Saturday, August 28, 2010


We've been back to work for two weeks but the students don't arrive till Monday, so there have been a lot of meetings. I am not a fan of meetings. I sit doodling. This may be the reason why I have not risen to the heights of senior management, although another reason would be that I haven't applied for any such posts.

The meeting gave my colleague time to notice someone's handbag.

Afterwards she told us that this handbag was a Mulberry. "And I happen to know," she said, "that it costs £795."


How did she know? Because she'd bought her daughter just the same handbag as a graduation present.


Now, I was vaguely aware that such expensive items existed because I occasionally glance at the Style section of the Sunday Times. But I assumed that only models and film stars had so much money to spend on things like that. It never occurred to me that I might have met someone - two someones - who bought them.

You'd think that, having reached the age of 60 (yes, I know; hard to believe), I'd not be surprised by anything much. Wrong.

As I gaped and WHAT???ed, my colleagues reminded me of the sum spent by our family recently at the vet hospital on treatment for our daughter and son-in-law's two guinea pigs. Yes, it wasn't much less. And some people in the world would see a guinea pig as more of an hors d'oeuvre than a suitable destination for one's savings. But at least I realised even at the time that this was somewhat deranged behaviour. It's just that the young folk love their pets and my son-in-law suffers from depression and it seemed worth keeping him on an even keel.

My colleague had to order this handbag for her daughter from a posh shop. Then one day someone phoned from this shop and said that the handbag had come in and she could have it if she could be there to pick it up in ten minutes. Otherwise it might be sold to another customer.

My handbag, a neat little black cloth affair from Marks and Spencers, cost £7. I thought this was a good buy. Maybe I don't understand fashion.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I do hope none of my bloggy friends have been doing anything particularly fascinating recently because I'm so behind in my blog visiting and, especially, commenting. I will be back eventually.

When we got back from holiday, my poor confused aunt had deteriorated further and, in brief, we moved her into a care home today. What with that and the church magazine, which I edit and which is growing huger with every edition, there hasn't been a moment. Writing posts takes a matter of minutes. Reading and commenting takes a long time and it's a pleasure I'm looking forward to.

The relief of finding my aunt a home is enormous. I just hope she's happy there. At the moment, she's pretty confused, though endlessly polite and obliging.

I heard two girl students discussing a friend in the corridor the other day, Maybe he has the practical attitude that the rest of us might adopt, faced with life's little difficulties:

"The trouble with him," said one student to another, "is that he thinks the solution to every problem is to take his shirt off."

I'm not sure that would work so well for me.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Whenever I’m in a holiday cottage, I marvel at the amount of stuff I don’t have with me. Don’t have and don’t need. I take books, paper, a few changes of clothes, nightwear, camera and that’s it apart from the furniture and kitchen things supplied by the owner of the property. Yet at home, I am very far from being a possession-free zone.

This feeling wasn’t so acute in our first cottage this year, which was old, beamy and filled with little knick-knacks of the pottery duck or Toby jug variety. But it came strongly upon me in the Beadnell house. This was much more fashion-mag-like. It had wooden flooring downstairs and what might have been seagrass upstairs (like some horrible endurance test on the bare feet but neutral to the eye). It also had white walls; striped curtains or blinds; and white furniture. No knick-knacks, though a couple of artificial plants, which I disapprove of on principle but which looked fairly realistic and decorative from a distance. And I thought: why don’t I live like this? (Not the fake plants; I refuse to go that far. But the clear spaces.)

Then we came home and I was aghast at the number of books, photos, paintings, bits of china and glass which ornament – or from another point of view clutter – our house.

Now, one person’s knick-knack is another person’s objet d’art and I like my stuff. I love each individual piece. But I think I need a rotation scheme. However, to institute that, I would have to clear out a cupboard, which would involve getting rid of such things as the rosy-posy tea-set that a friend of my parents gave us as a wedding present. I never use it but then again, I might some day.

Some of my bits are inherited, such as the vase (above) that my Granny’s brother gave her for a wedding present shortly before he died from the effects of being gassed in World War 1. Others have been given to me by my husband and children, who know my weaknesses. Others have been things I’ve fallen in love with and requested for birthdays. They’re all pretty and of course in the best of taste. Well, I would think that, wouldn’t I?

