Thursday, December 3, 2009

Countdown to Christmas

Phew! I am pleasantly content - today I started the countdown to Christmas and am beginning to feel festive.

I have decided to behave quite normally in my preparations for the festive season - but I shall have to be more economical with the present giving, and everything else will be as it has been for the past 23 years. I have been slowly accruing presents since September and have rather enjoyed having to really think about the expenditure. T K Maxx has turned up trumps as ever, although I do think the quality and choice is not a patch on the past. Very few recognisable branded goods - but not too bad. The junior daughter has been coaching me as to where the special offers are lurking - so, thank you M & S, you have enjoyed a lot of custom from me this year. And - I am learning to hoard, then redeem, all sorts of money-off vouchers.

To be frank, I am rather ashamed of the cavalier way I used to shop. Being brought up short, as I have been, is no bad thing. Times have changed, and so must I. I resonated with the senior daughter's recent blog about not hoarding, and how it was so much better to actually use things up - which is exactly what I hsve been doing for the past 18 months. So - I have had many wonderful baths, luxuriating in bath oils that I had lined up prettily in the bathroom instead of enjoying.

Dear S, the husband of the lovely H, who helps me in the house, came today and took me to buy my Christmas tree. I climbed into his van, little trailer attached, and off we drove. I nearly died when, after I had chosen the tree, I was told the price. No No! That will NOT do. Down the scale we went - and finally we loaded our choice on to the trailer and we trundled home. I have to confess that I am rather enjoying myself. Life can be quite fun I have discovered, much more fun than it has been for years.

By the end of today, S had mended locks and broken security lights, rehung a kitchen cupboard door that kept fouling the dishwasher, put up the Christmas tree and fixed its lights, piled a whole delivery of logs in the drawing room inglenook ready for Christmas, and dismantled my bed so we could clean underneath it What a star! Much better than a resident husband - more biddable and more charming. The senior daughter spoilt it all for me by saying "Get real, Mamma, you paid him to do it" I know, but they were not jobs I could have done myself.

I then took the dogs for a long walk up the track. It was soggy, damp and muddy - why is it that dogs love the conditions to be so horrible? They raced about and snuffled and snorted, in and out of the hedgerows and ditches, as I trudged along behind them thinking of my Christmas arrangements, the decorations, the food, and all the fun to come.

Billy then went missing and my heart missed a beat. Suddenly he came flying up the field to my right, and I realised he was trapped - I had no idea how he had got into the field, and there was no visible means of escape. He started to panic, seeing me on the other side of the fence, and unable to reach me. He and I are joined at the hip, so I knew he was getting distressed. The fence was solidly wired to ground level, and I too started to panic. Luckily I saw a small tunnel through the grass under the wire, and was able to persuade him to elongate himself enough to squeeze underneath. What a welcome, licks and whines and how I hugged him. Maud just stood, disdain written all over her face, and then when he rejoined us, she turned her back on him and caried on up the track.

Two days ago, Billy had caught his first rabbit. I do not actively encourage the dogs to catch rabbits, but this one looked as if it had been hit by a car, or perhaps was diseased. I called Bill over, and he quickly despatched it. Much kinder to do that - he was so proud of himself. It was his baptism - he is now a grown up boy.

So - the countdown to Christmas. The invitations are lining up on the mantelpiece, the first cards have arrived, we have started our Christmas choir practices, my tree lights are twinkling at me to decorate the tree itself, and all is right with the world.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A final Christmas

It seems impossible that a whole week has gone by, so now I must put fingers to keyboard. I have to confess that there is no eloquence, no flash of inspiration lurking here - I feel flat, uninspired - it is damp, misty, dull and miserable outside and I have much to do inside and no will to so do.

The senior daughter is in London, returning sometime today, so that will cheer me up. It is so good to have someone else in the house, I hadn't realised just how inward looking I had become. Eighteen months almost entirely on my own has made me crabby and fond of my own personal space, and it is a joy to have her here now.

Tiger, the solitary cat, Billy and Maud are very happy indeed to hsve new company - another bed to invade, another person to inflate their egos even further!

I am still waiting for my one-to-one laptop lessons, but we have achieved much in other directions. Huge piles of my clothes have been sorted through, and she is going to E-Bay them for me. Needs must - at a very late stage in my life I am having to resort to all sorts of measures to generate myself some income. My life has changed so radically that I simply will never wear most of my lovely clothes again - we have started with the lesser stuff and are slowly moving upmarket!

I sit and remember exactly why each piece was bought, and when it was worn. A wedding, a fantastic party, a wonderful corporate 'do', my previous life flashing past.

I have unearthed the camel felt hat I bought for the junior daughter's christening, a Philip Somerville, no less, must have been one of his first! My wedding dress, into the dustbin! My mother's silk tulle wedding veil, circa 1939, unfortunately as I unfolded it from its box, it fell apart. I remember that I lent this veil to my lovely friend Rachael, for her wedding. She is one of the senior daughter's much loved godmothers. The outfit I had made for our 30th wedding anniversary party, the dress bought for my 60th birthday lunch. So many memories -all touched with great sadness and poignancy - a life gone for ever, it seems almost as if it never happened.

I feel as if I am giving my life away - for a mess of pottage? Once all this clearing up and sorting out is done, I suppose I shall be able to draw a line under this previous life. My great sadness is that this house has been a wonderful family house for 23 years, and notwithstanding the fact that my husband had behaved appallingly for the entire time we lived here, the girls and I have had a good life here. They have brought their friends home, held their milestone birthday parties here, still come home regularly, still bring their friends, and moving away will be a seismic change.

This house is a Christmas house, it comes to life at this time of the year, and I am immeasurably sad that this will be the last one here. We have a country Christmas -big boughs of spruce over the inglenooks in the dining and drawing rooms, a large tree in the corner of the drawing room, log fires sometimes gently smoking, candles everywhere. We walk up the lane to Christmas Communion on Christmas morning, the church is full and everyone hugs and gives Christmas good wishes to all. Afterwards - a quick breakfast, table laid, lunch organised, then, Champagne and presents in front of the drawing room fire, followed by a late lunch. Every single year, the same routine, set in stone.

Over the years, the numbers have swelled and contracted, as loved ones are no more, and then their places filled by friends or friends of friends, a lovely jolly mixture of people. Yesterday I found a pile of photographs of our Christmases over the past 23 years. I had a little weep, we all looked so happy, why was it not enough for the philanderer? Even whilst he smiled and clowned for the camera, year after year, I now have found out that he was always in other relationships, two-timing both his family and his mistresses. I find it unimaginable, to behave like that.

The thought that keeps returning to me is the one that throughout my marriage, I have given up successive much loved homes and lives, to follow my husband as he changed his jobs, I have gone out to work, commuted long hours, supported him in many ways.

Finally, he has delivered the coup de grace, and the home that I have built to shelter myself and my two girls, where I have made a good life to cushion myself against his treachery, will be taken away from me, for what? He has cheated and deceived, he refuses to maintain me, he still spends thousands on expensive cars, and holidays with his mistress, he lies to the lawyers and the Court, he appears to have no conscience at all - but I know who will ultimately be able to look at themselves in the mirror. He will have to face his conscience mirrored in the faces of his girls.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A little bit of heaven - a unaffordable treat

The last four days have flown by - the house is heaving with female hormones again, and it is just like old times.

The senior daughter arrived back from London on Sunday night with a surprise cargo in the car - the junior daughter and Possetta Baddog. The junior daughter had struggled up to Oxford for a christening, and had run out of steam, but was supposed to be returning to London. The senior daughter had an inspiration, had made a detour, and picked her up with the Baddog and brought them home. So - I have gone from a quiet orderly life, back in time to a family life. Unfortunately, as the Baddog had only recently returned to London, Billy and Maud are having a huge sulk "What the Dickens is she doing back here again"? So - the atmosphere is charged, crackling with tension between the four-legged inhabitants.

I escaped yesterday, and had a wonderful treat in London. I went down by train, very unusual for me, but the senior daughter took me to the station and collected me again at the end of the day, so, I was able to enjoy my lunch with impunity. I belong to our Constituency Patrons' Club, which holds an annual lunch in a London Club each November. Yesterday, it was held at the Garrick Club, amazing, because it is, of course, MEN ONLY!

It is the most amazing place, the walls thick with portraits, my eyes lit upon a Zoffany, heaven - it was almost too much to take in. We were allowed to peek into one or two rooms other than the private dining room where we lunched. In a way, I rather like the idea of a Club for men only, I am beginning to weary of the, to me, strident call for men and women to be totally equal. We are not, never will be, and please let's keep some distance and enjoy a few old traditions.

I was asked to say Grace before lunch - me? What to choose, the senior daughter helped me to select something appropriate. All the way up on the train I was trying to memorise the words, I think the man sitting beside me thought I was a sixpence short of a shilling, talking to myself under my breath for nearly an hour. Anyway - when the time came, I couldn't remember a word, and had to use the crib kindly written out for me by the senior daughter - Benedic, Domine, dona tua quae de largitate sumus sumpturi Amen. Rolls off the tongue quite superbly. A short moment of fame for Aurora.

Lunch was heaven, Warm Tart of Bacon and Shrimp, Smoked Haddock Souffle with Chive Sauce, Roast Rib of Aged Aberdeen Angus with Rosemary, Shallot and Claret Sauce, Tarte Tatin of Jonogold Apples with Calvados Ice Cream. Totally divine - these days I have few such treats, so every mouthful was savoured, each sip of wine rolled round the tongue. Oh, joy! Our Chairman is a wonderful bon viveur, and takes huge trouble organising the venues, and the wonderful food and wines. Long may it continue - but probably not for me - it will be an unaffordable extravagance in my new life to come. I am lucky to have enjoyed it all thus far.

I tottered back to St Marylebone to catch my train, and dozed all the way back to my home station.

