terribly foolish – I can get over that as I’ve had so much practice.
I woke up early in a major panic. It’s the 16th of December. For one thing, it is the GUS’s nineteenth birthday and he’s still at Uni so I wouldn’t get to see him today. It’s the very first time I haven’t seen him on his birthday – even when he was at boarding school, their terms had finished by now , so for the first time in nineteen years we’ve been apart on this important day.
It’s so hard to explain the pull of my children, even though all three are now fully grown into wonderful, magnificent adults. It never goes away. I doubt it ever will.
Still, I talked with him on the phone at 7.30am and I knew that he’d grown up just a little more when he answered the phone with a comprehensible ‘Hiya Mum! How are you?’ as opposed to the usual Neanderthal grunting. Progress is so rewarding! Anyway, we’ll be seeing him very soon – probably tomorrow, so I’m not dwelling too much on his absence, save to remind myself of how truly brilliant he is and how lucky I am to be his mother.
But back to the panicking.
No-one does *PANIC* quite like me I think. If it weren’t for the fact that I am ACTUALLY panicking, feeling sheer insurmountable terror inside and out, I could probably get an Oscar for my portrayal of ‘Panicking Woman’. I think that they have some stupid rules about having to be in an acting situation – you know, a movie – to be considered for one of those prestigious awards. It’s so no fair!
What was the panicking all about I hear you asking?
Ah, dear reader, here’s the rub – there doesn’t need to be a REASON to panic! Clearly, that’s where you’re all going wrong. No, no, reason is in fact your enemy when adopting the fully engaged PANIC mode. It’s much better to feel the panic, building up inside through weeks of worrying about Small Stuff (I could *sweat-the-small-stuff* for England, if it were an Olympic event!), about Big Stuff and about all the In-between Stuff.
There was Friday’s tussle with The Grinch. It prompted some epic responses from my Farmie Friends, which involved broomsticks that can travel across the Atlantic, transporting said wonderful wild women to come to my aid; they realised they’d need to return on a regular scheduled flight as their mode of travel would have been otherwise deployed, embedded deeply into The Grinch’s rear end, as an aid to help him clean up his own mess in future. I’m sure you need no further details! I laughed long and hard over this – truly thankful am I to have such smashing pals. Thank you ladies – you know who you are.
There was also the much more pleasing trip to see the grandchildren, who are all growing so fast, I have to find the person with their foot on the accelerator to get them to back off, just a little so I can savour them for a while longer. The Angelic Angel (Scarlett, aged three) and the Dynamic Donkey (Harriet, aged four and eleven twelfths) contributed fabulously to possibly the best Nativity I’ve ever seen. No panic here of course, unless you count my inability to capture such moments with my camera, largely due to shaking from suppressed giggles. Still, it’s being *in the moment* that counts and so it was indeed, fabulous.
But today’s panic was the culmination of my realisation that the deadline for readying my work for the New Year exhibition at the Palace Gallery in Redcar is rapidly approaching and I was no where near even being able to get them printed yet – it’s Christmas apparently and this means that getting things printed is high on many, many other people’s agendas meaning that my regular printer, who works just down the road from me and is reasonably priced, was unavailable. I rocked up last Friday afternoon, thinking ‘I’ve got this – it’ll be great’ only to be faced with a dreadful notice in his window declaring that he’s far too busy until after Christmas to do any work for anyone else.
I was not a happy chappy. That’s when the real panic started; the weekend spent happily with family simply put it all on hold and it wasn’t until 5.21 am this morning that it reclaimed my brain.
I have no pictures printed.
Printing them is expensive (giclée printing costs a fortune and they need special paper too), takes a considerable time and care to produce and then they need to be mounted and framed. Then I’ll need to properly wrap them up and then drive up to Redcar to go and deliver them. Before next Wednesday evening.
ARGH!!! and BOTHERATION!
Looking on-line didn’t help – printing may have been possible, but getting them framed this side of Chinese New Year was looking impossible.
What in Heaven’s Name was I going to do?
(Hint – here’s where all my panicky words are stored – angst, disquiet, flapping, fretting, heebie-jeebies, jitters, misgivings, needles, shakes, shivers and willies. I had ’em all. All at once. Simultaneously. It was pretty scary)
If I fail to get the pictures to the gallery in good time for the hanging of the exhibition, I miss my first chance to gain some essential exposure as an artist.
