Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Perfect Finger Food.









I've been away for a while, looking at some beautiful gardens and interesting buildings, and then I come home to this.......... the wisteria which now reaches half way around the garden, twining itself on a thick, strong marine rope that elder son fixed for me a couple of years ago.
A couple of years. So much has happened, apart from the wisteria more than doubling in size.


Here is a rare, probably one-off photograph of one such wonderful happening.


Grandson, now just eight months old.
I haven't written letters in this blog to him, as I did to Granddaughter in her babyhood because it seemed better to do something different. I have done many things differently. He's a different little person, clear from the very start. When ever he catches my eye he beams and laughs. I have a feeling that we are sharing some tremendous joke, but I don't know what it is just yet. Sheer joy in life, probably. I'm happy to share, whatever it is.

So here he is, engrossed in an encounter with Evesham asparagus, the ideal finger food for babies who like doing it for themselves, as he does now. Asparagus is great. You can wave it about, and when you've bashed it a bit it even waves back. Then you can eat it. Great stuff!

He can spend an hour, happy in his high chair, sampling a variety of foods, wet and dry, hard and soft, mashing them into the tray, wiping them all over his face and arms, squelching them in his little strong fists.
How deeply satisfying it all must be. How totally enjoyable when you don't have to clean up.
Why was cutlery invented when you can have such rich sensory experiences with simple food?

Watching his level of concentration makes me think of what engrosses me, what makes a mess, gives multi-sensory experiences, can occupy me for an hour at a time without me even realising that time has passed?

Well, gardening, of course.
Here's a bit more of it on the rock garden.........





Perfect finger food for oldies. Even if you have to miss out on the eating bit such activities are still food for the body and the brain..
Perfect for youngsters too, because Granddaughter is meanwhile examining her own patch of garden outside the kitchen window.
"I'm going to have lots of strawberries here. You can share some of them," she says, which is really just as well, as that's my strawberry bed she's got her little strong fists on.
Her little bit of garden started with a old sink in which she planted daffodil bulbs, but it has now expanded into what was my herb patch and strawberry bed. Somewhat more invasive are the fairies who are apparently active in her patch and are threatening a take-over of larger areas. My larger areas no doubt.
Perfect!


Saturday, 8 April 2017

All Alone with Mickey









"Look at this!" said Granddaughter on Skype. She was in a tent on the lawn and Little Brother was bouncing about in front of her.
"What is it?" I said. "I can't see it properly."
She waved it more vigorously. "It's the Pre-School Bear," she said. "I've got it for the weekend, and it's got a book with it and we have to write down everything the bear does and we have to give him lots of adventures and lovely food."
"That will be interesting," I said.
"Oh yes," said my son darkly. I could tell his heart wasn't really in it.
"But," shouted Granddaughter, remembering something important. "But this is a new bear. It's a different bear because someone....SOMEONE took the old bear to Disneyland, and they LEFT him there. They LOST him. He's still in DISNEYLAND."
"It's a lot of responsibility," said my son.
"What a pity it's not next weekend," I said. "He could have come here with you and had an Easter egg hunt in the garden."
"I think it's got to be even more exciting than that," said my son.
Little Brother continued to bounce. He didn't care.

So what will it be this weekend for an indulged Pre-School Bear and his diary, out to impress Pre-School staff as well as all the other parents with access to the record?
Parents who may have visualised a few hours of rest and relaxation, or a weekend putting up shelves and doing a big shop will need to get the bear to some sort of centre of excellence, a museum, a stately home, a zoo, a river trip, a concert, a theatre, a hot air balloon ride.
How much warning is given about this bear's visit?
Perhaps just about time to get a Ryan Air flight to somewhere like Disneyland, but will anyone dare
to go there again?
Maybe there's time for a last minute cottage booking in Cornwall.
And then there's the food.
Recorded in detail.
Wholesome, organic, home-cooked food.

"In no time at all," I said to my son, "It'll be the school gerbils. Then you're talking about
real responsibility. You'll have to send the cats away for the weekend."
"Oh, don't!" he said.


P.S. That is not the Pre-school Bear pictured above, old or new. It's one from my own collection. No bear of mine is going to Disneyland.


Friday, 17 March 2017

Dubious Performances






Not being disparaging about Shirley Temple, of course, but interested in the era (my long ago childhood era) when children, even the most lacking in talent, were expected to have something to contribute to a social gathering. A party piece. A performance to make Mummy and Daddy proud. A miniscule demonstration of some sort of skill or even talent to impress visitors.