Today - back down to earth with a bump - I have to put my case as to why I need my Barrister to apply to the Courts for the restitution of my maintenance. The law is an ass - apparently it will be a fight. My finances will be gone over with a fine toothcomb, can't have this, can't have that - I have even been told thst I can't claim vets' fees, and my animal feed bill is too high. Dear God - and the philanderer runs five cars, a mistress, and hides his money. I despair. Where is the nearest soup kitchen? Shall I make an appointment to euthanaise my 6 animals - no hold on, the bill for that is not allowable.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mother love

A primeval urge, mother love. The senior daughter is home and I am a mother again. I shall probably blot my copybook very,very soon but it is marvellous to have her here. My only sadness is that the junior daughter is in London, and not feeling very well at all. She had been here for a few days, but went home on Tuesday - she is not strong because of her illness and struggles in her daily life. She and Possetta Baddog are so looking forward to seeing her sister in London this weekend. Family is a wonderful thing - and the three of us are a tight little unit.

The dogs were, as I said, beside themselves and this is one happy household. I am enjoying a gin and tonic, the senior daughter is snuggled down in her den sleeping off her jet lag, and all is right with the world. And - no, I am not an alchoholic!

The Tory MP, his mistress and £30,000 for love nest

Oh the resonance here! Yes, I know all about these situations - the philanderer has had 16 mistresses, so I expect he has spent shed loads over £30,000 on them all! Dear, oh dear, life has repeated itself since time immemorial. Why am I surprised?

The only surprise is why I let myself be drawn into such a cesspit. I did not know for a long time what he was up to, and I did try quite a few times to draw a line under it all - now, thankfully, I have had the courage to carry it through, and I must hope that, although my life will never be the same again, at least I will have peace of mind. I doubt whether the philanderer will sleep easy in his bed ultimately (certainly not if the present slapper is beside him) He has met his Waterloo.

Now - for more pleasant topics. I woke even earlier than usual, 4.45am, the house was silent, all I could hear was the steady rise and fall of the dogs breathing, and the rain splattering hard against the window panes. Occasionally the odd stray tendril from the wisteria slapped against the window, and it sounded as if someone was gently tapping to be let into the room. This house is my sanctuary and refuge, and I lay warm and cozy in bed, a myriad thoughts running through my mind. First and foremost, I was wondering just exactly where the senior daughter's plane was forging through the clouds, bringing her home. I imagined the dimmed lights in the cabin, people beginning to stir, blankets falling to the floor, and the hostesses starting the ritual of preparing the breakfast trolleys. People clambering over their neighbours to get to the washroom - a queue forming along the aisle. I am very excited at the thought of seeing her - I shall wait here at my laptop for the call to say she has safely landed, and will soon be on her way down the M40, and home in time for a late lunch.

Maud lay up my side like a sausage, and Billy lay with his head under my chin. I absent-mindedly stroked the soft silky fur of his ears, and looked down at him and thought of his mother, and how he reminded me of her. I think of Violet often, and thank my lucky stars that I hsve Billy, a precious gift, heaven sent.

In all the years that I was married, I now know that I was seriously depressed, not functioning on a normal level. I was so unhappy, there was no trust, no respect, an empty shell. My husband was so unkind to me, and now, I feel a whole person for the first time in over 40 years. I laugh, I enjoy little things, life is good, material things are not important, I find relationships with the world at large are easier, because I am at last a person in my own right. People seem to like me - before I assumed noone did. I had no worth. I have come to believe that we have a passage through life, circumstances change, we move on sometimes, and that can be necessary in order to become at ease with oneself. I firmly believe that my future life will have been worth the waiting.

It is such a grey, wet day - it is now nearly 8.30 am and it is still darkly silent and the sky is lowering, promising a day of squally rain. A day to stay inside - I am about to have my mug of freshly brewed coffee - and then I am going to make some spicy butternut squash soup for the senior daughter and I to enjoy by the fire. I am looking through the kitchen door, into the family room. Billy and Maud are snuggled down into their sheepskin beds, just the top of their heads and ears showing, every bone in their body saying "Do not attempt to take us out for a walk. We are staying put". Oh yes, until the senior daughter rings the doorbell. All Hell will break loose - they adore her, and the howls, aqueaks, barks and moans will signal to the wider world that they are in total heaven.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The firmly tied apron strings

In a glorious time-wasting exercise, I have been sitting in front of my lap-top re-reading through the comments recently posted in response to my blogs. I have been very touched and have felt so encouraged - the comments have been diverse, but the common thread has been support, and that is so comforting to me. It is very easy to feel isolated in a situation like mine, and I now know that I am not alone, that it is not unique to me, this mess, and there are good and kind people offering their support and thoughts, many of whom have had similar experiences to mine. Thank you.

The whole gamut of emotions races through me every day, up and down, round about, but suddenly something calms me down. Last Wednesday, for instance, when two things came up trumps

Firstly, I was invited out to a Girls' Lunch. They have been sparse for the past 18months, so I went rather nervously. Putting one's head above the parapet induces panic in me now. The hostess, interestingly, is the other half of a racing friend of the philanderer - they had always understood from the old goat that we had an open marriage, and did our own thing!

I don't think so! Some one recently explained the true situation to them - and the lunch invitation arrived. Oh joy, at last the world is beginning to realise that the philanderer is a seriously unpleasant person. I had a lovely time, met some very jolly people and really enjoyed myself. Life is looking up.

Secondly, after lunch I drove down to Bedfordshire to collect my widowed friend R, and off we went to Cambridge, to a magnificent performance of Haydn's Creation in King's College Chapel. This was truly glorious, the music soared up into the roof, and I sat looking up at the incredible stonework, wondering how so many hundreds of years ago all that amazing craftsmanship was possible with no modern machinery. Do you know, there is so much out there that is so enjoyable, so life-enhancing, so lyrical, that I do wonder what is the matter with me, pull yourself together, girl - I am enjoying so much in my life, and the philanderer is history.

On Friday, I drove down to London to stay with some good friends, and we went to the Dorchester to a dinner in aid of an African wildlife charity. Again, I had such a good time, noone made me feel like I was two left feet! There are so many wonderful people out there, non-judgemental, welcoming, kind and good company. I do realise, however, that as the philanderer has stopped my maintenance payments, such lovely times are coming to an end. Put quite simply, he has cut off my social life, whilst still enjoying his with his ghastly slapper. I think they are destined
for Limbo, and from whence, to Hell! She is such a dwork that she has probably no knowledge of Limbo, but I bet she knows all about Hell!

Yes, I am probably a little well-oiled - I have drunk several glasses of Pinot Noir -I am so excited about the arrival of the senior daughter tomorrow, from the Big Apple. I know she views her arrival with fear and trepidation - but notwithstanding, we will survive! My two daughters mean the world to me - I pinch myself, I am so proud of them, they are amazing, they look amazing, they are feisty, intelligent, argumentative, and bloody wonderful. I am so lucky. God, they can drive me mad!

Billy is cruising round the kitchen, dogs are so intuitive - he knows something is in the offing. I spent this afternoon with Hayley, the wonderful young girl who helps me in the house,transforming the philanderer's old office and den, into a sanctuary for the senior daughter. The dogs knew something was up, and prowled around - following me upstairs each time I went to collect bedlinen, a duvet, towels, first I trod on Billy, then Maud, then Maud got shut in the bedroom on the back landing, my temper frayed, bloody dogs, we couldn't make the sofabed pull out properly, the wretched cat kept trying to settle on the half-reconstituted bed, God, bloody animals! I am actually so happy - I love being a mother - no, I cannot let go!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The sound of silence

I can't sleep and have crept down to the kitchen, to be followed by the dogs galloping down the stairs, and asking to be let out. They have hared across the lawn, in hot pursuit, I assume, of a fox. I can hear crashing, snorting and barking, and no doubt, they will be back soon, tongues lolling, their quarry far away over the fields.

At this time of night, it is so quiet, not a sound in the house, nor outside. The walls of this house are 18 inches thick, made of Northamptonshire ironstone, and not much sound seeps through. It is almost eerie. I am glad I am wrapped up in a ghastly, unflattering, but cosy fleece dressing gown, with sheepskin lined slippers on my feet. There is a definite chill in the air - I am not running the central heating for more than a couple of hours a day, even though the temperature has dropped considerably these last few days. As the philanderer has stopped paying me any maintenance at all, I shall have to get used to the chill as I cannot afford to pay the heating bills!

I have just looked at my e-mails to see that the senior daughter has sent me a lovely photo of her chums, H and M, who married recently. They look so happy - they came here for lunch during the summer when the daughter was at home, are quite delightful, and I wish them all the joy and happiness in the world.

I am feeling reflective again looking at this picture of happiness. I feel sad - how, 41 years down the line, can a man behave so badly and not have a twinge of conscience, and how can his ghastly ambitious young lawyer excuse her encouragement of his lies, and concealment of his finances and his health problems? Not a pleasant scenario, Mrs M in MK, perhps you are hoping for a promotion, for destroying my life?

I muse on the nature of the philander's present relationship - she thinks he is 'the one'. he, behind her back, true to his nature, says he feels nothing for her, she is available, he does not intend to marry her, he quite likes her! I wonder if she knows this! You see, he behaves true to form. A leopard never changes its spots. Not my problem. Watch out, dear.

The dogs have come back, scrabbling to be let in, and have flown upstairs, to stake their claim to a large share of the bed. I just love them, their warm silky bodies, which smell of starch and clean sheets, their soft ears, their dear brown and golden eyes, looking so warmly and lovingly at me. Dogs are definitely man's best friend. We used to own a wonderful Golden Retriever called Bertie, short for Albertine. She had the most gentle nature, and she and I belonged to an organisation called PAT Dogs, Pets as Therapy. For years, we visited hospitals, hospices, geriatric rehabilitation units and sick people, it was such a privilege and pleasure. Bertie brought so much joy to sick and elderly people, laying her soft head with its big brown eyes on laps, gently accepting tiny bits of biscuit, and allowing herself to be stroked and petted. We also helped at a drop in centre run by Headway, a charity for people who had suffered head trauma. She was a diamond, my Bertie, and we miss her. She mentored Maud when she was a puppy, and also dear Violet, she was the mother hen of our dog fraternity.