If I fail in this endeavour, it’s likely I’ll gain a reputation for lacking any kind of professionalism – those of you who’ve worked with me in the past will know how deeply this cut would scar me, it is simply unthinkable!
If I fail in this endeavour, my fragile dreams of artistic success will come crashing down on me, burying my confidence in a calamity of fractured narcissism that might just cause me to totally implode.
GASP! GASP! GASP! (does anyone have an inhaler handy?)
Not that I’m being melodramatic or anything.
That’s the main ingredient of PANIC. Just, you know, FYI, in case you’ve never done the whole horror of frantic frenzy scene or anything.
Enter the FAB Hubby.
With soothing tea and calming reason. See, I told you reason is the antithesis of panic!
Together, we found a solution and thanks to two wonderful and very generous people – Paul Crick Photography (he’s a photographer who lives not far from me) agreed to print them for me (for a fee – he’s not a charity!) by Saturday and his recommended framer, Bridge Street Frames & Gallery in Helmsley, who has agreed to frame them for a great price AND have them all ready by Tuesday evening, I am now A PANIC-FREE ZONE!
So BAH! Sucks to panic!
Paul’s lovely wife, Vivien, managed to sooth my jangles with her wonderful calm stillness which is not surprising, given that she (and Paul) also run a fantastic personal wellness practice at Gaia Holistix. She is indeed the absolute antithesis to PANIC and within one minute of being in their presence, I felt better. Some people just *glow* with spirituality – she’s definitely one of them.
Thank you Vivien, Paul and the lovely chap at the framers – I didn’t catch his name but he too was so willing to help and I find that totally humbling.
This Cinderella may indeed be going to the ball.
Serenity, at last!
(Cue calm breathing. Deep, nourishing lungfuls of relaxed chilled-ness simply *being*. Wonderful!)
… now, how many days shopping do I have ’til Christmas? And what do you mean I have no money? Does anyone have any spare change down the back of your sofas… and if so, can you send it to me? Do I have a recipe for cranberry sauce? Where’s my list… here we go again!
Thanks for reading my friends, once again.
And in case I don’t get time for another post before the Big Day, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Let there be Peace on Earth.
‘Hey mum! Guess what I woke up to this morning?’ the GUS, Toby gabbled, somewhat excitedly down the phone.
‘Do tell!’ I replied, not really quite prepared for the response.
‘Only a flying fireman, who, for the first few moments I thought might be a wizard because he seemed to be levitating outside my window!’ were quite possibly the last combination of words that I thought he might utter. Especially when you consider that his new student digs are on the fifth floor of the halls of residence.
(Rest assured, dear reader, he hasn’t completely lost it – the fire station is directly behind the student apartments’ building and the fireman concerned was NOT actually levitating.
‘Cos, y’know, they can’t really do that. It would be wizardry if they could. Cool and all, but not actually real.
I think he was on some sort of platform or something. I don’t know, ‘cos I wasn’t there, but I’m using my noodle to try and keep up with the conversation. The things I do for you guys!)
It’s been a busy month or so, with many ups and downs, getting the GUS ready to fledge.
A year or so ago we watched the magnificent BBC wildlife programme, ‘Penguins – spy in the huddle‘ which truly is worth your time to watch. Toby and I adored it – well who wouldn’t? It’s all about fabulous Antarctic Emperor Penguins, Peruvian Humbold Penguins and Falkland Rock Hopper Penguins, birds who know a thing or two about parenting. Penguins are perhaps the ultimate ‘cute’ wildlife, with their formal-looking attire and distinctive waddle, especially the new-born chicks who are covered with extra-fluffy down and have eyes like saucers.
In one episode, which was about the growing-up stage of life, there’s a memorable moment where one particularly prodigious penguin chick, who is almost as large as his hapless mother, continually demands that she feed him. RIGHT NOW.
He pecks at her increasingly emaciated beak mercilessly, ever more clamorous in his beseeching; she obliges well beyond what is seemingly appropriate or even moral until a final morsel is despatched and a line is crossed.
The girl is simply not giving up another morsel of food to this gargantuan greenhorn – she’s had it.
