Monday, December 29, 2008

All is calm, all is quiet

So here I am, stranded in Kent, all alone in my parent's house. Of course the journey down South on Christmas Eve wasn't without incident; a steaming bonnet, broken power steering and a bright red battery light that wouldn't go off after a stop in a service station on the M11 80 miles from my destination. My Dad and Lurch (50 miles behind me with Danny Boy) advised me to carry on and not stop the engine. I did, with The Terminator swearing undying loyalty and promising not to leave me on my own. We made it over the Dartford Crossing without stopping and whooped and cheered as we arrived at El Vel and Sean Sean the Leprechaun's half an hour later. 'Happy Christmas everyone!'. Christmas was lovely, very relaxing and just family. The boys, Lurch and SSTL went for a long walk along the beach in the morning and then we had a fabulous traditional turkey with all of the trimmings.

Boxing Day was pretty much the same, although the boys were cranking up a gear and getting slightly more boisterous by this stage. I rang the AA on the 27th, they came out but said nothing was open and I would have to wait until Monday. I was supposed to be going back to work in Leeds. Lurch and the boys went off, as planned, on the early morning ferry to France. In the spirit of our recent home education experiences they are visiting war graves and possibly going to Ypres in Belgium too. So I had the weekend on my own.

Something strange has happened to me since. I've slept for 8 hours a night and am feeling totally relaxed to the point where my mental processes have broken through the perpetual low-level fug to a near clarity of thought. I'm not being bombarded with the usual artillery; requests to drive people anywhere (can't!), clean anything, break up fights, find anything, fix anything, empty or fill things. I've read Pat Barker's 'The Eye in the Door' and Sue Gee's 'Reading in Bed' and really enjoyed them. I feel like a different person, maybe this is what's really meant by a break?

It's also strange being back here without my family, and not being 18 again. I went to Tesco with El Vel and she pointed out grey, tired old faces that I didn't recognise. They're the same age as me, I know that because I went to school with them!

Yesterday we went for a walk (I went running) to the beach. On the way there we saw Alan, a neighbour of my parents, hoisting his Union Jack up the flagpole in the back garden. I hadn't seen him for years and he was certainly twice the man he used to be. After a quick chat we moved on. 'Blimey, he's put on weight, hasn't he?' I said to Vel. She made a face that was a cross between a bulldog sucking on a lemon and a crocodile smiling, this is how you can tell that she's feeling intense disapproval, although she would 'never say anything..' 'He's a fascist' she confided 'he's really nosy and knows everyone's business, he patrols the neighbourhood. He's even complained about building rubble here', she signalled to a nearby building site 'Dad and I were just having a very quick look through the windows and the builder invited us in for a tour, lovely man' she said.

We got to the beach and there are remembrance benches all along the seafront. I recognised the name of a girl I used to play netball with at school and the Aunt and Uncle of a friend of mine, and others I knew, it was extraordinarily moving. I ran half a mile one way into the biting, cold December wind, and then turned back. My parents were a short distance ahead, all wrapped up in hats, scarves and mittens, holding hands and battling the elements together as they'd done for nearly 50 years now. They didn't hear me as I approached at a jog. 'Get a room!' I yelled in my mother's ear as I passed. A startled stagger and a look that was pure bulldog was my response.

So now the AA have been and I'm here until tomorrow. The parents are at the golf club. Lurch has phoned and spoken to me in a strained tone with a background track of heavy fighting. I made the boys promise to let Lurch enjoy his holiday and to cut the brawling and behave and then I put the phone down, ran a hot bath with aromatic oils and pondered my third choice of novel.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Santa's coming..

'Oooh, that looks good!' I say to Lurch, as we make our way around the throbbing Christmas Market in York. 'You want one?' he asks. I nod my thanks and tuck into a steaming crepe, filled to the brim with ham and melted cheese, all washed down with a hot and spicy cup of mulled wine. We move onto the next stall, specialist chocolatiers with a bedazzling array of hand-crafted jewels. 'Just a taster then' I'm transported to food heaven and buy a small crate to dip into on the long winter evenings, whilst tucked up reading in front of the fire. After an exhausting shopping trip I treat myself to a couple of mince pies and a cappucino. I love this time of year!

