Pegs don’t usually float my book-shaped boat. Especially the nasty plastic kind you find in the supermarket which seem to go rusty in a domestic heartbeat.
While I have got a soft-spot for the traditional dolly peg, I am pretty sure I have never met one that made me smile. At least not in the way the Amazing Pegzini Family make me smile.
Though I cannot imagine pegging out my smalls with any of these darling little acrobatic people, I really rather fancy stringin a set of sepia photographs across my window-pane, safe in the knowledge that these dear little Pegzini people would be happy turning my kitchen into their circus.
Adorable and just the right stocking filler for she who once dreamt of running away with the circus, but who now worships at the altar in her laundry room…
I wake up to air thick with the split pea and smoked bacon soup I have left to simmer in the slow cooker over night and the crazed tinkle of wind chimes gone berserk. The house is in fact making a racket. Outside my green front door, Hurricane Gonzalo is failing to live up to expectations but is still managing to bring the lane alive with the swirl of leaves battered down from the branches forming a roof over the wet road, and do bad things to what little phone reception there is to be had in Chez Brocante.
Inside, Finley is taking time out from his busy life as a child and has taken to his bed, not in a fit of pith but with the kind of sore throat that has got him feeling very sorry for himself and requires the frequent administrations of a Mummy who has had to run up and down the stairs enough times to take a good few inches off her wonky hips, fetching and carrying and kowtowing to the demands of a boy so taken with tea he almost needs it on intravenous drip.
Downstairs this Mummy reflects on what it is to serve. To care for. To cosset. And to nurse. I am in fact very bad at it. While some women seem to come into their own whenever demands are made of them, I seethe quietly with resentment and struggle to contain my impatience. It doesn’t do to say it out loud of course. It doesn’t do to say I would rather be reading. And so I barely admit it, even to myself and thrust upon my instinctive need for solitude, the kind of spiky, cosy obligation even I am not immune to. And we laugh. I annoy him by expressing a desire for a pink light sabre and he annoys me by holding my head pointing to the television so that I can truly appreciate the nonsense that is a cartoon character called Gumball.
I light candles. Stoke a pretend flame in a pretend wood-burning stove. Pick up the mail from a doormat that welcomes me home. Feel demented by the urge to tidy up, inspired by a woman who says only that which brings joy should be in your home. (Though I feel hard pressed to work up a lot of joy for either the mop bucket or the damned picture light with the bulbs that pop every other day. Once exploding rather spectacularly only inches away from Finn’s head.) I nibble on rosemary sprinkled almonds, sip on warming chai, and pray for silence.
The phone doesn’t ring and the wind continues to howl. The dog is restless waiting to be walked and the bacon in the soup has gone a shade of flesh that strikes me as almost rude. I have forgotten to put onions in it. Though a soup without onions is no soup at all, I don’t suppose it is to late to chop a few in for last minute flavour. I don’t suppose it is too late for anything: onions, or dreams. Though all too often now I tell myself I am past this, too old for that. Too far gone for ambition, or security. Too child like to be all grown up. I am 42 not 92.
It is not to late to add onions.
Though Finn is a delight, not a day goes by now when I do not wish I could freeze time and keep him on the right side of the teenage years forever more. While he still belongs to me. While I can still tuck him in to bed, and occasionally now, read him a story.
Had Sarah Ban Breathnach written The Best Part of the Day ten years ago, as I really wish she had, it would, I think, have been a central part of Finn’s childhood, and would have helped me establish the gratitude practise for Finn, from a very early age. For this is what Sarah’s latest book is about: gratitude. What else?
Written rather surprisingly in the kind of simple verse once common to children’s books, The Best Part of the Day takes us on a gentle journey through the seasons and asks at the end of each seasonal chapter, what was the best part of the day. Richly illustrated throughout and accompanied by a letter from Sarah at the end, The Best Part of the Day should be in every child’s Christmas stocking this year because it is the stuff bedtime memories are made of…
You are beside yourself again. Looking out. Looking in. The pads of your fingers astonished to be typing once more. Eager to tell the truth. To dole out advice. To provide inspiration. To say that Alice wandered home on Saturday morning. Thin and purring.
On your bed there is a new rose sprinkled flannelette duvet and sheets. It strikes you as too personal to share with another body. Suddenly your bedroom is the warm hug you need at the end of the day. Autumn linens, not yet adorned by the piles of patchwork quilts the winter requires in a room where condensation constantly clouds your view of the world outside your window. This house is falling down.
Your friends have called in: one after the other. One crying for what she has lost. Another astonished by what has come to pass. You talk and drink tea and fight with a wayward puppy and wonder how the skirting boards came to be so chipped. Life seems so messy. On the way to school the dog throws up down the side of the passenger seat, and you pass an old lady standing in her garden in her petticoat, apparently bewildered. This then is what you should dread: bewilderment. The mystery that descends upon the old and disillusioned.
But it is necessary to keep up appearances. You have mopped the porch with hydrangea scented disinfectant strong enough to assault the senses of every visitor and you have dead-headed the roses growing in the basket attached to the pale blue bicycle on your path. This then will reassure those who knock that all is well. That the cat is purring in the window again, prone on a spotty blanket and that the house is scented by the kind of chocolate cake only those who never wish to have thin thighs will take piping hot from the oven and serve with Chantilly cream on an old plate. Though there are those, of course, who will not be fooled.
