Vulgar vulgar vulgar, but by God, we've missed you...

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Occasionally, when the blood sugar is low or they've just had double maths or cross-country, the bots will work themselves into an indignant home-time back-seat fury that they weren't born American. They see it as a huge waste that I went to High School, had a locker and a boyfriend with a letter jacket and STILL act more Penelope Keith than Irene Cara. With all my advantages and all.

On less angry days (lost trackie bums, lost hymn books), they content themsleves with whining 'Why did you leave London, Mummy, whhhyyyyy, we love London, whyyyy can't we still live there, all the cousins do, it's not faiiiirrr.' And sometimes, as I stand in Morrisons with more teeth in my head than the rest of the shop put together, I wonder the same thing myself.

However, they went off happily this weekend for a metro-fix and I stayed here thinking, for the second time in 16 years, that however bleak my life may feel on waking, at least I am not the Duchess of York. God Almighty, woman.

The cousins the bots are staying with have a friend whose dad used to Play For Chelsea.and now Manages A Team. Freddie hyperventilates just going over the threshold, even though he has never met him and is also furious that I have. 13 years ago when babysitting the cousins. Before he was born. Anyway, Freddie rang me this morning. 'Daddy's got something to ask,' he squeaked in a big rush. 'Well,' drawled  Edward, 'the bots have been invited to go swimming with the cousins at you-know-who's place. If we go, we'll be back too late for supper, so we were just wondering.. He paused. I imagined Freddie, sturdy legs and sticky fingers pretzelled in prayer - I heard him breathe 'pleasepleaseplease.'

'No bloody way,' I sputtered, 'I've been slaving over the curry all damn morning, how dare you even ask?'

Just kidding.

I said yes, and heard the shriek all the way from south west London. I'm going to put aubergines and courgettes and other hijus vegetables in the curry and when I've eaten it, I'm going to fall off the wagon into three bottles of burgundy, spark up a Silk Cut and stagger down the Rotary Club to see if anyone wants an introduction to Edward. Fifty quid'll do it.

Confused readers click here for the whole fabulously funny intrusive gutter journalism at its worst story.

talk of situations, read books, repeat quotations

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Yesterday, I took my imaginary black dog and my very real taupe dog to a meadow close to my house. The taupe dog leapt about like a March hare, pausing suddenly, stock-still, in hunting pose. Her ear pinkly folded back, paw cocked, nut-brown nose quivering before dropping her haunches and charging madly off in the opposite direction to the ball I had launched.

I lay in the grass and thought about how long it felt since I'd been warm. Fat, mauve clover and leggy eager-faced buttercups have carpeted the ground in a matter of days. The sun was so strong it almost throbbed. I could smell the lacy drifts of hawthorne, heard bees, boats on the river, distant shouting. From my prone pose, I threw the sopping ball, then tensed as I heard her thunder back to throw herself heavily on top of me, panting delightedly and proudly.

I am alone for the weekend. The sun has been blazing for hours, mocking my pitiful gloom. The roses from my birthday party are soft and wilting. I am making a flask of lattte to take to the beach with the dog, the paper and a grisly murder on my i-pod.

Later, I'm making a complicated curry for the bots coming back tomorrow night. That's when the sun will really come out.

When all other pleasures fade...

Thursday, 20 May 2010

About three million years ago, Edward paid a few guineas and we ran off to Spetses, an island which I think is somewhere off the Greek coast, most famous for not allowing cars and forcing poor hot tourists to get off the hydrofoil and pile their stuff on picturesque but slow donkeys.

While we were there, it was Black Wednesday. Edward spent a lot of time reading days-old Daily Mails (pre-pre-internet, in fact pre-mobile phone) to work out if we could even afford to get home as clearly the global money markets had waited for the second we left London to go into freefall.

We had an apartment above a wicked old East End chap who was clearly on the run. He was walnutty brown and wrinkly and had a filthy temper. He lay in the shade grumbling endlessly about the sodding heat and the dirty Greek germs. We played Scrabble on the wrought iron balcony above him, shamelessly and gleefully eavesdropping on him barking angrily at the busty bird with him. 'Ave yer washed them tea-tahls aht yet? I don't wanna catch nuffink nasty. Get us a cuppa if you got time to lie abaht in the bloody sun all day.' We concocted a gloriously violent and blood-soaked history for him, scaring ourselves stupid. When the Scrabble tiles fell down onto his terrace, we shot into the shadows of our room, eyes huge and hands clapped to our faces, listening to the stream of furious sweary threats he directed at the source of clattering alphabetical rain. We didn't dare ask for them back.