The stillness - absolutely nothing to be heard, the sound of silence. When we first moved here, all those years ago, I was left on my own a lot, and was absolutely terrified. Over the years, the house has gathered me in and closed itself around me. I feel utterly at peace here on my own now, this house is like an old dear friend, protecting me.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happy memories of a family growing up

I woke quite early this morning, and pulling up the blind, thought 'what a difference from yesterday morning', when the sky was blue and the air clear. Today it was slightly misty, still and dull. I lay in bed with the dogs snuggled up close, and pondered on my life, the highs and lows, the good times and the bad, and the uncertain future ahead of me.

I realised what a wonderful life I had enjoyed, notwithstanding my marriage - a union which showed such promise, produced two glorious girls, and descended into a miserable fight for survival.

I loved living in the country village in Kent, where my two girls grew up. We had such fun - there were a lot of young children the same age, their parents became our friends, and we enjoyed simple pleasures. The girls had rabbits, Peter and Dandelion, Dsndelion grew enormous and used to be hauled around by the junior daughter under her arm, his poor hind legs dangling. We used to let him roam free in the garden, but he loved to nip next door and we spent hours trying to catch him. We bought two guinea pigs, both of whom turned out to pregnant, and soon we had Gin and Tonic, Whisky and Soda, Antony and Cleopatra et al .... Our lives were dominated by the wretched creatures, arguments over feeding, clearing out the hutches, remembering to buy the hay/sawdust, on and on it went!

There were fewer expensive toys around thirty years ago, so pets, tents made out of sheets and bamboo poles, trips to the beach and strawberry picking were the order of the day. Life was so much simpler.

We lived in a large rambling clapboard house, shabby but much loved - my girls loved it so, and still talk nostalgically about their life there. Three floors, little passageways, nooks and crannies, perfect for hide and seek and sleepovers with their friends. The summers in my mind were always warm, meals always eaten outside, my memories are bathed in a roseate glow, as memories so often are - I recall how sad we were to leave, and can remember taking a last look round, before locking the front door for the very last time. The echo of a child's laughter in the playroom on the top floor, the smell of the woodsmoke in the drawing room inglenook, the junior daughter's tears because she was leaving a pet graveyard in the garden, and wanted to take the long dead pets with us! 24 years later, I can still remember it all.

I remember the Brownie enrolments, the attempts at riding a bicycle with out stabilisers, the ballet lessons, the riding lessons, the junior daughter getting so much pleasure out of her little sailing dinghy, the fancy dress parties, the children's birthday parties with the magician, the junior daughter calling out that she knew how he did all the tricks - thus ruining it for everyone! One particular child who stayed the night, and would not go to bed at all - I wanted to wring her neck.

Also - the adult pleasures. The husband and I travelled widely on business, and visited some amazing places. The opera houses in Vienna, Munich, Paris, New York. I got to know Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Munich, New York so well, the art galleries and museums in those places, how lucky I was.

As I walked up the lane to church this morning, I was still in a reflective mood and this continued as the Remembrance Day service began. As I said yesterday, I have felt particularly affected by the recent deaths of our soldiers in Afghanistan. This morning, as we remembered and honoured them, I thought about my early morning reveries about my girls growing up. I realised that there were many families now where there would be no such shared memories of children growing up and of a family life together, and my heart went out to them. I am so lucky to have had the life that I have had, and appreciate it so much.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Special thoughts for this particular Remembrance Sunday

For the past two weeks, I have digesting the heartening responses to my last blog, Mirror Mirror on the Wall, and I have realised that men, on the whole, are like petulant, spoilt children. Someone used the expression, "Throwing his toys out of the pram" in the comments. How very true, and how pathetic. Do you know something? I blame some of the mothers of the bad boys. They treat them as if they are little gods, and what happens? Nine times out of ten they turn out as bastards. That is an appalling sexist generalisation - but in it, there is a grain of truth.

As usual, I am sitting in my womb of a kitchen, nothing new in that. I think sometimes that I am glued to the kitchen chairs. I have been up to the church, where I have been doing a pedestal for the Remembrance Day service tomorrow. I found this so therapeutic - it has been a lovely autumn day, and the dogs and I walked up the lane to the church, kicking the damp fallen leaves and enjoying the pale sunshine which denotes an autumn afternoon slowly drawing in.

I had picked a basket of laurel, two sorts of ivy, the kind with glossy leaves and dark berries and great trails of the creeping variety, and resinous, powerful smelling bunches of rosemary from my garden. The dogs love running round the churchyard, whilst I get to work in the church. Unfortunately, Billy has decided to be very protective of me, so when we hear the clang of the iron gate telling us there is a visitor, he flies across the grass, his deep throaty bark making everyone jump.

I made an arrangement out of all the greenery, and then attached the poppies with their wires to the leaves, and to the great trails of ivy hanging down from the pedestal. I have done this every year, but this time I wanted to make it special because of all the wonderful young men who have been killed in Afghanistan. The pungent smell of the crushed rosemary, for remembrance, had me deep in thought.

Every day that we have heard of yet more casualties, and seen the pictures of the young men who had been killed, and heard the moving interviews with members of their families, I have felt immeasurably sad. Whatever we think of the state of our country today, what fine young soldiers we produce, of whom we can be so proud.

The dogs and I are tired today. We have spent two days in London with the junior daughter. Posetta Baddog was less than amused to see the country cousins, as usual, but they all survived the beady looks, and silent snarls. Billy and Maud are not town dogs, and taking them for walks on leads is not easy - Billy tugs until I think my arm will loosen in its socket, and Maud winds the lead constantly round lampposts, and almost garrottes herself. Then - horrors - a squirrel will appear, and all hell breaks loose. And as for sleep, well. the junior daughter has a double bed, which I share, but so do Posetta Baddog, Maud and Billy. No wonder we are suffering from sleep deprivation.

I am about to light a fire, decide how I shall cook my organic chicken, possibly just simply roasted with butter, tarragon and lemon, with some steamed broccoli, and I shall choose a bottle of good red wine, possibly a Medoc. I should be tackling a mountain of ironing, but never do today what you can do tomorrow is today's motto. I do feel at peace today - as the months go by, I find so many simple things give me pleasure, and despite all the drama, I am beginning to unwind and find my feet again. The senior daughter has booked her flight home from New York, and will be home in two weeks' time. I am so looking forward to seeing her.

Monday, November 2, 2009

mirror, mirror on the wall

Who is the biggest arsehole of them all? In unison now, N the philanderer - the meanest, most spiteful, vengeful, most pitiable loser of them all!

The idiot's latest riposte in the War of the Roses is to throw his toys out of the pram because I thwarted him with regard to his quite serious heart problems. He tried to hide these, as it was quite crucial in the division of the pensions. So - I got hold of his medical reports and produced them for the authorities. He retaliated by getting his lawyers to state that I was grossly overweight, clinically obese, and because of these factors had a very shortened life expectancy and this cancelled out his heart problems; I was told to have a medical at my expense! I was married to this jerk, this turd under the heel of all decent people, for 41 years. He subsequently told my younger daughter that I was a butterball!

This is chldish, but I am fighting for my very existence and this pathetic apology for a man wouldstrip me of my very being if he could - he has stopped my maintenance, saying he cannot afford it, this man who has pocketed at least £200,000 since I chucked him out Dear, dear, as I said, an arsehole. Now, come on, everyone, write in and say what you think of this man.

It's funny - a whole life flushed down the drain, but I am not depressed any more. I feel energised. I have cleansed the Augean stables and life is sweet and the air is pure at last.

Last night, I drove over to Bedfordshire to see my lovely girlfriend who was widowed three months ago, to go to a special All Souls Evensong service at her local church. This was in memory of the people of the Parish who had died during the past year, and to commemorate people who had died previously. It was desperately poignant and we sat there remembering dear gentle I, about whom I have written previously, and dear R was inconsolable whilst we sang lovely hymns, and then there was a rollcall of all the names of the people we were honouring. I sat thinking what a wonderful marriage R and I had enjoyed, the mutual love and respect that they had for each other and how empty life was for her now, but that she had such wonderful memories of their time together. I sat deep in thought, thinking what an empty shell my marriage had been - tainted by the constant infidelities and lies and the failure to appreciate that what we had could have been so good and rewarding. Time to move on. Carpe Diem.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


It is almost impossible to put into words how thrilled I was to get all the 'welcome back' comments after resuming my blog. I am slowly realising how many great people there are out there in cyberspace - thank you.

Reading the senior daughter's descriptions of the Fall in and around New York, I have been gripped with an intense jealousy and feelings of nostalgia. For 17 years, I have visited America many times, and especially have loved visiting New York and the East Coast. We always visited New York on business in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. I used to so look forward to it. Over the years, we did so many interesting things, and got to know the city so well.

On arrival at JFK, my heart used to lift as we queued for a cab, and I always used to appreciate the orderly way that the queue was managed, everyone getting a ticket, and the cabs arriving, loading and departing in double quick time. I got a buzz as we sped Manhattanwards, bumping over the Triborough bridge, as I silently used to plot and plan my time whilst my husband had business meetings.

