Monday, 24 September 2012

Harvesting Balls

This weekend there was a massive push in the garden. The various reasons for this included it being extremely overgrown, the weather being good with some diabolical weather on the horizon, the impending arrival of the intrepid granny who is coming to watch the Ryder Cup on our big telly next weekend, and the fruit needed picking. So whilst my beloved whirled round with the lawnmower and various sharp implements, I set about planting bulbs, weeding borders and picking fruit.

In previous years, we have had a shedload (literally!) of fruit with me performing as the fruit fairy to try to relieve the glut. This involved me bagging up fruit and leaving it on the doorsteps of friends who either have large numbers to feed or are keen jam-makers. For many years we had our own veg fairy - a lovely old gentleman (no longer with us, sadly) who sometimes found life at home rather too noisy and would seek sanctuary in my kitchen. He never arrived empty-handed so we always knew when he'd been if we were unlucky enough to be out because he left spinach or cauliflower or cabbages or green beans from his very impressive vegetable garden in Spofforth.

This year, there is a pitiful amount of fruit - no greengages, a few eating apples and there are cookers to come on the tree, a fair few blackberries and three plums. Three plums was a cause of great celebration amongst my children. In years gone by, we have had enough plums to feed a small African country. And, because I can't bear to waste food, as well as the fruit fairy thing, I would cook them and make plum pies and plum crumbles and other plum delicacies which I would freeze and then present to my family on a weekly basis all through the year resulting in plum-fatigue. So imagine their joy yesterday when I announced I had harvested all the plums and there were only three!

The other harvesting was the result of cutting back and weeding some of the borders which produced several golf balls - some rather good Calloway ones actually - and a good crop of tennis balls. I know there will be cricket balls as well, I just haven't got to them yet!

So the seasons have turned again and as well as the swallows leaving for warmer climes - I'm quite happy for them to fly solo unlike the Ryanair pilots - number two daughter will be leaving this week but only as far as Harrogate. Not very exciting you might think except that she will be a home-owner which is a most definite sign that she will have flown the nest. Number one, of course, lives in London and has never shown any signs of returning home apart from flying visits of which we had one last week. And she too is thinking of leaving for warmer climes but still at the planning stage so too early to say where or when.

Anyway on a positive note, as well as whirling about on the lawnmower, my beloved spent some time on Saturday sitting on the apex on the bathroom roof (not sure if apex is the correct term but you get my drift) mending the hole. So, even though it is raining today, I am no longer concerned that it is raining through the downlighters in the bathroom ceiling. It's probably still raining into the boiler room but you can't have everything...

And finally, as I mentioned, number one came home last week for a few days and it was one of those increasingly rare times when I have all four of my children under one roof. So numero uno and I did some nice things together including a trip to Malham Cove where incidentally they shot some scenes for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows prompting our idea that the next time she comes home we will go and explore another film location - perhaps Aysgarth Falls where they shot Robin Prince of Thieves. Anyway I decided it would be lovely to photograph all four children together and this is what happened...

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Happy New Year and other three word phrases

Last week, my youngest children joined the sixth form at their school. After much moaning, they condescended to stand in the garden and have their photograph taken in their school uniform to mark the event. "Why Mum?", they complained. Because it's only two weeks since I took you to nursery school - or at least, that's how it feels!

This is the start of the new year for me. Twenty four years of autumn terms marking new school years and so we begin again. Twenty four years done and only two to go before the last two flee the nest (probably) and twenty eight years of hands-on, sleeves-up parenting will have come to an end. It's all a bit scary really.

So whilst I am spring cleaning (yes, really!) and getting into those bedrooms which have been almost impenetrable for the last two months - either because they were occupied till nearly lunchtime by comatose teenagers or because, even if I could get in the door, I couldn't find the carpet to vacuum it - I have been looking back on what has been a really epic summer in so many ways.

Cricket and tennis started the summer here with training done and matches played, or not, between showers, and sport was rationed according to GCSE study demands. Then there were the dreaded exams which seriously stretched my maternal resources. I never cracked the conundrum of what to say when one twin gets in the car, post-exam, and tells me it was cool, paper finished, read through and all fine and then the other one gets in and says that it was a nightmare, didn't get to the last question and how everyone thought it was impossible. Nope, still don't know what to say...

Once the exams were behind us, we galloped off to America for our fabulous trains and boats and planes trip to Chicago, San Francisco, California and Las Vegas. Lots of lovely and amazing memories to be stored up for ever and a really special time with children 3 and 4 who will, like the swallows who have crapped all over the garden shed floor, be gone before we know it.

Then a few weeks at home before our great trip to name the house in Guernsey and stay with our brilliant and very dear friends in their amazing new home. And of course, those weeks were completely dominated by the Olympics - more wonderful, more emotional, more just jubilantly British than anyone could possibly have imagined - except maybe Boris Johnson who clearly has a mind differently wired from anybody else. Perhaps his terrific bonkersness is a sort of embodiment of how we are perceived across the world. Who knows?

For me, so ridiculously and often irrationally patriotic at the best of times, I have spent more time in front of the telly, frequently in tears, than I care to admit. But not a moment wasted because those extraordinary Olympians and Paralympians are such an antidote for our celebrity-stained world. And of course, we actually went to the Games. I have met so many people recently who didn't go through the tortuous process of trying to get tickets and who now so bitterly regret it. It was a once-in-a-lifetime.

And so to a rather traumatic results day (parents of twins: you will know what I mean) and we have YES! got a full set of GCSEs and despite some rather hasty A-level-choice-switching to play to our new-found strengths, the term has now begun and life is returning to something like normal.

I could and nearly did write this blog last week but there was one final piece of the jigsaw for me and I didn't want to tempt fate by predicting it. A few weeks ago, someone asked me for a stand-out memory of the Olympics. This is a tough question and after quite a bit of thought and a whole host of possible choices, I came up with the moment when Andy Murray won gold. No question, it was the only prize in tennis Roger Federer has never won and he wanted it but Andy denied him and the British public, for once, were behind him all the way. They called it the fifth slam and it was, so imagine how thrilled and delighted I am that Andy has now won the US Open. When he said his overwhelming feeling was one of relief he spoke for us all!

Finally to the three word phrases: I went to a hen night last weekend. I am not generally good at hen nights - spending the evening with a big group of women with a lot of booze on board is, for me, quite intimidating but I went and had, honestly, a very good evening. Before the do, as it were, we were all asked to describe ourselves in three words. I wasn't witty - though I wish I had been - but truthful. However I did ask the children if they could help me with this. One child decided not to get  involved, one was utterly charming and said nice things about me only to be called a creep by the others, and the other two came up with the following: loud, grumpy, bossy, weird, strict and funny. So much for my parenting skills!