I don't love going to the dentist though. Until recently we had an excellent,kindly 60 year old dentist who played Radio 2 and turned on the fan heater to full blast in the waiting room to dry out the damp woodchip wallpaper. He had a heart attack and sold on his life's work. I took the boys for the first time last week. Now everything glows and shimmers; the dentist and her assistant must be about 24 with shiny white hair, shiny white teeth and shiny white uniforms, the boys were transfixed by the sheer, physical perfection, I had an uneasy 'Vanilla Sky' type of feeling as if we were in another world, brought on by the shiny leaflets offering wrinkle fillers and perfect smiles.

It was my turn today and I got ready. We've been waiting for an oil delivery for ten days so have had minimal heating and it's freezing. I put on my red fleece and a cream scarf and went to the bathroom to clean my teeth for the regulatory four minutes, plus flossing, plus mouthwash. As I approached the bathroom a little bit of magic happened, I caught a glimpse of Santa! It couldn't be, could it? It wasn't, of course, it was me! Yes me! All red-faced from the cold and the fire-heat with a festivity-laden stomach bulging out into my red fleece. I carefully turned the mirror to the wall.

Two fillings and £200 later I've made some resolutions. No longer am I going to a) turn myself into a Christmas pudding/bauble fit to hang on a giant Norwegian Spruce every year and b) sport Austin Powers style gnashers from the 1960's - time to move on, as soon as the house is sold I'm gonna get myself some 21st Century teeth!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Look at me!

Well, I've had my meeting with the Head of Year and she had interviewed the Head of every subject I'd mentioned and each had prepared a written report on Danny Boy. The History teacher had also waited after school to meet me. I had a written apology from the English teacher but the rest of the remarks have dampened my crusading spirit. Danny Boy has been identified as one of the brightest students in the year but he is an attention-seeking class clown who finds it very difficult to concentrate, disrupts other pupils and is desperately immature. The reason for his shoddy work is that he is slap-dash and doesn't spend anything like the right amount of time on his homework, doing the bare minimum to get by. It made for an interesting meeting. Danny Boy was squirming as Head Of Year revealed some of his half-truths and excuses. The upshot of it all is that it's up to him, plenty of other children are prepared to work. Tonight DB and I have learnt the verbs etre and avoir by rote, tomorrow it's Spanish... there is a six year sentence stretching before me and Lurch (who's now testing him).

Why is he such an attention seeker? I can only imagine he takes after his father who has sported many an eye-catching look in his time from Country Squire manque, complete with plus-fours (aged 16) to Eurocrat with a leather handbag and hand-tooled Italian loafers, a fine dandy indeed. I have never been comfortable in the spotlight.

My worst work experience ever was in Jamaica. I was representing the company, sponsoring an evening of Caribbean culture, which was being broadcast simultaneously on radio and TV. The MC was a restless, slightly aggressive man who seemed to carry a large colonial chip on his shoulder. He referred to me as 'The Queen's Representative' at all times, accompanied by a direct, challenging gaze and a savage smile. I couldn't understand what I'd done but half an hour into the show his delighted tones rang out across the island 'Would the Queen's representative please come forward for an exhibition limbo dance with our country's champion?' What! me?! I was forced into it, wearing a tightish linen business suit. I had to perform a limbo with a 6 foot 6 liquid limbed, breathtakingly handsome Rasta in front of 1,000 people in the stadium but also on TV. My mouth was dry, my legs and arms were wooden. The Rasta tried his best and so did I, contorting, shaking and shimmying but I was worse than John Sergeant, it was the most humiliating episode of my life. I was stone cold sober and, unbeknown to anyone else, four months pregnant! I still shudder at the memory.