I grew to know New York so well that it was never a problem to move around. I had my itinerary/shopping/culture set in stone. In no particular order, it went something like this - Dean and DeLuca in SoHo for great spices, cooking utensils and unusual foody Christmas presents, Kate's Paperie and Crane's for stationery, Cole Haan, Banana Republic on Fifth, Strand Books, the Metropolitan Museum on Sunday morning followed by brunch at the Carlyle, the Metropolitan Opera, which was the most fantastic experience. Everyone dressed up, there was a great sense of occasion. The operas we saw were magical, the stagings always traditional, how I loved the atmosphere. I remember the old barman in the hotel where we used to stay, who mixed great cocktails, the trip to Ellis Island with friends who had joined us on that particular trip, and afterwards they took us to lunch with friends of theirs who lived in an apartment in Battery Park. I always bought my Christmas cards and desk diaries from the MoMA shop, and Christmas bits and pieces from Crate and Barrel. I especially loved a visit to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens with both daughters two summers ago. I loved to walk, exploring and each time, discovering another neighbourhood. how spoilt I was, and how I enjoyed it all, and now, Thanksgiving is approaching, and I will not be returning.

Last year, the first autumn on my own, I did return, to see the senior daughter. We had an amazing time, we went upstate by train from Penn Station to an organic farm, to a wonderful concert at the Metropolitan, to the Cloisters, the annexe of the Metropolitan Museum, oh, we had a brilliant time. She introduced me to her neighbourhood beauty salon, my hair was done beautifully by a Japanese girl, and I had a wonderful massage by a girl from Beijing. I have such happy memories to fall back on. I can smell New York, see the steam rising from the gratings in the street, feel the crisp air in the early morning as I set out for my day's adventures, hear the cab's honking, smell the chestnuts roasting on the stalls on the street corners, the continual noise of the sirens on the police cars, remember craning my neck to look up at the vast skyscrapers, the excited children queueing to get into F A O Schwartz, the ultimate toy store, and the tourists crowding Tiffany's, to look rather than buy. How I miss it. How lucky I was to be able to enjoy it, and how lucky I am to have the memories. New York got under my skin, and one day I will return.

Nostalgia is an interesting emotion - for a while, after I was first on my own, my memory seemed dulled and nothing was clear. But - now - nostalgia has crept in and suddenly, everything is recalled with crystal clarity, and I hug these memories which are flooding back, the smells, the sounds, triggered each time by some tiny thread which jolts the consciousness. I find this fascinating, because for years I have rather sniffed at people who write autobiographies late in life, recalling minutiae which happened many years before. Now - I realise, for the first time in my life that it is perfectly possible to do so, although I still think a little poetic licence must be involved. I certainly do not recall what my nanny said to me at the age of three. But I do remember her name, and that she had a hairy mole on her chin!

I have so much to do today - boring domestic chores. It is drizzling with rain, the dogs are supine, gently snoring, and even a walk holds no temptation for the three of us. It is time for another mug of freshly ground coffee, and perhaps that will fire me with domesticity. Actually, I prefer the Daily Telegraph cryptic crossword.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Falling leaves - on the cusp of Autumn and Winter

I am back - sitting at my kitchen table, wonderful calming music on the wireless, a large whisky
and dry ginger, with lots of ice, at my elbow. The ginger ale is Fever Tree, absolutely delicious, all natural fruit sugars, I strongly recommend it. My silence has been due to a severe depression, a huge low in my life, but today I feel able to shake it off, dust myself down, and get on with the business of living my life.

Why are human beings so spiteful, so vengeful, so petty, so downright nasty? That describes the philandering husband - his behaviour is beyond appalling. I have been desperate to divorce him for nearly 18 months, and he just will not cooperate. Every night, under my pillow, is an ugly wax doll, full of sharp pins. Who do you think that could be?

Enough - I must move on.

I feel as if I am in a cocoon. The first day after the clocks change, it is as if one is in another world. The evening closes in, it could be any time, everything around is quiet, occasionally one of the dogs muffles a little bark, and there is absolutely nothing else except the beautiful music in the background. I woke early this morning, and after letting the dogs out and feeding all the various animals, crept back to bed, mug of tea to hand, and the dogs and I snuggled up, and I read for two hours, before going to Matins. Divine.

These last weeks, the autumn colours and weather have been exceptional. The most glorious colours of the leaves turning, equally as beautiful as the Fall in the States. The days have been warm, everything bathed in a golden glow of a fading Indian Summer. The dogs and I have so enjoyed our walks: they run through the fallen leaves, put up pheasants from the hedgerows, the birds rising angrily, tails down, making their weird clacking noise, with Billy in full flight, jumping up, and nearly catching their tail feathers. He soon loses interest, and careers off after some poor rabbit, with Maud bringing up the rear, her little Jack Russell legs working like pistons trying to keep up. The pleasure I get from my dogs is infinite, which, I believe, is well-documented!

Today, we went our usual route, but it was windy, and the leaves just billowed down from the trees, carpeting the track like silent snowflakes. Such a difference in just 24 hours. I took a basket, and because the leaves were dropping, masses of sloes were exposed, which before had been hidden. I picked another large bag of the huge glistening berries, and will now have two huge flagons of sloe gin to enjoy in a few months' time.

I do a lot of thinking on these walks; it is a huge pleasure to have this solitude, and I find myself talking out loud, the dogs looking up at me quizzically, not understanding that I am not talking to them, but to myself. It is so therapeutic - my own personal therapy sessions. I know it is pointless to rail at the injustices in my life, I just have to try to make sense of everything. What I have discovered, is that compared to many people, my life is not all bad, and this seismic fracture will make me so much happier ultimately.

I have written before of my wonderful drive through Pakistan three and a half years ago, and how I was so distressed at recent events in that wonderful country. These last few weeks, my heart has truly bled for the Pakistani people. As I said, we visited Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore and the Afghan border.

I find it unimaginable, knowing these places, what the inhabitants must be going through, witnessing the destruction of their country. The turmoil, the heartbreak, the bewilderment. I cannot reconcile in my own mind that this misery is, simplistically, in the name of religion. Shame on the perpetrators.

So often, on the television news, the places we see suffering such turmoil and destruction, mean nothing because we have no knowledge of the places. This time, I have been there, it is a wonderful country, they are a kind and hospitable people, and I truly hope for a peaceful resolution for the people of Pakistan.

Finally, the senior daughter is coming home from the States for a few weeks. I am so looking forward to having her home, how long she will be here, if indeed even for Christmas, I do not know, but I look forward to some lessons on the laptop, so at long last, I can get to grips with the essentials. In other words, getting a dialogue going with fellow bloggers. Watch this space!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

a maudlin late night ramble

Hey, you divine people who have responded to my posts today. I can't respond because I can't cope with the technology required to do so at midnight! We are talking about a Luddite here.

All of you, you have no idea how much I appreciate your interest and support and I am amazed if I have touched a nerve. Which one of you said I needed to let go? How right you are. However gross the philanderer's behaviour. hey, I had feelings, and how do you wipe a life at a touch of a button? How do you acknowledge a deep seated gut feeling that things were not as they should be? I have two beautiful feisty intelligent daughters, they are the reason that I clung on to an impossible situation. They do not thank me for so doing, but I come from a generation that was taught to make do and mend, and that is a good tenet to hold on to in the scheme of things.

I find it fascinating that we bare our souls to an anonymous public - but surely so much better than to a sanctimonious counsellor who thrives on other people's misery! Yes, I am a sceptic, and all the better for it.

Life has always been tricky, and there is no easy solution. No one has a perfect life, how inviduous to think that each one of us is so important that life must be ideal. Human beings are cruel, expedient, self-seeking, we are all out of the same mould.

This evening our Harvest Festival service was life-enhancing. It was like stepping back in time - familiar hymns with familiar tunes, a beautifully decorated church, a harking back to a time when life was focused on the changing seasons, on village life. We will be the poorer if these rituals disappear, they are the cement which binds country communities together. The constant blurring of the boundaries between country and town will not enhance either community and should be halted before irreparable damage is done to both communities. It is a lemming-like rush to the cliff edge, without thought for the consequences.

I had a delicious supper tonight, good wine, and good debate round the dinner table. I would say that since I have been on my own, the conversational topics round the dinner table have been definitely more meaty and thought provoking than before! Far less trivial! A naughty comment, but so true.


An Indian Summer weekend enhanced by Handel

Suddenly, as so often happens to me, something happens that suddenly lifts my spirits.

This weekend is Harvest weekend in our village. Friday night it was Harvest Supper and this evening, our Harvest Festival service in our little church.

As the weather of late has been so wonderful, an Indian Summer in all its glory, it has been a joy to decorate the church. I have now been in charge of the flower rota for 18 years, and have so enjoyed all that entails. I love flowers, I love picking big bunches of cottage garden flowers, flowers from the hedgerows and verges, and now, branches of the berries that I hsve written about before.

I did my usual dog walk up the tracks past my house yesterday morning. The dogs were not too pleased with all the stopping and restarting that involved, but I had a ball. Great armfuls of glossy green ivy with the soft green ball heads of berries, sprays of the ripe hawthorn, rosehips and great tangled strings of the wild bryony, snaking up through the hedges, requiring all sorts of contortions to unravel them and keep them intact. Some of these berries were almost translucent, like a lipstick stain, bright red and glossy, some were still orange, and some pale green. They looked so pretty all on the same skein of tangled stalk. I also picked oak leaves, turning a lovely soft yellowy orange, and some long grasses with pendulous dried seed heads. My bounty was carefully carried home, and then onwards to the church.

It was so therapeutic to spend the afternoon in the church, filling big glass candle lanterns, to place on the window sills. The sun streamed in, and bathed the window sills in a lovely autumnal glow. I added some bronze green centred sprays of chrysanthemums and, stripping the skeins of wild bryony so only the berries were left, I draped them through and left them hanging down, to catch the sunlight.

I shall miss all this - there is so much pleasure in living in a small English country village. I am not a hugely social person, and enjoy my own company, and all the countryside has to offer. This autumn has been so magical, you almost want to hug yourself with pleasure.