I was reminded of this by a friend's recollection. At the age of two and a half he was trained to spell Czechoslovakia. Then I remembered that I was told I could say 'Antidisestablishmentarianism' while I was still in nappies.
Why?
Why on earth were such achievements considered desirable, useful, attractive or anything other than dotty?
As a parent my priority would certainly have been on house-training rather than antidisestablishmentarianism, but I suppose I can still say it, and he can still spell Czechoslovakia, so the training must have done something to our respective infant brains, even if it wasn't terribly useful in the following seventy plus years.

The party piece was often a poem or a song, a hesitant tinkling on the piano or, even worse, the latest practice piece on a stringed instrument. The party wasn't a party at all, but a gathering of adults, sitting around, as uncomfortable as the performing child. An ordeal for all concerned, and a great sense of relief when it was over.
 All this happened in the days before television, of course. The days when adults also sang and played musical instruments at home in the evenings. Everyone had some sort of party piece, even if it was only an uncle who could make his finger-joints crack like castanets.
There were expectations of all of us

Then I remember the emphasis on learning by heart throughout the education system in those distant years. Multiplication tables, hymns and psalms, poems and, at grammar school, great chunks of Keats and Milton and Shakespeare. And I can still do lots of those, too.
And much of the imprinted poetry remains with me, safely in my head, and comes to life at times of stress, sadness and happiness. Great words remain for life, and  I think they are not Czechoslovakia and antidisestablismentarianism.

But then I realise, oh.....actually, they are!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Team Spirit in Ambridge.





                                          Strong Archer women in the kitchen....why not on the pitch?






At last....after the months of doom, gloom, fear and threats, bloodshed, personality disorders and legal complications The Archers get back to life's real issues, catering, extra-martial affairs and the inclusion of women in the village cricket team.
It's so good to see that there are places for the more mature ladies of this busy community in the areas of catering and extra-marital affairs, but it seems sad that apparently only the very young are being considered for cricket. Think how active Lilian is, in so many ways. Wouldn't she make a great wicket-keeper? Pat, with all her nervous energy, could be darting about all over the place, and Linda....well. Linda could do anything, any time, any where. What a loss of potential talent, and how the team could be revitalised, reorganised, reborn.

But perhaps this is all part of the great plan, and the many over-30 year old females of the cast will emerge in glory to save not only the day, but the weekends and the midweek practice sessions as well? And the men can take a turn at putting the kettle on and making the sandwiches.

I write as one who is not unfamiliar with cricket. At my all-girls' school, long, long ago, we padded up and waddled around the stumps with the best of them, and I spent many peaceful hours skulking near the boundary, watching the gentle play of light on the grass, only very occasionally being woken from my reverie by the yells of class-mates as a red leather ball hurtled past me into the shrubbery.
A peaceful time, unless one had the misfortune to be put in to bat. But then it was usually over very quickly.

Peaceful, but in the hands of skilled script-writers the sort of scenario that could become as fraught with tension and perils as any of the other Archer situations. Perhaps we have it coming? I do hope so, for as Miranda said to Justin last week: "The whole area's so barren. There's a dearth of restaurants, bars, cultures. What do people do all day?"

Play cricket....and watch the play of light on grass? It worked for me.


6th April: I'm glad I got that one right!




Saturday, 11 February 2017

Nearly a Year Later........,






The heavy-duty extra-insulated vacuum flask I gave to my elder son the Christmas before last is still working well high in the mountains of Kazakhstan. My younger son, his wife and my two grandchildren are leading a busy life in South West England, and I am still here, appreciating my wood-stove and many other things in Middle England.

I'm not sure what happened a year ago, the point at which a very new grandchild was confirmed to be on his way, but it seemed appropriate to stop blogging and wait to see what happened next. It felt as if things would change for all of us, as indeed they have done.

Grandson was obliging from the start. He was on his way just at the point when I had finished baking for a planned visit to his home the next morning. I was to be there for his birth and luckily I was able to load hot cakes, pies and casserole into the car and set off down the motorway in a warm and fragrant cloud.
"It would be really good if you can come now," said my son. "I don't think we can leave it until morning."
He was so right.

Granddaughter and I had a mostly happy time while we were waiting for her brother, but it took another night and morning before he came home. Not-so-Little E dressed herself with care that morning. She said, "I want to look beautiful, so that Little Brother will like me." She chose football shorts, a tutu as a petticoat, a dress to top it all, and a flowery headband. I thought he would love her from the start.
Things changed, of course .The camper-van has been exchanged for a five-seater family car with a great big luggage space. The music studio has become a nursery. There's a baby gym on the floor again, a pram in the hall, a mountain of washing to be dried, and two cats who realise that just when they thought it was all over.......well, it isn't yet.

