Monday, 25 November 2013

Senior Moments

Last week the intrepid granny came to stay as part of her cunning plan to simplify Christmas. Now that she has sensibly stopped terrorising the other motorists on the M1 when she makes her way up to Yorkshire and lets the train take the strain instead, she is not as able to cart all the Yorkshire-bound Christmas presents up here for the annual festivities. So she decided to come up for two days of full-on, no-holds-barred Christmas shopping and wrapping. This all took place last week and after a day of shopping which started at 8.45am and finished at 3.45pm, we both needed a very large drink! And of course, the intrepid granny is up to her usual tricks, her current favourite being as follows: When she is in the sitting room watching the television, drink in hand, whilst the rest of us are variously working, cooking, doing homework, etc, she will suddenly let out an ear-piercing shriek. Cue the rest of us (though the twins have wised up now...) dashing in to check that she has not had some sort of seizure.  No, she is fine but there is someone on the television that she wishes us to see. This could be anybody from a representative of any political party other than the one she supports in which case this is followed by a torrent of abuse which would make a sailor blush (the Scottish Nationalists are at the top of her current hit list). Alternatively it could be any member of the Warwickshire or England cricket teams in which case she would merely like us to stand back and admire.

I was, however, more drawn by another group of people older than me (yes, such a thing does exist though in increasingly smaller numbers as time marches on). Our lane is part of a popular walk for ramblers and there was a large posse of silver ramblers complete with backpacks, matching anoraks (husband and wife models), dogs and sticks on our lane the other day. When I buzzed up to the village in the little car to collect number 4 from the bus, they all stood obligingly in the hedge whilst I made my way past. Five minutes later they were clearly less thrilled to be doing the same thing again but I had now collected number 4 and we were heading home. The following morning when I walked the dogs, there was a good scattering of litter on the lane and with some irritation I picked it up and stuffed it in my pocket. Now I usually associate litter with a) teenagers, b) white van men and c) townies but I don't think any of the above eat egg and cress sandwiches from a well-known and rather upmarket supermarket. Take your litter home, old folks!

And finally, I received a belter of an email from an old (in the sense that we have known each other a long time and he is a little, but only a little, older than me) chum and as it is a true story, it deserves (permission granted by my chum) to be included here. I have taken the liberty of editing the original a little but it arrived under the heading 'Drugs Bust in Newton Kyme?'

This is the story:

  • After 2 hours of tennis this lunchtime I returned from Leeds and parked my car in the public carpark in the centre of Boston Spa to do some shopping.
  • I went to the convenience store first, returned to my car and put the items in the boot.
  • Then I went to the hardware store, returned to my car and put the items in the boot and then got into the car and drove out of the carpark.
  • Immediately I realised that I'd forgotten to go the chemist for some nasal spray. Luckily there was a space on the High Street just 50 yards away from where I had originally parked, so I pulled in and dashed into the chemists.
  • I bought the spray and had a laugh with the assistant who said it was the Isotonic version and she joked that I'd better be extra careful!
  • Laughing I went back to the central carpark and, of course, no car!!!  Jeez, I thought what do I do? I'd left my mobile in the car.
  • I returned to the hardware store and used their phone to dial 999.
  • The operator brought up all my details in an instant, almost including my inside leg measurement! He said there would be someone there very shortly.
  • I returned to the carpark and was wondering did I forget to lock it etc? Then I thought I'd better go onto the High Street to await the police.
  • Then I immediately saw my car parked where I'd left it, opposite the chemists!  I saw blue lights and two cop cars pulled up, jamming the High Street.
  • After I had explained, the cops said they'd cancel the alert and I was free to go. As I drove the 2 miles back to Newton Kyme I was reflecting on what a plonker I had been!
  • However just as I turned off the main road there were two further cop cars waiting in a side road and immediately they raced towards me, boxing me in!
  • Then a further (unmarked) police car arrived within seconds and boxed me in good and proper! Three cop cars in Newton Kyme. Is this a world record?
  • One of the cops reached in and removed the ignition key just in case I had ideas of ramming the front car and making a break for it!
  • I have to say they were all very courteous. I had to produce my photocard driving licence and insurance etc and they let me go. They were absolutely marvelous. They didn't heave me out and spreadeagle me across the cars like they do on American movies.
  • Anybody driving by must have thought it was a serious drugs bust!
I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed that my friend wasn't spreadeagled over the bonnet but I can only say, there but for the grace of God go us all! Thanks for sharing! 