This afternoon I went back up to the church to check that all was well before tonight's Harvest Service. The dogs had a run through the churchyard - it is a wonderful place, the church is quite plain, the churchyard is mown in strips around the graves, and towards the footpath that wends its way across the fields behind. There are a handful of Jacob's sheep who keep the longer grass short, and it is peaceful and redolent of a bygone less stressful age.

The dogs and I then drove off to the next village, to collect something, and I turned on Classic FM. Oh joy, oh joy, a programme entirely devoted to Handel. I love Handel with a passion. We bowled along, the windows open, Billy and Maud with heads lolling out of the back windows, me singing along at the top of my voice to Semele and Where Ere You Walk, and suddenly I felt immeasurably better, and able to better face the world. I listened to a singer called Richard Lewis, who apparently died in 1990, who was a true exponent of Handel. I had never heard of him before, but he had a marvellous voice. Also - Andreas Scholl - my day was made.

I am home now, the sun has suddenly broken through, the wretched jackdaws are squawking on the roof, the dogs are collapsed on their bed soaking up the sun on the terrace, and I am going to make myself a tomato, basil and mozzarella bruschetta, and sit in the sun and count my blessings. I shall also have a chilled glass of white wine and read the Sunday papers and continue to listen to Handel. Tonight after the church service, I have been invited out to supper, next door to the church, so no driving and I can walk safely home afterwards. All in all, I count my blessings. My future is sealed - I can do no more.

A final homecoming

Hello again, loyal followers. I confess that I have not had the heart to post anything for a while.

Now - I have decided to try and rise like phoenix from the ashes. Life is so bloody, that maybe a gentle Sunday morning stint at the laptop may be cathartic.

The junior daughter and I had a great time in Cornwall. Unfortunately, my great niece was christened three days into our holiday week, so we had to miss the first few days of the break. The weather was divine and missing 3 days of it was a great shame. I really needed a break - but - the time we had was restorative.

I join friends every year for a week in September. These friends have been so good to me, kind and loyal, and their young are a delight, such good company, and I love them all. They take a house outside Fowey on a little creek, and I take the little cottsge attached to the side. The views across to Fowey harbour are lovely, and we go over to Fowey everyday in a little dinghy to get provisions, newspapers, and to get a cappucino, which I cannot do without! We sit on the lovely terrace of the house, overlooking the creek and the sea, and do the crosswords, gossip, eat, and drink gallons of rose. Meals all arrive somehow, someone is deputed to produce each one, bits get pooled, and it is so hassle-free. We are a mixture of young and middle-aged, people come and go all the time, trips to Lostwithiel station to and fro to fetch and drop off, it is a very enjoyable time. I read not a book - all the posey nonsense about which ones I should take! In truth, this is not the sort of holiday where much reading gets done. I always live in hope.

For once, I was not looking forward to coming home. Just to seal the dullness, it took me six and a half hours to get back, the traffic was a complete nightmare. It makes one realise that the sainted 'staycation' the media ramble on about, is not to be attempted. The roads cannot cope. The junior daughter had returned to London the night before, thank goodness, and her train journey was quick, comfortable, and a better idea altogether. I took her and Possetta Baddog to Lostwithiel station, she looked so small and Christopher Robin-like, clutching the Baddog as if she was Pooh Bear, they clambered onto the tiny three carriage train and disappeared almost in a puff of smoke, up the track towards Newton Abbott, and so on to Paddington.

During my journey home, Billy was panting and hyperventilating in the back of the car, and hated every moment. I could feel his hot breath blasting through the gap in the front seats, and I longed for the journey to end. Maud, the seasoned traveller, lay curled up on her sheepy bed on the front passenger seat, very occasionally raising her head disdainfully and glaring at Billy, as if to say, 'Calm down'. My dogs are my salvation, as I have said before. So companionable, funny, warm and loving.

We eventually arrived home. As I opened the front door, I was met with a wave of nostalgia and then a feeling of emptiness. This was not a home any more - it was a shell, full of memories, memories of happier times, family life, a life gone for ever, there was no warmth, just a chill in the air, ghosts hanging suspended. For the first time in the twenty-four years I had lived here, I realised it was not a homecoming, and never would be again.

I have loved this house, every nook and cranny of its honey-coloured ironstone walls, 18 inches thick, the warmth of those walls at the end of a hot sunny day, the masonry bees buzzing around the myriad holes in the stonework. Inside it is always cool yet light and sunny, this house is my life. I have made the garden, loved every minute I have spent in it - however, the last four years have been so unhappy and traumatic, that I have slowly abandoned it - unable to put my love and heart into it any more. I know now when I wake early, and lie in bed looking out over the garden, and the field with my three sheep quietly grazing, that soon it will be gone for ever, and I will never forgive my venal, philandering, cheating husband for the misery and unhappiness he has brought to my family.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Off on holiday

Aurora has asked me to let you all know that she, Maudie & Billy have gone to London for the christening of my first cousin once removed and then on to Cornwall for a week with my sister & Posetta Baddog. There's no internet connection (the horror!), so she's taking a week's hiatus from blogging.

Take a bow: The Lovely Blog Awards

I was very touched and excited today to receive a Lovely Blog Award. That it came from Chic Mama, who has supported me on this blog with her kind & thoughtful comments right from the beginning, is especially lovely. We are both going through difficult times, and it's been extraordinarily helpful to know someone else in a similar situation.

This is the first award I've received for A Life Reclaimed, and it's amazing to think that people actually read my blog! I have to now pass the award on to five other lovely bloggers.

The women below have been very supportive, leaving much appreciated comments here, making my entry into the blog world feel a little less like diving into the dark unknown. Of course, there are more of you who I would like to mention in dispatches, who welcomed me with open arms, and I shall look forward to exploring all of your blogs properly as I become more conversant with the ways of the interweb!

Miss Whistle
Wonderful gardening, cooking & poetry dispatches from the intelligent side of Los Angeles

Helena Halme
Who write such interesting posts about her life

Novelist Kate Lord Brown's fascinating What Kate Did Next where she writes about writing in an enlightening manner

Everybody Says Don't
who loves dogs, restaurants, tea, theatre, wine & fashion. (We may be from different generations but this is a girl after my own heart!)

And finally, I must mention Liberty London Girl
This is the senior daughter's blog. She writes about fashion, food, dogs and her life in America & elsewhere. She is responsible for the technicalities of my blog (linking, blogrolls and more), so deserves a big thank you!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The love of Two Dogs

I have been sprawling on the sofa this evening, watching New Tricks, which I really enjoy. James Bolam - remember The Likely Lads? God, that makes me feel old, I believe he is about 70!

Along the back of the sofa lay Billy, his head hanging down, under my chin, his cold wet nose up close and personal. His fur is so sensual, soft and silk velvety, his floppy ears so wonderful to stroke. He makes the most wonderful noises, a sort of grunty snort of sheer pleasure. His eyes on a level with mine, they are suffused with love. I just adore this dog, the bond with him is total - the result of breeding a dog and knowing that he is yours unreservedly. Maud snuggled up at my side, a weather eye fixed on Billy, jealousy in every bone of her body. From time to time. her lips curled back in a silent snarl as she thought he was getting too close to me. She expects Billy to know his place, Billy pushes the boundaries, and I think it is hysterically funny, until Maud gets nasty, and Billy draws back, a wounded look on his face.

These dogs are my life - the companionship they offer is so rewarding. When Violet died, I thought nothing would heal the pain and sense of loss, but these dear dogs have filled the void, and how I love them. A little triumvirate - we face the world together, and let noone part us asunder.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Cornish Reading List

I adore reading, but since I have been on my own, have done very little. I have been stockpiling books for quite some time now, and wonder whether I will ever make inroads into the ever growing pile.

Every January the husband and I used to go away for a three-week holiday, to sunnier climes, and I used to take a large pile of books with me. We were lucky to fly business class, so I could take almost a whole suitcase of reading matter. This was a real treat, as coming so close to Christmas, I usually had a lovely pile of gifts to read. My family knew my weakness, and kept me well supplied. I missed the January break this year, and know now that I will be unlikely to ever repeat it in the same way.

So - what shall I choose? I mostly like biographies, my taste is not modern. My elder daughter has a voracious and eclectic taste in books, and makes me feel slightly old-fashioned. I admire her wide-ranging selection - but am not tempted to read many of them.

On the table in front of me are the following:

Elizabeth David by Artemis Cooper
Sashenka by Simon Montefiore
So I have Thought of You - The Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald
Venus of Empire, The Life of Pauline Bonaparte by Flora Fraser
The Music Room by William Fiennes
Dsvid Golder by Irene Nemirovsky
All Our Wordly Goods by Irene Nemirovsky
The Lover's Watch by Aphra Benn

Common sense dictates that I will probably only read two or three of these or possibly four. The eternal problem, piles of wonderful books, hardbacks in wonderful covers, and destined to be returned once more to the shelf. Not the only things on the shelf at this moment in time. What a terrible pun.

I do have a secret plan - when I am finally divorced, and master of my own destiny once more, I intend to slope off somewhere warm, and inexpensive, to sit under a shady tree, and read to my heart's content. The very thought is giving me the strength I need to get through the next few months.

Suddenly I am not at all worried about being on my own - the thought is so seductive - so many selfish pleasures in the offing.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

There is a distinct chill in the air first thing in the morning when I stumble bleary-eyed out into the garden with the dogs. It is misty and damp, and autumn is definitely in the offing.

The summer has passed without remark - it hardly seems possible that I am now in my second autumn after making the most momentous decision of my life. This time last year I could never have thought that things would be unresolved a full year later, and my future would still be hanging in the balance.

I have managed well, all things considered, I have learnt who my true friends are, and who is duplicitous and not to be trusted, because, human nature being what it is, most people like an easy life, and are craven and lily-livered. Easier just to melt away or be a turncoat! So - at the risk of repeating myself, thank you to those of you who have been staunch and loving and how I have appreciated your loyalty.