She turns on her heels (ok … give me a little licence here people, I’m setting the scene OK?) well flippers/feet or whatever and waddles off into the Great Beyond – a featureless sheet of icy tundra that she has called ‘Home’ for the past few months. Not a sniff, nor a sigh nor even a wistful peek over her shoulder at the offspring she’s left behind, to fend for himself. She just heads on out of there, entirely focussed on where she’s going.
We both welled up with tears when we watched it – it was a sad moment and seemed portentous to both of us, perhaps for different reasons. For me, it was the willingness to simply abandon her chick, whom she and her partner Emperor had created, birthed and raised over the past few months. But then, she’s probably done this before and will likely do the same again next year, so perhaps her ambivalence is understandable – a girl has to get her goodies when she can in the real world it seems.Toby, on the other hand, was probably empathising with youngster, imagining how it must feel to watch your loving mother simply walk away from you – maybe never to be seen again.
It’s possible that he was (in his own mind at least) trying to encourage the chick to look on the bright side – surely this means that it’s PAHTAY TIME! It’s also more than likely that his addiction to ‘Happy Feet’ when it first came out may well have had greater influence on his thinking than either you or I could imagine.
He dried his eye as David Tennant (the narrator on the programme) deftly distracted our attention by switching to the Peruvian Humbolds, hopping and skipping towards the perilous seas, falling around like calamitous Charlie Chaplin’s yet perkily popping back, right-side up, defying the ocean’s gormandizing at every turn. It’s a brilliant programme which I would highly recommend to all and sundry. Go watch it – even if you’ve seen it already, you won’t be disappointed by watching again!
So, the idea of fledging has been raking up these mixed emotions in all of us for quite some time now.
A little while back I took a photo which won first place in a competition.
I called the photo ‘Empty Nest’ and described the way that a simple abandoned broken egg shell in a local cemetery seemed to be a visual representation of this feeling of loss when, finally, the last of our offspring leaves home to begin their own adult lives.
I’ve been feeling odd for a couple of months really. It’s hard to describe – the sense of total devastation and loss that after thirty-five years of having our young around, this last-first-day-ever would bring, paired with the other extreme – elation, that after thirty-five years we can finally do whatever takes our fancy, whenever we feel like doing so without having to consider the needs of our children has pushed me on a roller coaster of emotion like none I’ve ever experienced before. And I hate roller coasters – anyone who knows me will tell you that.
It’s a good job I’ve been so very busy.
Planning a new business.
Writing a student cookery book (which is almost finished, but not quite!)
Making sure that the GUS has everything he needs to start his new life, when we have barely two farthings to rub together. Cooking meals and freezing them in advance of his departure, so that he wouldn’t starve in the first week. No, not much likelihood of that – he’s a strapping lad, built like all great rugby players. But in my mind’s eye he’s still a teeny little scrap, with wobbly legs and an ever open, saucer-like blue eyes that beseech me to love him, to care for him and (above all else of course) to feed him.
It’s never easy, this parenting lark, is it?
I was most touched by his gift to me before he left. It’s the very first time he’s bought me flowers. I’ve always disliked chrysanthemums ’til now. Now I think I love them.
So, whilst I watch everyone on social media posting their pictures of their little ones, many in their first-day-at-school-ever poses (including my adorable grand-daughter, Scarlett) and smile at their expressions, their eagerness and their wonderful innocent glows, for the last time, I’m posting my youngest child’s departure from home, his embarkation on the ocean liner of life, my last-first-day-ever photos.
Thanks for reading again, my friends! I’ll try not to be so long between posts again 🙂
‘Eye Spy, with my little piggies, something beginning with Red!’ Scarlett exclaimed from the back seat of the car.
It had been a long journey.
‘Something beginning with ‘Red’?’ I asked, checking that I understood the parameters of this game.
Clearly I don’t, at least not in the traditional sense of the word.
‘Yes, Nana. Something beginning with ‘Red’.’ She replied, very chirpily.
Hmmm… let me think…
‘Is it in the car Scarlett?’ I enquired, in a vain attempt to narrow the possibilities down a tad.
‘Nope’. She replied, with much more than just a hint of satisfaction.
‘Is it outside the car then?’
The puzzled look on my face probably means more to you than it did to her.
‘Is it at your house?’ I ventured, hopefully.
Is it at Nana’s house?’
Can you give me a clue? I was beginning to sound a little desperate.
‘Nope’ she replied, steadfastly.
‘Is it by the seaside?’
‘Is it in the supermarket?’