I also read AS Byatt's Possession that holiday; cold glasses of rose washing down salads made of great mis-shapen tomatoes, pale creamy clouds of taramasalata piled on thick sweet bread and warty, intensely-flavoured cucumbers. I struck up so many conversations about the book; everyone seemed to be reading it or just finished. Impromptu book groups sprang up on the jetty; we women swooning over the clever parallel love stories and sumptuous descriptions of Victorian mourning jet jewellery. Overhead, lines of squid and octopi dried and the English men watched the wiry Greek fishermen slither their catches onto the cobbles, choosing what they would eat when the sun went down.

It was an odd juxtaposition, but a strangely pleasing one, and when, years later, I ended up living in Richmond a few roads away from where a crucial 19th century denoument took place in the book, it seemed a logical and fitting reason to re-read it, this time across smoky autumn twilit afternoons. I highly recommend it, sun or gloom, and mention it because I am now reading her The Children's Book and have been suddenly reminded of the fabulousness of her writing. Never condescending, always scholarly, her stories combine credible Victorians and a dense domestic detail that draws you deftly in to witness coversations, fires, meals of long-ago times. There are also several wonderful secrets and glimpses into the Victorian cellars and storage areas of the V&A museum, one of the most wonderful places on earth. I am revelling in it.

We can all learn from Alice

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

'Dahling Alice, this is all very well my deah, but is this really the right time to swan about off your face on morphine, seducing all the neighbours, banging away at your ukelele, swathed in jewels and keeping a black panther when the country doesn't even have a Prime Minister?'

Loyal readers will remember the obsession I have with the mystery surrounding the murder of Lord Erroll in Kenya in the first half of the last century and how unspeakably dull and hectoring I can become on the subject at the drop of a pith helmet. Well, it would appear it was Alice de Janze wot done it - portrayed with glazed and dirty elegance by Sarah Mills in White Mischief. For the past week or so, I have been glued to this book every waking minute. She was riddled with madness and style, abandoning her sons and adopting a baby leopard. The writing is a little wooden, but her fascinating story is gripping and well overdue.

Which is a shame, because while I have been hiding in Happy Valley, we have elected a schizophrenic Government, Greece is in economic and civil meltdown and Freddie's school swimming trunks are now budgie smugglers. He told Edward 'Mummy bought them three years ago and they're so small now. I'm worried I might hurt myself.'

So I need to get my maternal finger out and save his manhood, my professional finger out and go to Wales for two days and organise training on some hijusly dull bit of obscure legislation then my culinary finger out for two lovely weekend houseguests.

Then I am shoving my cloche hat on, parking my arse on the verandah, under a leopard, shouting at the houseboy to bring me gin and opium and shooting dead anyone that annoys me.

No changes there, then.

To sit with a dog on a hillside

Monday, 10 May 2010

I've had a skip parked in the drive for the past two weeks. No, thanks for asking, I haven't been trapped under it. Nor has the Colonel buried me in it. Nor have I thrown myself from the attic window, half-pike-tuck-and-twist to land perfectly in the rotting cardboard, ancient ladders, heartbreaking outgrown and loved-to-bits-toys and piss-smelling flops of brown swirly carpet. The man who came to get it said with evident delight 'you clearly never read the agreement, Modom. Them fridges will have to come out, I can't take them.' So the skip has gone but two fridges and a freezer stand in a pikey way on the drive and are more annoying than the fact he claimed 'Health & Safety' as his reason for leaving them rather than the truth. Which was clearly: let's see if we can make a grown woman cry when she gets home from work.

Anyway, apart from looking like Kizzy's gaff from the outside, great strides are being made indoors Sorting Things Out. The Colonel, between assignments, has turned his gimlet eye to domestic matters. There is now a regimental order to pretty much everything, from wooden spoons to lingerie. The bots and I are road-testing the sytem to destruction: 'where are my blue shin-pads?' 'the notebook I wrote the Twighlight pre-quel in?' 'my wits/patience/sense of humour?' He is doing a great job; however, this is the payback:

He thinks the dog should be out of her cage and sleeping in her basket on the upstairs landing. I am nervous that she will abuse this freedom and double her opportunity to find something wildly expensive (feather curtain tie-backs, silk bed throw, anything with a La Perla label) and chew the shit out of it while we are all asleep.

The bots are, understandably, enormously pro this plan. Of course, she never eats football boots or M&S pants and they know that she will sneak silently onto their beds in the dead of night and curl up with a bone-breaking sigh in the crook of their knees, slither a silky head under their chins and breathe sweetly and heavily in their ears and they will all pretend she had JUST arrived when I thump in to wake them and grumble about hairy beds and muddy paws.

I think I need to learn to pick my battles.