On Saturday, my dogs and I had a wonderful long walk during the afternoon. It started out cold and overcast, and halfway through, out came the sun, and off came my fleece.

The hedgerows were bursting with autumnal fruitfulness and colour, the hawthorn berries had turned the most glorious red, the little wild crab apples were suffused with deep rosy flushes and the sloes, this year the sloes are magnificent. Great, globular fruits, surely much larger than usual, possibly due to all the rain. Some a dark glossy, almost sinister, purple, and some, a deep vivid blue with a soft bloom on them.

I am itching to start picking them to make my sloe gin. Tradition dictates that they should have had a frost on them before you pick them. I shall wait and see - I have a brilliant short cut when making sloe gin. Instead of pricking each and every berry with a needle, I shove them in a plastic bag and freeze them. Then, when I want to make the gin, I defrost them, and they have usually split their skins. Bingo. Another tip is to put a small teaspoon of almond essence or creme de noisette in the jar with the berries, gin and sugar, which adds a little je ne sais quoi.

I wrote some weeks ago about the berries in the hedgerows, and how they were then not yet ripe. Now they are in their full glory. Alongside the hawthorn, crab apples and sloes are the hips, a glorious orangey-red, and the elderberries, glistening darkly and ready to be made into the most delicious jelly, to eat with game, or to slather onto hot buttered toast after a chilly winter walk.

On Saturday during our walk, I cut sprays of the hawthorn berries, of varying colours and ripeness and little branches of the crab apples, tying them up with Billy's lead to carry them home, and put them in our little church, in green pottery vases, on the window ledges behind the altar. Our church is very old, and quite plain, and better for it, and looks lovely decorated simply with garden flowers or berries and foliage, picked as I did on Saturday, from the hedgerows.

This is a glorious time of year, today was warm, and yet there was a feeling of a changing season, it is now nearly half past six in the evening, and it is getting chilly, although the sky is still bright, I feel the night is beginning to draw in. I love this cusp of the changing from summer to autumn, I am always ready for it, regardless of what the summer weather has been like.

Good smells are coming from my oven. I am roasting a chicken, which I have marinated in a mixture of Greek yoghurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a curry powder blend I bring back from New York. I know that sounds posey, but it is the best ever blend - I buy supplies from Dean and DeLuca everytime I am in that city, and stock pile them. I will eat it with steamed English tenderstem broccoli, and a mixture of basmati and wild rice.

Yes - I cook for myself - a chicken is what I call a progressive meal. Roast, then a simple cold salad, I then devil the drumsticks, then I make a good jellied stock from the bones and, hey presto, there is then a chicken, lemon and tarragon risotto in the offing. When the stock is made, I strip the last meat from the bones and Maud and Billy have a good supper! Years ago, there was a cookery writer in the Sunday Telegraph called Simone Sekers, and she once wrote an article on what she called Progressive Cooking - this has always stuck in my memory, and I still practise it.

I am about to pour myself a second chilled glass of a quite respectable Viognier and will settle down to enjoy my supper. Life is OK - when I have eaten I will start to consider my choices for my holiday reading for Cornwall next week. Tomorrow I will run my suggestions across you all!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

One week later

How time flies - what a busy week.

My lunch party on Monday was all I hoped it would be. Now I am on my own, entertaining is a complete joy. No hassle, no mulishness, no bad-tempered responses to requests for help. Billy, I am glad to say, did not get me up at 6.30 am although we did get up early, the dogs and I. The house was orderly, the food prepared well in advance, the table laid with starched white cloth, the white wine chilled, and the St Emilion opened in time to breathe.

My guests consisted of the two good friends who had taken me to Glyndebourne for my birthday treat, my recently widowed girlfriend R, another couple who have been very kind to me and with whom the junior daughter and I will be sharing a holiday in Cornwall next week, and a girlfriend, also called V, who shared the Ebury Street house in the 60's with R and I. We had the most jolly time, with much laughter, and much food and wine was consumed. The roasted peppers disappeared in double quick time, the crackling on the pork was divine, what more could we ask for?

I just love eating round my large kitchen table, a weekend or Bank Holiday lunch being the best time, and if it is with good comfortable friends, it is a near perfect experience.

I am actually blessed - many friends who we did not see regularly, the husband and I, have all reappeared now I am on my own, and I am beginning to enjoy the sort of life I was denied whilst married to the philanderer. It is becoming apparent to me that when one door closes, another slowly opens, and I am willingly trying to push it open further than ajar.

The rest of the week was spent with another widowed friend D who, with her late husband and two other couples, used to spend many hours with the husband and I over the past 15 years, at race meetings, or rallying around the world, as a jolly octet, who enjoyed each others company. It is sad now that the philanderer has been excluded, but his behaviour has been such that they do not want to have anything to do with him. When D's husband R was so ill, the philanderer was no friend, he hardly ever contacted D and went to see R only once in 18 months. I was ashamed of him.

I am now back home, and beginning to get ready for Cornwall. The most important task is to select my holiday reading, more of that later.

The sun is out this morning, the sky is blue, the breeze is brisk, and I am looking forward to a long dog walk. The dogs are already restless, I can hear them crunching on the gravel of the terrace, but I am afraid they will have to wait just a while longer, I have to finish the Daily Telegraph Weekend General Knowledge crossword first! And - perhaps have a lunch time glass of wine.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The end of the day

I feel pleasantly content this Bank Holiday Sunday evening. I have pottered around the house today, clearing up, reading the papers, I have washed all the dog beds and blankets, and prepared some of the food for tomorrow's lunch.

Whilst I was cooking, I found myself doing a Viennese Waltz around the kitchen, to Richard Strauss's Wine, Women and Song. I oould have done Strictly Come Dancing proud. Such little things make me realise I am on the road to recovery.

Two of my guests tomorrow are special friends. They have been so kind to me this past year, and two weeks ago, the day after my birthday, they took me to Glyndebourne to see Rusalka, and treated me to a delicious dinner there in the restaurant. I have always loved the music of this opera, but this was the first time I have seen it performed. It was magnificent, the scenery and staging of it quite wonderful. There was a feeling of infectious enthusiasm from the cast, and they had a long, standing ovation at the end. The audience went wild. Most opera stories are very slight, but the great scenery and atmosphere this time, made it seem more meaty. Quite fantastic.

The kitchen is warm and steamy - I have char-grilled a pile of red peppers to slice and drizzle with olive oil, and then criss-cross with big fat anchovy fillets, I have poached fragrant ripe greengages, pureed them and will layer then with greek yoghurt and then will crumble soft brown sugar over the top, several hours before we eat them, and it will melt into a puddle of brown gooey sauce. Tomorrow I will roast a huge hand of pork, rubbing olive oil and then coarse sea salt over the skin to make crisp crackling, a large dish of home-made apple sauce,a huge dish of caramelised and roasted sweet potatoes, red onions, carrots and butternut squash, and a large dish of palate cleansing watercress. little new potatoes and runner beans from a friend's garden. This will be followed by a cheeseboard, already set out so the cheese runs.

I have spent quite some time trying to hack open the wooden box containing the red wine, eventually successful, it is standing in the kitchen waiting for us for tomorrow. Chateau Rocher Bellevue Figeac St Emilion Grand Cru 2005. I love good wine - five years ago, I treated myself to a few cases out of a legacy I received. Each time I drink a bottle, I salute the kind person who made the purchase possible! The next best thing to buying it, is sharing it with good friends who really appreciate helping me to drink it. Unfortunately, there is very little left and there certainly will never be the funds to continue to buy such wine. Oh, but how I have appreciated and enjoyed the experience.

I feel exhausted - please God, do not let Billy wake me at 6.30am tomorrow morning.

The state of marriage

I am sitting, as usual, in my kitchen with lovely gentle classical music on the wireless. cup of freshly brewed coffee to hand. Sunday morning, all is peaceful, no Church service in the village today. This was the one morning that I did not have to get up early, and after a very jolly evening last night, the thought of a lie-in was very seductive. Billy had other ideas. He woke me whining at 6.30 am. He never wants to go out early. This morning he most certainly did.

Oh well, the Sunday papers were delivered early for once, and so I settled down at the kitchen table and spread them around.

I have just read a very interesting article in the Sunday Telegraph, about 'open' marriages, basically about Silvio Berlusconi, and how he has broken the 'rules'. This resonated with me - basically, his wife had tolerated an 'open' marriage for years, to maintain the status quo for the sake of the children, and to avoid having to split up the family for financial reasons. The pay off was supposed to be discretion, to look after the wife and family financially, and to behave in a civilised way. He broke the rules, made a conplete fool of himself - and out he had to go.

In my case, as far as I was concerned, my husband and I did not have an 'open' marriage, and he did not take care of me and the family in the way that he should have done, especially the younger daughter, who has a progressive illness, the seriousness of which he has always refused to acknowledge. But - my eldest daughter, with a wise head on her shoulders, did say to him that if he had chosen women who were cultured, and who made him happy, and if he had not been so mean to me and had looked after me, things would not have been so dreadful. I suppose I am to blame, but it is true, I was never jealous of the women, the ones I did find out about, because they were so ghastly! This final one, was just the last straw, I just could not tolerate it any longer. Right under my nose, with the local slapper, no thank you.

Marriages are complex arrangements. There are no set rules, and it is invidious in the extreme to pronounce on other people's relationships, but to me, it comes down to respect, and behaving in a civilised way.

Last night, I went to the engagement party of the daughter of a girlfriend of mine. It was a lovely occcasion - I took great pleasure in seeing H and her fiance looking so happy, their future ahead of them, a delightful couple and I wish them all the luck in the world as they set out on their great adventure.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Positive thinking

Well - I met the senior daughter in Waitrose car park in Towcester at lunch time today to say goodbye - she had driven down from London, to return one of the 5 cars owned by her sainted father, who was then going to drive her to Heathrow to catch her plane, and she and I were going to say our goodbyes first. What a fractured existence we lead.