‘Is it in the garden?’
‘Who’s garden?’ – AHA! I was getting somewhere? I cast about frantically in my grey matter to weigh up the odds…
‘Your garden?’ I tentatively offered.
‘Erm…’ she teased.
There was a big smile on her face now.
‘Is it in Nana’s garden then?’ I was getting a little frustrated.
‘Maybe’ came the reply.
‘So… it’s something beginning with ‘red’ and it’s in Nana’s garden?’ I wanted to confirm before we went any further.
‘Yes’ Scarlett purred.
‘Is it a flower?’
‘Can I eat it?’
‘But I can!’ Scarlett declared, delightedly.
I should have known.
‘Is it a strawberry?’
‘YES! Nana, you’re SO clever! How did you KNOW?’ The joy on my two-year-old granddaughter’s face was so precious and wonderful, all frustration simply disappeared.
Of COURSE it was a strawberry! How much fun is Eye Spy with two-year-olds?
Thanks for reading!
Unwieldy, unshaven, untidily attired,
Surprisingly spry as he re-trod his strides
Back down the neatly manicured garden path.
Smiling warmly, turning through the gate
The Traveller bestowed his kind kismet
Upon the fertile fellow, frantic for fortuity
to finally end this crushing, overbearing burden.
“Good Luck, my friend!” The Traveller called, cheerily,
as they parted ways, diversely empty-handed.
Tzigane lilting, lingering loftily on the breeze.
Hope afloat within him,
A surely sympathic staff to speed his journey.
I know it’s a bit of a break from tradition for me to post a poem, and especially one with no pictures but it’s just been one of those days and this fleeting encounter feels like some kind of destiny. We need a little good luck right now. I’m convinced we’ve been visited by a guardian angel this morning. I can hear Ravel in my head, an exquisite Hungarian violin haunting my thoughts.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Well, that went well.
It’s been a week of good fortune so far in the Gregory family. Good news for our daughter who has secured a fabulous step on her ladder to success which is likely to involve her moving back to London and jetting around Europe and the US doing what she loves and is brilliant at – publishing books. She’s a very private person so I won’t go on about it too much here, just enough to make it clear that I am very proud of her.
Good news also for the GUS.
It was a tense weekend, with sessions in front of the TV, watching the ‘How to pass your practical driving test’ on repeat for most of Saturday, followed by a couple of hours more rehearsing for battle in the chariot on Sunday.
I was mindful of his first attempts at driving, which involved a turquoise, cerise and gold coloured ‘Li’l Tykes’ vehicle, powered by a pair of very sturdy little legs, in a somewhat haphazard fashion around the large living room of our various apartments in Hong Kong – some of the rooms were large enough to cope well, some weren’t. I do recall (vividly) Toby’s elder sister, Natalie and her teenage friends attempting to squeeze themselves into said vehicle to provide an exemplar for the little chap; indelibly etched upon my memory are the sights of Elle (who was actually mostly small enough to sit reasonably comfortably in the tiny driving seat) and Tom (who, frankly, wasn’t) with legs akimbo protruding from the non-existent windscreen and a backside hanging out of the equally hypothetical rear window, which gave new meaning to the word ‘booty’.
Thankfully, these long-buried anamneses have not adversely affected the GUS’s will to learn to drive, although I suspect there may be some therapy bill in the future for ironing out issues raised by such recollections!
In the US, young drivers can begin ‘Drivers’ Education Classes’ in many high schools – I’m not certain, but I think they have to be at least fourteen and a half years old to begin learning to drive. I’ve always thought it would be one very important thing that here in the UK we could consider. Get ’em whilst they’re young and perhaps this will result in more careful drivers when they eventually obtain a full driving licence. It’s not common practice here though, since in order to drive any vehicle at all in the UK the driver MUST have reached the age of seventeen (or, in some exceptional cases usually involving an enhanced mobility component, sixteen). Farmers children can and often do learn to drive tractors at an earlier age, which I think they’re allowed to do on private land (i.e. around their farm) but unless you have some exceptional reason for needing to drive at a younger age, seventeen is the magic number for young motorists here.
So when the GUS reached the designated number of days upon this Earth, he sent off for his provisional driving licence and studied, off and on, to pass the theory test. More off than on the first time round as I recall… but that obstacle was cleared in a matter of two or three months and since then he’s been revving up the Astra on a regular basis with those badges of progress emblazoned firmly on the front and rear of the vehicle – the dreaded ‘L’ plates.
