Thursday, 31 July 2008

Our summer holidays are begun. Bliss. Things slowing down, everyone getting enough sleep. H, A, Granny M and I made the revolution on the London Eye the other day, as the girls chose it as a birthday present. It was my third time, and no different, no freaky swaying winds, no terrorist alerts, just half an hour creeping round a circle looking at the view. Well, for £15 you want a lot of view. Although bizarre behaviour exhibited by one of our fellow captives/passengers - she was applying make up, spending most of her time looking in a mirror. I can understand people doing that on a train or maybe a bus if they have a steady hand - but if you are paying for the ride, at a cost of £1 per two minutes, I take the view that every second counts, and peering down at people who are 'titchy like ants' is what you are there for. I used to 'air dry' my hair on my way to work in Worksop by having all the windows open, so I know what it is like to perform your toilet in public. For a few weeks, R had to drop me off in Worksop as he was working in Clowne, so then he used to drive and I put on mascara. Don't do it very often, I probably have the same tube, and these happy Worksop days we speak of were in 95-96.

What can I say about Worksop? Nothing positive, so will say nothing. Actually, there was a good pub, a Wilkinsons and Mr Straws house, a NT treasure, but not worth going there for. Poor old Worksop. They must have a hardworking team in Tourist Information. Run off their feet, no doubt.

Yesterday we went to Polesden Lacey, a NT house near brother and sister in laws house. We got there early, and did a 'short walk', and then Angie, with pushchair and friend with double buggy, said we could carry on up to the grounds but the pushchairs wouldn't make it (stiles etc) and they would meet up with us in the grounds. Ha! Never ever go on one of Angie Gibbs' 'short' walks, especially not if she has declined, and even more especially not with 2 year olds. She could work for Worksop tourist board and have people pouring in!

Forgot to tell you that on Saturday we had a wonderful afternoon at the home of one of R's mum's cousins, who coincidentally lives in Claygate and whose daughters went to Brownies with me. They live in one of the very smartest roads in Claygate, with a fantastically huge back garden ( think Aunty Penny and then some!). The occasion was a garden party to get all the descendants of R's great grandad William Chalmers together in one place. They managed somewhere between 50-70 souls, including partners, and 4 generations represented. We had family trees to pass around and name tags to identify us. Fabulous food and very lovely people, met some faces for the names Mary speaks about, and some she doesn't, and all were pleasant. Including the one I remember from Brownies, she was Sixer of the Leprachauns when I joined up, as a novice Kelpie. There were more boys than girls, a few little girls but a whole stack of boys between 4 and 7, all of whom had stripped down to nothing before we got there. As I peered through the gate on our way in I was alarmed to see that from that angle, the dress code was 'bare all'! Not something I expected from the Chalmers. Anyhow, H gamely got her tankini out of the car and joined in the water games with the boys, while A kept her knickers on and played with the other little girls on the bike and in the shrubbery! Ouch!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

35 miles in the saddle - we did it! Thought I should get the news out here before the pap photos hit OK! If you want photo evidence, I can only recommend taking a photo of the saddle impression in Ang's and my own derrieres. We didn't take any pics, too busy breathing up hills, using skills learnt at ante natal classes to minimise the pain, or freewheeling down hills, in daredevil whizzing round corners without brakes on.

Should you wish to replicate the experience, it was route Y of the Test Valley Leisure maps, thoughtfully downloadable from the web. We started at Mottisfont and Dunbridge station, then up hill and down a fab descent to Broughton, via a pig farm, and then through the Wallops to Grately ( massive hill climb) then past and through some more picturesque villages like Monxton and Abbots Ann, then Long somewhere and somewhere else that I was past caring about, then to Stockbridge, which has several fine pubs (too fine for our purses) and a popular stream side cafe/bakery, which was doing a good trade, with other cycling enthusiasts. Some old chaps with West Surrey on their tops and decidely cycling style kit on put us to shame. The rule of the road is that all cyclists say hello to each other, and some with flash kit overtake you. We managed to overtake a party of 5, going up a hill, although they had stopped at the top when we actually overtook. I managed to find a sneaky loo in a cricket club, with a vase of gerberas and real towels. Will vote for it in the Good Loo guide. My favourite village was Abbots Ann, what a great name. Village shop looked appealing, and a bloke getting out of a sports car WINKED at me! Whatever next. Seems everyone in that part of the world drives a sports car or a landrover, or probably both. Sadly we bypassed the appealingly named Red Rice. After leaving Stockbridge we had a pleasant pootle back to Houghton, then back to the station and pub at Dunbridge. Ang has been looking forward to a beer, and I had £3.70 left in my purse, so I purchased a half pint for her, and the obligatory diet coke for me. No sooner had I put her drink down than she had flipped her arm round over the table and knocked the lot to the floor. With only £1.35 left, we couldn't stretch to another, so she licked the table. Not really.

Spent a good 20 mins stretching on the pub patio, then moved over to the station platform to do some pilates style exercises on the warm tarmac. Was a fabulous day, if legs and bum a little sore, and Ang is keen to do it again - our next route is going to be one we can fit in during a school day. Any takers to come with us? Only qualification is to have use of a bike, fitness levels variable. Go on!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Managed to slip into Romsey Abbey yesterday, avoiding the £2 tax levied by the quilting club who were exhibiting there, and therefore not looking at any of the brightly coloured and beautiful quilts flung all over the stone walls, floor and any other receptacle. Was hunting for more White-Whites, but clearly their line didn't reach Romsey. Popped into a quilting fanatics shop (was with Anna, who while not a quilter, is keen on fabric) and it was heaving with quilters, all of whom have reached a certain age and girth. It was a small shop, and not really thought through in terms of the size of customers squeezing between each other and the swathes of fabric with pictures of lemurs.