Kath is on her way. The house must be some semblance of neat, for she is nothing if not neatness personified. You will talk to her about bliss and Blackpool lights. You will light candles and talk about the weekend. About extremes of emotion and late night pizza. About all the things that are keeping you awake at night. About the film you watched last night. A cacophony of beautiful feminist diatribe. About plans to go to Selfridges and buy perfume. Her day and you always so very much, night. About the toothbrush you have just noticed Alfie has chewed to bristly pieces. About your plans for all your tomorrows. You will talk and talk and talk and you will make her tea with sugar that she does not have and she will question why it tastes so good. You love her so.
You are hot. On the way to school the little girl you take insists that she will die of cold if you do not shut the window. But you can’t. First thing in the morning, medication makes you temporarily combust and you want to stick your head out the window like a dog, panting for air and freedom and contentment. But middle aged ladies panting cannot be a good look and so you resist and cook inside your fuzzy red jumper, telling Freya she will survive and worrying you will instead give her pneumonia.
Now you brush the kitchen floor. You avoid blinking at your phone every five seconds and play Amy Winehouse so loud it is sure to drive the neighbours already halfway to distraction, on a fast route to rage. They will be issuing you with an ASBO next. You brush the floor and wipe up the persistent slug trails decorating your kitchen tiles. You change Finley’s bedlinen and arrange his pillows just the way he likes them. You think bad thoughts. Worry. Eat a stick of Pepperami and a slice of Edam and call it an early lunch. Wonder why it feels so good to be sharing this with a world of strangers who cannot know you but sometimes understand you better than you are capable of understanding yourself.
Your ear hurts. It is time to walk the dog. To keep up appearances and carry on regardless.
October is doing exactly what it is supposed to, though frankly it never ceases to amaze me how well behaved the seasons are. How certain it is that Autumn will arrive and lay a carpet of of orange and evergreen down my lane. How my drives to and fro school will be cheered by pheasants strutting across the road. How the house will suddenly feel like the haven it never is in the temperate days of Summer.
Alice has been spotted. She is lost in the undergrowth behind the Scout Hut at the back of my house, and makes regular forays to shelter in the outhouse in my neighbours garden. Though it seems as though every neighbour and every little crowd gathered to watch the kitten in the red bow tie bouncing around the long grass apparently joyously, has seen her, I have yet to set eyes on her, and she is taking on a mythical quality in my mind. There but not there. The Scarlet Pimpernel of cats. Too many hours lost to calling her name and wondering if she is only feet away, sniggering at my rather desperate antics. Frightened of losing something else.
Last night I took Finley for his very first bag of fish and chips in a chippy that now has the glory that is gluten-free Mondays. We drove to Formby, queued for an age (Finn was nearly delirious with excitement and had the whole chippy in fits while he worried out loud about whether the chips were likely to kill him!) and then drove to the beach, where we ate the chips straight from the paper watching the ships come in to port before taking Alfie for a walk on the blowy, dusky beach. The sky orange and cold. The boats and their little tugs, black.
My phone had died. I had no means of taking pictures. Could not record Alfie’s fear of the iron men stood staring out to sea. Couldn’t video Finley writing his name large in the sand, or the bliss on his face when he first tasted an onion ring drenched in salt and vinegar. I was just there. In the moment. Laughing. And running. And enjoying my Finley, for he is growing up so fast and in his eleven years all too often I have watched him with a bloggers eye… looking for the story-worthy. The most handsome pose. The funniest phrase. And now I want to devour what is left of babyhood. Experience it. Drown in him, while he is still willing to hold my hand in public.
There are memories to be made. And decisions. About his future. And mine. But it is October. So there is time to dwell on new thoughts and mad ideas, while we wander down the lane, leaf-kicking and squirrel-spotting. Deciding what school Finn should attend in twelve months and what Mummy should do with the rest of her life. Is this a life? I don’t know.
The leaves are falling. And the times they are a-changing.
I must have been very wicked in a former life or else the universe is really rather keen to only lend me animals when it believes I need them, and is just as quick to remove them from my arms the minute it thinks I don’t.
Alice, my cute as a button little black house cat has gone missing. She pushed open the stable door yesterday and simply disappeared. As she is the second black cat to vanish from my lane in the past two weeks I am really rather sick with worry and I have spent the past twenty four hours wandering around the vicinity, crawling through undergrowth and falling down holes in a relentless search for her, as she must be nothing short of terrified out of her wits with my crotchety neighbours warning that there “are ways and means of getting rid of animals” ringing in my ears after Alfie barked too much one afternoon.
One does so very much hate to be fatalistic about this thing we call life, but it does rather seem that I cannot be laid low by one disaster at a time, but must instead be walloped around the head with as many smelly, dead fish as the universe can throw at me.
Readers I am exhausted. And in danger of turning in to Liz Jones, all woe is me and I can’t go on and hells bells here comes another story about her bloody pets!
I so desperately want my life back.
Dig Here! (Project Gutenberg)
Someday’s I don’t think I have got the brains I was born with. Words wiggle about on the page and I cannot make sense of even the most sensible of sentences. These outbreaks of stupidness come and go, most often when I find myself in a spot of emotional bother, and when they do I seek literary comfort in the pile of vintage books I almost always keep stacked at the side of my bed.
Sadly since Alfie came into my life, the need to stash everything even remotely edible has reached comical new peaks as this is a puppy with a taste for yellowed paper and the sight of him wandering past me with yet another vintage children’s classic chewed to bits is enough to make me want to cry…
So today I have had to banish my books to high places. No more the pretty little stacks of lovely words I have been used to but instead a Kindle filled with little vintage treats, sourced form the virtual library that is Gutenberg and just right for the days when your head won’t work and your dog is determined to drive you to devil-worship.
Tonight’s bedtime book? A charming little school-based mystery from one Gladys Allen. Just right for a head won’t work day and utterly free on Project Gutenberg…