We had lunch in Waitrose - she a vegetable curry, I a chicken curry - actually, it was rather good. But - I thought to myself, what has my life become, in my mid-sixties, that I have to share my lovely girls, meeting a daughter in a supermarket car park, so as to avoid the arsehole of the century.

This apology for a man and father, is working so hard on my girls at the moment, trying to get them on 'his side'. What he fails to understand is that they will never accept the tired old slapper he has taken up with, nor will they choose him over me. Their loyalties are obviously divided, but appalling behaviour reaps its own 'reward'. Disloyalty is not to be worn like a badge of honour to be rewarded.

What I really hate is that he has spun such a tale to the slapper about our marriage, the wider world laps it up, and I cannot defend myself. I suppose it was ever thus - and I should really put it behind me.

I am looking forward to the Bank Holiday wweekend. Tomorrow night, I am going to the engagement party of the daughter of a girlfriend, Sunday is gloriously free, and on Monday, good friends are coming for lunch, including my recently widowed girlfriend. If the weather fulfills its promise, we will have lunch in the garden, hopefully under the apple tree on the lawn, and delicious food will be eaten,and I will open some of my very special claret, jealously guarded, which will be savoured with pleasure.

I certainly do not feel so stressed now I am living on my own. The sheer joy of not having to put up with the mulish intransigence and sheer indifference of my erstwhile husband is a real positive. It is life sapping to get the constant riposte after a request for help "Piss off" Fuck off" "Do it yourself" "Not now" "Later" Or even - no response at all. As John Inman used to say 'I'm free'!

I also do not have to spend weekend after weekend at home on my own, knowing that the jerk was up to 'something' and would return smirking, and sure that I did not know what he had been up to whilst away, What a facile idiot!

I must share a little secret with you all - many times he would say where he was going/had been/ who he had been with - and I would not tell him that often his alibi would ring to fix up tennis/golf/etc. and I would know that he was up to something! Delicious, huggable joy! How about this one - quite some years ago, pre-mobile phones, he used to say that he was staying regularly at the Sheraton Belgravia in Lowndes Square. I needed to get in touch with him urgently and rang the hotel. A recorded message said that the hotel had been closed for refurbishment for two years, and would not re-open for another 18 months. I wet myself! There was the Christmas card from the Pembridge Court Hotel, to Mr and Mrs W, our loyal and regular guests. The idiot had signed the hotel register with his home address, calling his then mistress Mrs. W. The phone call from Kiki McDonough, a very expensive jeweller whose jewellery I would die to be given, but at that time, I had never been given any jewellery at all! And - so it went on and on - the phone call from the Mirabelle restaurant to confirm the lunch reservation for Mr and Mrs W, except he was not supposed to be in London, but had given his home telephone number. Do you think he is normal? I think not. The postcard from someone on holiday in Rajasthan, saying how much the sender was looking forward to sharing the same experience with him. Bollocks, bollocks. I suspect he many times did not say that he was even married, the times the phone was quietly replaced when I answered it, the expensive sunglasses in the drawer by my side of the bed, the black lacy knickers under the bed, the lipstick and scent in the bathroom, the sex manual in the drawer on his side of the bed. Dear God, was he mad and did he think I was a fool?

Do you know, I chucked him out five times, tried to divorce him, was given not much hope by the lawyers, he begged to come back, and I laid myself open to even more humiliation. What is the matter with me? Nothing any more, I now have peace of mind at last.

I have a message for Chic Mama, however bad it seems now in your period of transition, the end result will be peace of mind, and that is worth so much. Go for it, girl, I am behind you all the way.

A simple day out in the sunshine

Yesterday I had yet another dose of nostalgia - a really lovely day.

A girl friend rang me at the beginning of the week and asked me if I wanted to go out for the day, to the Bucks County Show. My initial reaction was, oh no, been there, done that, throughout my childhood, with my father and brothers. Not the Bucks Show, but elsewhere. But - on reflection, I thought, why not, a day out would be fun, I do get stir crazy these days, trying to sort out my maelstrom of a life.

Thursday dawned, hey, NO RAIN! A day out in the sunshine suddenly seemed attractive. We set off, waterproofs and wellington boots flung into the boot of the car, and chattered all the way until we hit the most monstrous queue, waiting to pile into the showground car park. An hour later, we joined the queue to get into the showground itself. Not quite what we had envisaged. Eventually we paid our £9.00 apiece, thinking that is soooo expensive.

We were to meet S's husband in the Members Marquee for lunch. As we dived into our handbags for our special badges, we both simultaneously realised that we had automatic entry included to the showground. Idiots - £18.00 down the drain! We are now going to have to write to the Show Secretary to see if we can get a refund. Doh.

Lunch was delicious - washed down with a good bottle of chilled white wine, and I was taken right back to my childhood. S's husband knew so many people, the farmers, hunting people, country people, and it was as if I was with my father again when I was a little girl, being introduced to everyone. My father was a great countryman, and hunted all his life, he was a great character, my girls used to call him Grandpa Horse, and we still miss him. It was lovely to be reminded of him yesterday.

Outside the marquee, tables and chairs were set around the show ring, and we watched the hunter classes, and various displays. Then we went to look at the sheep in their pens, the cattle deep in straw in their special sheds, rosettes proudly displayed. The only new aspect was that outside each display area, there were foot trays of disinfectant and hand washes to use if people had handled the animals. It was good to see these precautions in place. I am afraid I then became a member of the fluffy bunny brigade - I found the beagles, the foxhounds, the baby alpacas, and child that I am, felt the urgent need to stroke them all!

It was such fun - and it was interesting to see how everyone was enjoying themselves. It waa a real step back in time - families, children everywhere, eating ice creams, tugging dogs along on their leads, so many dogs, all shapes and sizes, and I spent the day counting the whippets, they were all poor specimens, not a patch on my beautiful Billy. The fairground was doing brisk business, and the various stalls were packed with people shopping. Very interesting - to see that things have changed little in 50 years. So many people having a great day out, enjoying simple pleasures. It was life-enhancing - one get's so wrapped up in the drama of life, that it is just calming to enjoy a day out that is uncomplicated, and fun. I was exhausted when I got home, a good clean exhaustion from a day out in the sunshine and fresh air, in the company of kind dear friends.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chateau la Fleur Blanchon 2005 Lussac St Emilion

This, as they say, has been the dog's bollocks. I have drunk two large glasses of this tonight, fallen asleep on the said cream sofa in the family room, and been woken up after 30 minutes by Billy thrusting his face into mine, because he wanted to drape himself across my shoulders. Damn him! Oh, the love of a good dog.

In life, there are some defining monents, are there not? This one says it all - all is becoming right with the world!


Signs of recovery

Halfway through another week. Another eventful week!

I think I put a hex on everything I touch - having replaced my computer for the second time, two weeks down the line, it packed up, and needed another Hard Disk and Mother Board. Holy Mother of God. It could only happen to yours truly. But - unlike the senior daughter, my experience of Dell and their back-up was extraordinarily good. So - I am now up and running once more. My head has been bursting with blogworthy little snippets, les bon mots, but now, where have they all gone?

The senior daughter is still in the UK, so she came back from London at the beginning of the week, and we had a little quality time, she cooked a delicious supper, we downed a very acceptable bottle of Bordeaux Superieur, and now she has gone again, like a puff of wind. Was she ever here at all? On Friday, she returns to New York, and I shall be sad. I doubt that I will be able to do my usual pre-Thanksgiving trip this year, even with the real deals being offered by Virgin Atlantic. Seventeen years I have skittered over the Atlantic each November and now, I shall have to live on my memories. Good memories though, I adore New York, and have had some good times there. I was so excited when the senior daughter settled over there.

Today, it is raining again, but I have a positive to report. For once I am not being depressed by the rain and maybe, there is a little chink in my armour, a little leavening of the misery. For the first time for ages, I have had several days when I have felt that I am on the road to recovery. I cannot change what has happened, and suddenly, yes, I will manage. At last - a half full cup.

I have been brought to this point, I reckon, because I have had the support of some very good and kind friends. They must be saints, to put up with me, but, boy, how I have appreciated those friendships.

I am waiting for a lull so that I can take Maud and Billy out for a walk. They are so naughty, I open the kitchen door and boot them out into the garden, they shiver on the terrace, and scratch immediately to be re-admitted. I then have to dive ahead of them to stop them piling onto the sofa in the family room, where they want to tunnel under the throw, mit wet paws, and leer at me screaming at them. Not a wise decision to have a cream sofa in a family room - my levels of stress are off the gauge many times a day. I just love these dogs - since Violet's accident, they have been such good company. When I let them out into the garden early this morning, before the rain came, I watched Billy and he reminded me so much of his mother, I felt a big lump in my throat. He has filled out, and slinks along, head down, tail swinging, just like his mother used to do. It is such a comfort to have him, to remind me of her. I never want to forget her, my kind, gentle, beautiful Violet.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Questions but no answers

It is an interesting exercise, this attempt to reclaim a life, I think it is well-nigh impossible. What is it that one is trying to reclaim? Youth, an identity, a life that never existed and is a total fantasy in one's imagination, an ideal of a perfect relationship that one would have liked to have enjoyed? What? Am I admitting defeat, a failure to engage with the person with whom I spent 44 years of my life? Was this failure my fault? Should I accept that I did not make him happy, that he did not make me happy, who is at fault here? Reclamation, what does that mean?

I am so unhappy, but am I more unhappy than I was in a relationship that was sapping my lifeblood, making me so unsure of my whole sense of being that I could not function. A relationship that was so bad, so dark, so unsettling that it made me into a person that I despised. The damage that human beings do to each other is sometimes so corruscating, so negative, so poisonous, that a way out is not an option, it is like a rabbit transfixed in the headlights of a car.