I couldn't find a suitable photograph so here's number 3 playing tennis with a wooden racquet that might well be as old as some of the characters featured above!

Monday, 11 November 2013

A tale of two black ties

About a month ago, this last weekend was designated as two early nights, a whole heap of gardening and some Strictly-watching, fire-hugging inaction. What it turned out to be was rather different...

It's not often that I find myself at two black tie events in the same weekend. It is much more likely to be two black tie events a year now that we have grown up (or at least grown more sedate) from our madly social thirties and forties. However, the truth is that twice this weekend, I put on my posh frock (not the same one, obviously) and killer heels for charity. But the two events were so hugely contrasting that I thought I should share. You never know, you might have been at one of them, but I think I can confidently say that I was the only person at both!

Friday night's formal event was held by, not for, Dementia Forward, the charity which I, as part of Acorn, am proud to support. The guest list was made up of Dementia Forward staff, volunteers and supporters - put me in the latter category - and clients and their husbands, wives and carers. It was a glorious celebration of two things. The first was the incredible achievement of winning the National Nursing Times award for Mental Health Care. This had been presented at Grosvenor House in London earlier in the week and is a great achievement for the team. They had rebelled against the one-size-fits-all approach to dementia, set up in their own right, taken a huge risk and made their service more client-centric that anything else on offer. And the Nursing Times rightly gave them the plaudits they so greatly deserve and held it up as an example to others. Brilliant!

The second excitement of the evening was in the guise of a premiere for a short film made by Dementia Forward and starring not just the workers and volunteers but also those lovely individuals and couples who are so easily written off and written out of the script of life. The film was incredibly moving and featured a screen kiss from the lovely Mack and Freda who are such keen participants in all that Dementia Forward offers. Their love and their life together are a testament to all of those affected by dementia. This was followed by an Oscars ceremony presented by my dear friend Patrick Dunlop of Strayfm who has magnificently helped us raise the profile of dementia in the area and did a stirling job of presenting the awards and kissing just about everybody who won!

All I can say is that every time I attend an event with Dementia Forward, whether it's Singing for Fun, one of the regular luncheons or last Friday's dinner, the room is so full of good feeling that I can float home on the memory of the courage, determination and selfless love of the people involved. If ever you're feeling sorry for yourself, go along and sing at Christ Church on a Thursday morning with the Dementia Forward group and I guarantee you'll feel better.

A mere twenty four hours later and I'm in the other dress and killer heels to attend the Firecracker Ball with my beloved. I suspect we may have been late replacements but we were happy to go and party on down. The Firecracker is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Barnardo's and they aim to raise over £100,000 so it was a seriously all-singing, all-dancing event from Bangla drummers and dancers, the biggest, sparkliest marquee I've ever been in and a really top band - Ali Campbell from UB40 no less. For me, however, the two highlights of the night were meeting the South Yorkshire Police Inspector who spoke bravely about child sexual exploitation in his area and was the main speaker at the Ball. He has an incredibly tough job to do and the press have rightly lambasted the Police for not tackling child grooming in the past. But it sounds like real progress is being made at last.

The second highlight was having my photograph taken with Bradley Wiggins - just before his minders put a stop to people coming up with exactly the same ridiculous request as me. Apparently he was there as a private guest. Top tip, Sir Bradders: if you don't want people to spot you at these events (and I was very polite when I asked for a photograph as you can imagine), then don't wear a grey pinstripe suit to a black tie dinner. My beloved pointed out that I was much braver about going up to Wiggo than I was when we were at a similar event a few years ago when Jonny Wilkinson was there. Simple explanation coming up: Wiggo is a man who wears lycra and cycles very, very fast. Jonny Wilkinson is a god. That is all.

So I'm posh-frocked out at the moment and looking forward to a quiet weekend where my most glamorous function is going to see my son play his trumpet in a concert in Harrogate. And that's enough for me.
Sir Bradley Wiggins with the only woman in the room without a spray tan or botox!

Postscript: Talking of trumpet-playing, number 3 played The Last Post at our village Remembrance Sunday service yet again. And I never cease to be moved to tears by it all. I now know there were just 52 villages in Great Britain where no lives were lost in World War 1. Ours was not amongst those 'Thankful Villages' as they are known and the death toll in our little village ran to double figures in that war. We rightly and respectfully remember them.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Waiting for the third thing

The rule of three or omne trium perfectum as it is correctly known is the phenomenon of things happening in threes and when two things have happened in this house I am always waiting for the third. It is no coincidence that my unpublished novel (yes, still trying to find an agent) is called The Rule of Three as this is a truth that holds good in our lives - for good or ill.