And then there are lots of family photos, which are even more precious now that the flesh-and-blood versions are no longer in the house. And far too many books. Every now and then we get more bookshelves and these immediately fill up with the books that were lying along the tops of the shelved tomes. In the end – like now – we revert to this horizontal book-stacking again. I need to have a clear-out because although I do reread favourites quite a lot, there are definitely some which I won’t. About ten, actually, but getting rid of them would be a start. There are lots of books belonging to Mr Life that I would quite happily dispense with, but you know - live and let live.

And plants… the trouble with real ones is that they drop little bits of leaf and petal constantly, like manna from heaven only messier and less edible. Some are genuinely decorative, but some flower only once a year and sit there glumly the rest of the time while I don’t have the heart to chuck them out, and others are cuttings which I can’t quite bear to put on the compost heap.

And let’s not even mention the study, which is… gah. Mind you, a lot of that belongs to Mr Life.

Maybe what we need is not less stuff but a bigger house…

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back in harness

Well, we're back from our sojourn in the South in the cottage above. Our catlets are intact, thanks to the kind ministrations of our next-door-neighbour, Daughters 1 and 2 and The Phoenix and L -
- I used to be able to do the linky thing but in my present state of nervous collapse there's no chance that I might be able to remember this skill. Anyway, do check out The Phoenix's blog to read an account of her stay in Edinburgh and some pictures of our furry friends. Thanks so much, P and L!

I feel so out of touch with all your doings. Mr L did take his laptop on holiday but we had wonky internet connection. Also I can't work strange computers and anyway his laptop doesn't have my Favourites on it so I couldn't find you. Then I still couldn't blog when we got home because in a moment of madness, I'd got fed up with my computer (which wasn't behaving), summoned a chap to fix it and agreed with him that rather than spend £100 getting it mended I'd spend £450 on a new one. What was I thinking of? And I can't work strange computers (see above). Argh!

And anyway he wasn't coming to install the new computer till yesterday, so that was a blogless weekend. And then I completely forgot that he was coming and wasn't here to receive it at 4 o'clock, as we'd arranged. Double argh!

The reason I forgot to be here was that work started again yesterday. (Triple argh.) I wrote 63 emails in the course of the day and then started to mosey on homewards about 5, at which point I remembered about the computer chap. Of course he had, perfectly reasonably, gone away before I got home.

However, he came today and so this is my new computer. I hope you can sense the deep suspicion in every word I type. Kind Mr Life spent a considerable time making it fit for my incompetent and panic-stricken use and ... well, we'll see if it works in a minute or two. (Are you reading this?)

Here's the living room of our Suffolk house. It was an 17th century cottage, complete with low beams. Upstairs it had floors of a seasickness-inducing slopingness. This has cured me of any romantic notions of retiring to a cottage.

When I say low beams, I mean beams that even I (a short person) struck my head upon a few times. In the picture above, my nephew and Mr Life demonstrate how it was for them. My poor brother sustained so many injuries to his skull that I eventually hung up these elegant pieces of paper to warn of impending danger.

We visited lovely gardens such as this one at Bressingham.

Here's Aldeburgh, of Benjamin Britten fame. Not that I'm a huge fan of BB. Not very hummable. But the town was rather fetching.

Our Northumberland house was very different from the Suffolk cott.

Soothingly smart with not a beam in sight.

It was in Beadnell, very near this beautiful beach.

Here it is again. I love the sea.

We did lots more but I expect you've heard enough for the moment so here are some pictures of the cats. They were a bit sniffy when we got back, for the first few moments at least. They leapt to their feet and retreated under the table. We could see them saying, oh, for goodness sake, not another change of servants - you really can't get any continuity of staff these days. Then Sirius looked more closely and did a classic double-take: oh, it's you. However, the huffiness continued for a few minutes till they thought about it and decided that since packets of cat food are quite hard to open without opposable thumbs, they might forgive us.
As you can see from the photo above, the weather improved the moment we got back over the border.

My garden looks depressingly minute after the stately homes we'd been visiting, but this lily is flowering well.

And these yellow daisy things, whose name* once more escapes me, are even more rampant than ever.
I must stop this and email my confused aunt's social worker. Things are reaching crisis point and still there are no rooms in any of the 15 care homes where I've registered her. I think a hysterical rant is in order and, the way I'm feeling, that won't be difficult.
And now, to see if this will publish. If it doesn't, you'll hear a loud scream shortly...
*Yes, indeed, Persiflage, thank you. Coreopsis. They've now strangled my white Shasta daisies.