I know that I am intelligent, I can be witty, fun, I am not unattractive, I am well-read, I love cooking and have a knowledge of fine wine, I love my garden, opera and music, I have a large circle of loyal and good friends, but to my husband, none of these things were of consequence. Nothing about me meant anything to him - he appreciated nothing that made me the person that I am. I cannot understand it - he just did not care one jot about me. He persistently destroyed my very being. His constant affairs were a slap in the face - they were always with strange, needy not very attractive women - don't say it, all my fault. I was needy too, but hid it because there was NEVER any response, even from the very beginning.

The ultimate result of this terrible mis-match is disaster. There is little to look forward to - he has spent all the money, he has no savings despite being a very high earner, so what future is there for me and for him? He cannot have a new life with his current slapper, if, indeed, that is what he wants, because there ain't no money! C'est la vie.

In the scheme of things, this is all so trivial. Actually, I look forward to the peace and quiet which will surely follow when everything is finally settled. Money is quite definitely the root of all evil - I know that the latest affair started because the tired old slapper thought the husband was rich - I hope she now realises that he most definitely is going to be very strapped for cash - no more expensive foreign trips across Europe trailing his expensive racing cars to the race tracks, staying in smart hotels, a life she had never enjoyed before. I hug myself thinking of the remark a mutual friend made about her last week - 'God help us all if this relationship goes belly-up. She is a nightmare in that situation. She wails, keens, throws herself on shoulders weeping hysterically, rings up her girlfriends in the middle of the night sobbing. Frankly, for a woman in her late fifties, it is very unedifying and rather pathetic. She has never understood that most men just want a good time with a woman like her' I couldn't have put it better myself!

I suddenly feel much better.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another trip down memory lane

Yesterday was another trip down memory lane - what a maudlin old biddy I am becoming.

I went down to London to see my niece (actually the niece of the philandering husband) and her adorable baby Matilda. This dear little baby is 'something else'. She is 7 months old, all smiles and so cute, I just love her. She is like a wise little old woman, so sharp and an absolute joy.

S and R, her husband, live in East Dulwich - they both work at King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill, which is where my two daughters were born. The husband and I lived in Dulwich for five years before we moved out of London - so my heartstrings were well and truly tugged as we sped through Dulwich Village yesterday, past the Crown and Greyhound where we used to sit in the garden with the girls, past Dulwich Park where I used to take them to feed the ducks. We were lucky to buy our first house in 1971, and then came the first property boom so we sold 18 months later for twice the purchase price, and bought a wreck of an Edwardian terrace house. We split it asunder, and I can still smell the dust, and the chemical smell of the preservative used to rid it of woodworm, dry rot, etc. It was absolute chaos. I was expecting the senior daughter at the time, and the house was never going to be ready in time for the birth.

We ended up living with friends in Glebe Place, off the King's Road, from whence I departed to give birth to S. After I left hospital, I had to go to Warwickshire to my family - a homeless little family!

I have the most happy memories of our life then. S was quickly followed by H, 18 months later, so I had my hands full. Life was definitely simpler, I did not have a car, and used to walk into Dulwich Village with the pram, one inside and the other sitting on the top, to do my shopping every day. I always remember that in those days you shopped seasonally, and now autumn is approaching, I remember the piles of melons, corn on the cob with its silks hanging down, blackberries, rosy apples and piles of pears. It is such a shame that there are so few greengrocers left - buying from a supermarket is just not the same. We then walked on to the park, as I said, to feed the ducks. There was also a little park with slides and swings at the end of our road, and the girls spent many a happy hour there. Friends would come for lunch with their offspring regularly, and life was such fun. Most weekends we went away to the country, to friends, to family in Warwickshire and Norfolk, we could not afford holidays, so the English beach was the answer. Life was definitely simpler, and I think, less stressful.

When I arrived home last night, I felt immeasurably sad. I have so many happy memories, but they are tinged with such a sense of inadequacy, I suppose. Why was the life we had never enough, why was I never enough? I feel that it is a tragedy for my husband to get to this stage of his life and all he has worked towards has vanished in a puff of smoke. He has lied and cheated his way through a 44 year relationship. lost the respect of his family and most of our friends, for what? A tired-looking, serial marriage-wrecker who, according even to her friends, has lost her looks. And - he is forced to spend time socially with a group of people about whom he never had a good word to say in the past. Not a good result for anyone concerned.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Returning to normality

This afternoon, I drove into Banbury with the daughters, so that the senior one could catch the train down to London, to spend her last few days in the UK with her friends. She returns to New York on Tuesday, and tomorrow I drive the junior daughter and Posetta Baddog down to London, and life will slowly return to normality again.

One week - and so much has happened. Two weeks ago, I was not expecting to see S until Christmas. Now - she has been and has gone. A whirlwind and a joy - it is always good to have both daughters at home together. Often I ponder on the fact that neither daughter is married, and then I realise that I am lucky - I would have less of their time if they were married. They so enjoy spending time together, and I love having the house full, and I love to moan about the mess, the disruption, and chaos, and know that I would not want it otherwise. To me, life is all about family, and I know that tomorrow night when I return from London, the house will be quiet, and I shall feel bereft.

When I stir on Monday morning, I will then appreciate the peace, and set to clearing up the mess, returning everything to its proper place, and letting my life return to a more measured pace. One is never entirely satisfied at any one time with the status quo.

I have had a week like the curate's egg, good in parts, but it has been filled with sadness and joy and has never been dull or boring.

Friday, August 14, 2009

An eventful week

Friday - and so much has happened it is difficult to put one's thoughts in order.

I's funeral was held on Wednesday. It was also my 64th birthday - symbolic, because I shall always remember him with love each 12 August.

The junior daughter and I set off down the M1 in the pouring rain and drew into Sandy station just as the senior daughter came onto the forecourt. It was so wonderful to see her, she had flown over from New York especially to say goodbye to our dear friend I. So - twice in one week I had flown down a motorway to meet a daughter at a train station.

We had special seats reserved for us in the Church, such a thoughtful gesture from R to think of us at a time like this. I had chosen to be buried in a woodland burial ground, so he was in a wonderful woven willow coffin, with ivy entwined around it, and a single red rose on top. It was so in keeping with I's character, and the whole service was a celebration of his life. One of the readings was entitled a Meditation by the late Cardinal Basil Hume. It was beautiful - I was not a Roman Catholic but it was so fitting. We walked out to Purcell's Trumpet Voluntary.

Afterwards, there was a delicious tea at R and I's home - little canapes, tiny sandwiches, yummy little cakes, I's favourites, he had a very sweet tooth. And - as a send off - champagne and a toast to I from us all. He had left strict instructions that this was to happen.

For me, personally, it was yet another trip down memory lane. So many faces from the past, most of the people R had shared houses with, after I had married. It was so lovely to see them all, and I loved introducing the senior and junior daughters to them all. A very poignant time - and I was so glad that the two daughters were there with me and I was very proud of them.

So - a chapter closes and we are all left with our memories.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A trip down memory lane

The junior daughter arrived at Ashford Station on time on Saturday afternoon, after I had negotiated the M40, M25 and M20, arriving five minutes before her train drew into the platform. As I left the motorway and drove towards Ashford, I recognised little of my surroundings. We left Kent nearly 24 years ago, and in that time, Ashford has changed beyond recognition. As I saw the junior daughter and Posetta Baddog come out onto the forecourt, I called out, and the Baddog started keening, and let off the lead, charged towards me, hyperventilating in its excitement. Someone loves me, I thought! And - I love this little dog too.

We were booked into a B & B in High Halden which, joy of joys, allowed dogs to accompany their guests. So - we installed ourselves, and after a welcome cup of tea, got ready for the party.

Often, when one returns to a much-loved milieu, it can be something of a disappointment. I remembered nostalgically all the wonderful times and what fun it was living in a small Kentish village in the early 70's,where the young were so safe, going off on their bicycles exploring, and having a quite idyllic time, no worries at all about traffic, or having fears for their safety. I had a Citroen Dyane, and used to stuff it full of the young, some of them standing up with their heads out of the rolled-back roof, and bowl off to Camber Sands with a picnic. Imagine that being acceptable nowadays! And - the best entertainment for a houseful of cbildren was taking them up to the local strawberry fields, and picking strawberries for tea. Red-stained lips and fingers, and a car full of happy children. And all the friendships forged - I wondered if I was being fanciful.

When H and I arrived, with Posetta Baddog in tow, but, I hasten to add, left in the car, windows open, and snuggly fleece for a bed, I suddenly felt as if I had come home. J and F live in the most wonderful 14thC Kentish farmhouse, in an idyllic setting, and all the happy memories came flooding back. H felt the same - she and her sister adored their time in this village, and I suddenly felt as if we were 24 years back in time.

I felt quite tearful, I recognised so many faces, and people were coming up to us, "Do you remember me? How lovely to see you both" "Hello, it is V and H, isn't it, where is S, is she well?" Hugs, kisses, reminscences, we felt so special, H and I, these lovely people, such special friends, and what a fantastic evening we had with them. It was the most tremendous party, a wonderful atmosphere, and everywhere H and I turned, another familiar and loving face. What an evening it was a celebration for J and F of their 40th wedding anniversary, but more importantly, their 40 years in this lovely village. Generations of their family, grandchildren, and cousins, and aunts and uncles, a wonderful mix - there was a continuous slide show of their married life, all the milestones, all the everyday happenings. H and I found pictures of ourselves and her sister S, looking considerably younger! It was the most joyous occasion, one of the best parties I have ever attended. Life-enhancing. Inviduous, I know, to retrace one's footsteps, one can never turn the clock back, but to be reminded of a life past, much simpler, less complicated, can be a joy, and reminds one that life has been good, and will be again.