This week has been something of a minor disaster-fest at the little house on the prairie and things started unravelling on Wednesday. It was early evening and having cleared away the supper and restored order in the kitchen, I was lighting the fire in the sitting room accompanied by the junior dog who whines until the fire is lit and she can settle at my feet next to the pile of newspapers (I'm usually still working my way through the previous Saturday and Sunday papers until midweek). Amidst the crackling of the fire and noises from various televisions, a faint 'help' was audible - just. I assumed the sound had originated from one of the screens - wrongly as it turned out. Returning the coal bucket to the boiler room I encountered my beloved covered in debris. He had been sitting on the throne in the downstairs loo with his laptop on his knee when the ceiling collapsed on him! By way of explanation, about a month ago, we had a leak under the bath (directly above the aforementioned loo) which was fixed by our lovely plumber, Steve (of whom more later). He did say at the time that the waste pipe had been leaking for some time and things were fairly wet under the bath. We hoped that things would dry out in a satisfactory manner. They didn't - and the loo ceiling had disintegrated all over my beloved and the floor of the loo. A major clear-up was called for in the short term and a subsequent call to the insurance company.

Whilst all this domestic stuff was occurring, number 1 child has been in Los Angeles touting her acting skills around the film and television industry capital of the world - hopefully, with some success, and if things come to fruition no doubt it will be blogged about. Anyway the plan was for her to have the last two days of her three week trip to the States in San Francisco, staying in a nice hotel courtesy of her parents and having a look round that most unique cosmopolitan city. Due to fly out of LAX on Friday morning, or Friday evening UK time, to San Francisco before heading back to London on Sunday, all had been going well. Meanwhile on Friday evening we were in a pub (now there's a shock) with friends when my beloved's phone rang. It was number 1 asking us if we had heard the news of the gunman at LAX and that the airport had been evacuated. She was safe, of course, and luckily had somewhere to stay courtesy of the brother of my schoolfriend Genevieve who has been absolutely brilliant. But all domestic flights had been cancelled and she was not going to make it to San Francisco in the next twenty four hours. Cue my beloved re-organising hotels and flights because number 1 struggles with the phone and that makes life difficult over long distances.

Two disasters down and I am on the alert for the third. On Saturday morning I check the tyres and gears on my bike extra thoroughly before heading out - just in case. My beloved goes off with various weapons to go shooting (he always looks lovely when he's going out to kill things ... ) and I hope he's going to come back unscathed. Then England beat Australia and I think we're going to be ok. Maybe this time no third thing.

It's now twenty four hours after the airport crisis and we are still wrestling with the flights/accommodation issues in another continent because the domestic terminal is still closed. My beloved is cooking dinner whilst skypeing with number 1 and I am sorting out the fire with the whining dog and looking forward to Strictly. Then from the kitchen a yell of something much worse than the 'help' of earlier in the week. I dash through to find my beloved soaked to the skin doing the equivalent of 'Dutch boy with finger in the dyke' under the sink with a lot less success. The cold pipe (direct from the mains) has perished and our stopcock is almost impossible to turn. There is cold water rushing out all over the kitchen floor at considerable pressure. Cue child 3, my beloved and me with buckets and towels trying to stem the flow whilst we try to get hold of the lovely plumber again.

To cut a very long story short, we left a message on his mobile but that got no response and eventually I tracked his address down on the internet as he had once applied for planning permission (what a marvellous tool the internet is in a crisis - so much for anonymity!). I drove up the village, banged on his door, rang the bell and finished up hammering on the window in a way that might have been scary had it still been Halloween, before his daughter who rushes about on a tennis court with me in the summer came to the window. Because he is a very kind chap, he came out in the pouring rain and saved our bacon - well, our kitchen anyway and it no longer resembles a swimming pool.

Child 1 is on her way to San Francisco though she won't get further than the airport as she flies home from there without the time to explore the city and we have the number for a builder who might be able to repair the ceiling in the downstairs loo.

Deny the power of omne trium perfectum at your own risk!
Looking gorgeous when going out to kill things. He looked slightly less gorgeous when soaked in the kitchen later!