I have successfully negotiated a writing contract for a top salary with a national magazine, ok, I have joined the reader panel of a small local magazine. But I am looking forward to writing for a known audience, and the discipline that will bring to my thoughts. Writing a blog is challenging, I feel, because for all I know, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and Martin Luther King are amongst my readership. Maybe not MLK then if you're fussy about the afterlife. I am careful not to say too much that would destroy, for example, our 'special' relationship' with our cousins across the pond. From my days writing letters for Amnesty, I learnt how quick the US are to go to court, and am very careful not to get myself put in gaol. In Kate Adie's book, she uses the English spelling, gaol, which I like and will emulate here. I see myself and Kate as similar in our careers as journalists. Neither of us set out to be journalists, you see, but had it forced upon us.

My other reading matter is called 'B******s to Alton Towers' and is a tour of stupidly quaint English tourist attractions. Number 1 on the list was Blackgang Chine, which regular readers will know is one of my personal top list of places to avoid before you die. Or die while there, falling off a cliff.

I spent from 10pm til 8am mopping up sick or wiping or bathing A or attending to her being sick. For a 4 year old, she is damned good at running for the loo, and staying put til its all done, but bless her, we were up a lot in the night and by morning there was nothing left inside to come out, either end. She tried. So, a stack of laundry today, but a three hour sleep this afternoon for her, worn out little darling, after she held down some water and some milk. I slept in her room with her: so not much sleep, but I am very proud of how brave she was, and very amazed at all those mums around the world, who, today, will watch that scene played out in their own babies' but without ceasing, until they just fade away and die. There is nothing like that helplessness of being a parent but not being able to do much except hold them, to engender solidarity with those mums like me who don't live inside the NHS safety net, with clean water and good food. And to spur us on not only to prayer but to action.

Monday, 14 July 2008

OK. Last weekend we went to Christchurch. Lots to tell you about it, but first, the name of a lady who died there and left enough cash to have a small tablet of stone pinned up on the church wall. Her name was Fanny. Don't laugh yet. This is the funny bit. Her surname, was White-White. Fanny White-White. Now what was going on there? Did she marry a different branch entirely, and want to make a point about not having married her cousin? Or was it her cousin and she was trying to make it seem more exotic? Really. I know the Crandons missed a trick when they opted not to become the Crandon Swanns, and obviously and most guttingly Emily did not become Emily Moon - Light. Which was really worth doing, but if you are called White, just live with it, squaring it isn't going to help.

Apart from the obvious details on the Priory walls which any casual visitor to Christchurch would zoom in on, there were many other features of the town making it worth visiting. A river with swans, an old castle and keep or something to play princesses in, a fantastic church that was a monastery. Selection of shops, including a fish shop - if you like fish you can go and learn how to cook it there. Although clearly if you really liked fish you wouldn't want to cook them. A bandstand, with belly dancers and morris dancers. Although not at once. An old mill which was free and had a man inside playing the piano and singing. A paddling pool and a good play area, right on the quayside. And best of all, a prime parking position at Christchurch sailing club, where we were visitors. Now, there is the sailing club we know, which is a wooden tumbling down hut opposite the Fawley power station. Good points: ridiculously cheap food and drink, rope swing, camping field. And there is Christchurch sailing club. For which you need to know the password to get in, has proper carpet and expensive food and drink, and which is mostly populated by elderly members who no longer sail in anything shorter than 36 foot. The welcome was wonderful, very accomodating people, whose open meeting was only ruined by the awful weather. It rather spoilt our camping adventure too, as I did not sleep on the Saturday night as I listened to the wind and rain, but was delighted to find all of us dry and still in the same spot we had pitched when dawn eventually broke. Best £50 purchase on ebay, that tent! We have taken to wanton use of the gas canister as a general tent heating device, making the time spent camping a little more pleasant. I was groaning that I was too old for camping but sadly the girls love it and I do too, when the sun shines. A said, in the car in the rain, that it was better than Fuertaventura.

I have planned a killer cycle ride with that well known Tour de France veteran Angela Whitmore. We are going on it next weekend ( I know, I usually don't tell you anything in advance for fear of stalking ( Steve) ) BUT today's voyages will make more sense if you appreciate that I am in training.

1. to nursery with A on back. Back of bike, NOT on my back.
2 to Hedge End to get something laminated and take library books back. Also bought a danish pastry and a smoothie and a sweater in a charity shop. Did not buy the pastry and the smoothie in the charity shop, got them in the coop.
3. to Bitterne. Met Angela and granma for a quick pit stop in Bakers Oven.
4. Swam about 20 lengths at Bitterne Public Drains.
5. Biked home, without getting off up that hill.
6. To nursery with H cycling too.
7. to Haskins, all the way down Cutbush lane. Nice off road route, but not really for bikes, as loads of those metal things to stop you going too fast. Ate a scone and drank tea.
8. Home from Haskins along the A27 on the too narrow pavements next to too fast cars. Walked all the way up the hill from West End to the church.
9. Collapsed in the bath with a glass of wine and Kate Adie.