We tried the magnetic ones to start with. Twelve sets of little white squares fluttered joyfully into the ether, freed from their entrancing tethering before we gave in and stuck the markers to the car. It may have been a tad embarrassing to careen around in a carriage marked as an inexperienced coachman, but such is the lot of parents – to do what needs to be done and be thankful for the opportunity.
The day finally came yesterday when the GUS would be tested on his SACKs of motoring proficiency. For those who aren’t teachers, I should probably explain what SACK means – it’s an acronym that stands for Skills, Attitude, Concepts and Knowledge. It’s always made me giggle to think of students carrying around these ever-growing hessian duffel bags filled with parcels labelled ‘Skill: can type quickly’ and ‘Attitude:is considerate of others’, as well as ‘Concept: understands how to walk across a road without dying’ and the inestimable ‘Knowledge: reads at level 43(b) with great expression’, as if this is any use to anyone, except for OFSTED inspectors, but I digress once more. I’m not supposed to be moaning about the burden of teachers any more. Or maybe I will moan thus, but not today.
He’s a good driver. He can make the car go forwards AND backwards at reasonable and responsible speeds AND he knows where to find the tyre pressure requirements at a glance (which, incidentally, was more than I knew until Sunday, perhaps an indicator of how useful this knowledge actually is when you’re driving!). He’d overcome his fear of heeding his father’s advice to make it obvious when he’s looking in the mirrors so that the examiner cannot be under any impression that if there was a twenty-foot tall green and purple dinosaur strolling somewhat inexplicably two cars behind, then Toby will have definitely have made eye-contact with it and have a fully-formed plan of action to deal with any unheralded flight of fancy that it might take.
He was ready.
He passed. First time. With only three minor errors.
Way. To. GO!
Clearly months of driving back and forth to York along the infamous 64 has its advantages – experience will always stand you in good stead. I’m really very proud of Toby for this success – job well done. Onwards and upwards from here!
Thanks for reading again my friends – looks like we may crack a milestone sometime very soon – almost ten thousand hits already!
My gorgeous grand-daughter, Harriet – whom regular readers will know already as ‘Harrie’ – has just had her fourth birthday. For once, I’d managed to get her present in the post so that it arrived in good time and she could open it on her actual birthday morning. I won’t crow too much about how great an achievement this is for me, but it’s not happened many times before and I’ve been a grandmother now for over eleven years; there are four grandchildren with a total of twenty-six birthdays so far and I’ve probably managed this basic requirement about four times in all. I know. I’ll stop beating myself up now.
So, Harrie has reached this grand age of four and I was immediately swept back nearly thirty years when her mother was hopping from foot to foot almost every day after her third birthday, begging to know ‘Is it my birthday tomorrow?’. Every. Single. Day. For a YEAR. The final six weeks after Christmas in the run up to her birthday was relentless – ‘When it’s my birthday, I want to be a banana’ she declared emphatically. For some reason that I could not fathom for the life of me, Natalie wanted to BE a banana. She loved them. She loved the colour yellow more than almost everything else she knew of. I’ve spent the afternoon looking for a picture of Natalie when she finally reached the longed-for day, wearing her brand new bright yellow trousers, sweater and matching gilet (it WAS the ’80’ folks!) and the most magnificent, enormous smile on her face. It looked remarkably like this one of Harrie.
Harriet is modelling her new birthday treasures – upon her head you will notice a rather exciting cycle helmet, of an ‘Alien’ design. Note the three googly eyes, green and purple pokey horns and wicked sharp teeth that complete the additional protection should Harrie fall from her bicycle or scooter. This was a present from another family member and I think goes particularly smartly with her new quilted jacket, made with great love by her doting Nana (that’s me, in case you were wondering!).
I came across the two ‘crocodile teeth’ (as Harrie describes them) pink toggle buttons in my spare button jar a few weeks ago. I’d forgotten they were there but recognised them instantly as the spare ones that Marks & Spencers’ always provide with their garments. They had come from two pink duffle coats that Natalie and her sister, Donna had worn when they were about six and eight years old (respectively).
This old photo shows the original coat. (It’s a good job I’ve learned to focus the lens better these days!).