Good things, very good things happen, and sometimes it feels as if I'm on a calm(ish) plateau, looking back over my 77 years, and forward into the lives of my sons and grandchildren. Then I find that someone, somehow has hacked into my gas and electrical supplies and tried to change my suppliers.. Oh, how perilous the serenity.

So it's been nearly a year of much significance, of small events, irritations and happiness, and to anyone who revisits here I say thank you, and I've missed you (but I've been reading all the time).

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Letter to a New Grandchild.





                                         Big Sister and Daddy, making a splash.



Dear Very Small Grandchild,
Well, you're on your way, a tiny person with fingernails and elbows and knees that can move.
You have a lot of growing to do, and we need you to stay put, warm and safe and fed for another five and a bit months.
We will wait for you through the Spring and Summer, and then, by late Summer you will be ready to see sunshine and changing leaves. You will be ready to meet your family, although you will know their voices already. You will be familiar with your sister's voice because she uses it all the time, and she will want to talk to you and sing to you and teach you so many things. I think she will be a wonderful big sister for you, a great source of entertainment as well as a loving, caring person.
She is already gearing up for the role. In fact she was the person who gave me the official news. An evening phone call; "Annie, Annie - I'm going to be a big sister. The baby is very small, really small, so I have to wait. You have to wait, and Daddy...we all have to wait......but I'm going to be a BIG SISTER!"

In no time at all you will be joining in, crawling, walking, paddling in the sea, like your big sister before you in the photo. I realise anew how fleeting babyhood seems, and how precious is the time to enjoy it as a grandparent. Sometimes (or more than sometimes) as a parent, the days and nights are tough, exhausting, seemingly endless, but for a grandparent it's just plain wonderful.

But we will all have to wait.

You are already a very fortunate little baby. You will be born into a family that wants to give you so much. So much of everything, of life's experiences, of music, of books and friendships and fun.....and most of all of love.
See you later,
Love from Granny.

P.S. Grandson was born on 09.09.16 in one of the new NHS Birthing Centres, where he and his parents had two nights in a large room with double bed and birthing pool. Thank you, NHS midwives for impressive care throughout.
Everyone is well and very happy.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

End of The Line







This charming clock has ticked its way through so many of my memories, and then, yesterday, I brought it home to continue its steady ticking on my desk. Now it represents the end of a chapter of family life, and for me the realisation that I am the last of that particular line of the family. The old family name has gone.

When I first knew the clock it was in my uncle and aunt's home, a place of so many entertaining evenings, a place of great hospitality and warm glowing fires. In my early years I began to realise that a few glasses of beautiful coloured liquid brought about a change in adult behaviour. My father became entertaining as he and his brother ad libbed variations on the psalms, and after a while my mother stopped being disapproving and joined in the laughter. Even better, my musically gifted uncle would scoot around the room, playing a variety of key-board instruments, square piano, piano, dulcitone while singing from his collection of Victorian sheet music.

Now that my parents are dead I can confess that, as a young child, I used to fantasise that this aunt and uncle were my real parents. They had no children of their own. They went all over the place on a motorbike. They went off to France and wandered around where the fancy took them. I used to imagine that one day they might buy a small side-car and take me too.
As it was, my parents acquired a small side-car and attached it to their tandem (this was 1940s England with no petrol, but also with hardly any traffic). But the tandem never held the same sort of glamour as a motor bike, especially after my parents took a gateway at the wrong angle and sheared me off in my little side-car. I was left sitting there at the side of the road for what seemed like quite a time before they realised. Later I also realised that if I'd been attached to the motorbike neither I nor the side-car would have lived to tell the tale.

My uncle and aunt represented fun and freedom and great joy in life. My mother used to say, darkly, " Of course they can be like that. They haven't any children."
Later, too much later, I knew them as real people rather than iconic figures, and realised that not having children came at a cost of regret.

With the clock came a collection of family documents, going back several generations. I have to think carefully.....do I want to know? I have known enough about.some aspects of my parents' families to think it is better to leave well alone. But yesterday I was given names and dates on yellowing paper, accounts of hostility over financial matters, disputes about legacies, births and deaths and marriages, second marriages for great-grandparents - and who is this Clarissa who keeps cropping up?
My inclination is to let it go, and if my sons want to find out more, then it is too perilously easy to do so.

Surprisingly, the clock sat down on my desk and started ticking away the moment I put its pendulum back. I had expected to have to spend  some time fiddling about with coins under its marble feet to get the 'tick' and the 'tock ' thoroughly even.
Even more surprising and gratifying its glass dome also travelled safely.