I dug around in my stash to find other scraps that would make a good match and then stitched together strips to make these brightly coloured squares, creating a cheerful top-side for the jacket. I decided on lining it with some of the pretty butterfly fabric that I used to make a dress for Scarlett last summer and as a couple of my other fabrics had butterflies on them, decided to use a butterfly embroidery stitch to decorate the quilting.
I’m pleased with how the garment looks. I’m thrilled to bits that when Harrie opened it, she squealed with delight and donned it immediately, over her pyjamas and then wore it for the rest of the day. It doesn’t take much to make us both happy!
I’m thinking of maybe doing another one of these jackets and posting step-by-step instructions to make it, which I’ll maybe do when I’ve finally finished the cushions I was making for Donna’s Christmas present!
Thanks for reading again!
A new piece of art this evening – a simple digital collage from our walk in the woods a couple of weeks ago. I love the way the light found its way through the trees, creating an atmosphere of serenity. I hope it gives you peace to see it.
The Grown Up Son, I’ve decided, should have a new moniker since ‘The Neanderthol’ is outmoded and has outgrown its usefulness as a descriptor, although a few of his grunts still suffice to communicate a fairly wide range of subjects quite a lot of the time. That’s probably testament to my ability to translate these gnarly grumbles into meaningful utterances, honed by many years of teaching small children to get along with each other, as much as anything. Anyway, GUS seems as good a name as I can muster and henceforth this is how I will refer to my big boy. I’m sure he’d prefer ‘GUS’ to ‘Big Boy’ any day. Please, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about that!
So, GUS came home from the education establishment yesterday all abuzz.
Actually fizzing with what might, in other circumstances, pass for actual, tangible enthusiastic excitement.
Yeah, I KNOW!
Hence the need to adapt his sobriquet to something more appropriate.
I needed to sit down, so overwhelmed was I with this development, even before he told me the reason for this one-eighty in attitude.
When his sister was his age and indeed from being about 11 years old, she was always abuzz with too much frenzied fizzing and was regularly marched outside with instructions to ‘go pop’ which was the best way to curb her excess energy. She’d go out onto the apartment’s playground and jump up and down for five minutes straight, whilst waving her arms around maniacally and squeaking, squalling and just occasionally shrieking at such a high pitch that only dogs could hear her. Fortunately. Another outlet for her massive energy was lots and lots of sports – hockey, rugby, basketball or pretty much anything that involved chasing around after a moving object. Hmm… I wonder if she was a dog in a previous life perhaps? She WAS born in the Chinese Year of the Dog, so maybe that explains it.
Where was I?
Oh, yes, the EXCITEMENT.
So, there my precious GUS was, literally hopping from foot to foot, bursting to tell us how his rather extraordinary day had panned out.
You see, the day had come when he connected the dots.
For several years now, GUS has expressed his ambition to become an Actor. Please, whilst you read that, can you do me a favour? when you see the word ‘Actor’, imagine the magnificence that is Brian Blessed reading it aloud. ‘ACT-ORRRR!!!’ he would boom, magniloquently. That’s how I want you to hear it in your head, every time you see that word in this story. It’ll lend a little je ne sais quoi to the proceedings, that I hope will make the experience more joyful for you, dear reader. GUS has,in more recent times, begun to diversify this aspiration into directorial channels but acting, directing, being in the business of making films is where it’s all at for him.
Actors tend to hang out together for a variety of reasons, most usually because they want to promote their latest creative project, either for their own benefit or because the studio behind the project says they have to. Either way, there’s a LOT of networking when you get into this line of work.
‘So, I was chatting with Elijah Wood and Celyn Jones this afternoon, about their new movie, ‘Set Fire To The Stars‘,
which is about the tumultuous life of the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas…’ GUS began with a combination of words that simply blew me away. I mean, ‘tumultuous‘? I didn’t even know he knew that word! And then ‘Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas‘? Four more words in a sequence that I never imagined he would utter. Maybe the years of banging on about culture have not been in vain after all…? But then. THEN. That’s when the penny dropped.
My little boy had spent the afternoon chatting with Frodo Baggins.
What else is there in life?*
I guess that when your offspring go, well, springing off into the world of men and elves, then these experiences become quite commonplace. And so the FUN begins!
*Honestly, I’ve had to promise not to get star-struck ever again. I’ll never get a mention in the Oscar speech otherwise.
Thanks for reading again my friends!