Monday, August 23, 2010

Life moves on or life slips back in time?

Another day, another week. Life trundles on inexorably, a slow train on the tracks, destination unknown, unrelenting, on and or, perhaps, slides back into a much-loved, oft remembered previous comfort zone..

Last week was very quiet, after the festivities of the previous week it was time to slow down, and take stock once again. I have to confess that I had rather overdone it and needed to slow down.

I spent the week slowly clearing out more cupboards and drawers, slowly consigning 25 years in this house to boxes, the charity shops, and yet another skip.

I tackled the linen cupboards - laying everything out on the landing, and just sitting whilst my life was spread before me, each item telling a story, and memories of my childhood, and subsequent life unfolding before me.

Marrying the philanderer, brought an end to my previous life, the Edwardian upbringing I had enjoyed at my grandparents' house, a life of privilege, a life I have mentioned before here in A Life Reclaimed, except that it is not a Life Reclaimed now, certainly not the life I enjoyed before my ill-fated marriage.

My grandmother kept a wonderful house, Edwardian, a step back in time. I loved the house in which I was born, and not a day goes by without me thinking about little vignettes of my childhood spent there. Sitting surrounded by piles of linen, lace trimmed, monogrammed, fragile and much-loved, I remembered again how I loved my childhood in this house.

There was a linen room in this house, this childhood home of mine. Large cupboards lined the walls, bedlinen in one, table linen in another, and so on ... A large table under the window held an ancient treadle sewing machine. Once a week a woman from the villsge came to do the household mending. She turned sheets outside to the middle, and shirt collars and cuffs were turned and buttons stitched back. Lace was mended, new lace stitched to new bedlinen, table napkins and cloths were repaired, she was an essential part of the household. How times have changed.

I remembered how, on my return home at the end of every term at my boarding school, I would rush upstairs to my bedroom, my bed would have been turned down by the housekeeper, crisp linen sheets, trimmed with lace, with matching pillow cases, in summer the sash windows open, with a wonderful view of the beloved garden, in winter, a fire burning in the grate.

As I sorted out the linen last week, I wept, every piece reminding me of something in my past young life - I sorted everything into piles, the lace-trimmed pillow cases, the sheets, fragile with age, the tea cloths, I remembered how they would be used every afternoon when we had tea, again lace-trimmed, embroidered, every one evoking memories. Tea would be taken in winter, by the fire, in my grandmother's little sitting room, in summer in the garden, by the croquet lawn. How clear all these memories were to me last week.

The fire burning in the grate - every morning during the winter months, I would be woken by the laying and lighting of the fire in my bedroom, and each evening when I went to bed, I remember how I used to lie watching the shadows of the flames dancing in the dark. on the bedroom ceiling. On chilly late summer evenings, I would also look forward to the prospect of a fire to enjoy at bedtime. To this day, I fantasise about finding a house with working fireplaces in the bedrooms, the hot water bottles placed in the bed with a nightgown wrapped round it so it was warm and cosy to put on, before slipping into crisp cold sheets.

I truly think that I am slipping back in time. Nostalgia is a drug, a soporofic, oh so comforting, a shell into which one can retreat, and shut off the outside world.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sound the trumpets celebrate ...

I am quite mad - I am sitting at the kitchen table, as per usual, having had a brilliant Saturday - the rain is lashing down, it is only 7.30 pm but the house is dark as night and I am listening to Purcell - "Come ye sons of art, an Ode for the birthday of Queen Anne" I lurve Purcell, I am waving my glass of wine in the air, and just loving the music. I was born in the wrong century - I adore 17th and 18th century music and one of the best things about living on one's own is that I have carte blanche to listen to what I bloody well like, instead of being exhorted to "turn that racket off"! The ex stretched to Enya, and not much else.

I do not know what has happened to summer, the gloom has descended like a funereal pall, and it is like winter. When I took the dogs out mid-afternoon I caught a warm, sunny spell, but 20 minutes into our walk, the heavens opened.

The rain lashed down, big angry pregnant drops of water, and as one, Bill, Maud and I hared for shelter under a hedge, which thankfully had high overhanging branches. Bill shivered as the huge drops splattered rhrough the leaves, and gave me baleful glances as he tried to avoid them. Maud has a thicker coat so she was fine, but I only had a T-shirt on, and was getting cold and wet. As quickly as it began, it stopped and we ran for home.

Before it began to rain, the sky looked extraordinary. Patches of dark grey, with billowing white clouds, small blue areas, and for all the world looking like an ominous William Blake illustration. I felt as if a monster was going to jump out of the sky. Once it began to rain, the sky suddenly become a uniform steel grey, almost the colour of Billy's coat. Very odd.

Purcell is still going strong - it is too loud for the dogs, who keep looking reproachfully at me. Bad luck, I am loving it.

A good friend came by for brunch this morning on her way back to Cumbria after performing Granny duties in London and Kent, we had about three hours of non-stop natter, and it was lovely to see her. We met first 34 years ago, when we all left London for Kent, with our babies in tow. Much water has passed under the bridge in the ensuing years. She left me with a bottle of Moet pink champagne - when shall I drink it, with whom should I share it? When I do broach it, I shall think of her and drink a toast to our enduring friendship.

As a finale, may I thank everyone for your lovely comments and birthday wishes - my birthday was all I could have wished for, apparently everyone was very anxious to celebrate my 65th, perhaps a little too eager! Anyway - I have had fun this week, my house looks like a florist shop, I have spent quality time with my girls, heard from old friends, and feel better about myself than I hsve done for a long time. I salute you all for helping me to recover.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

12th August 1945

Today, dear readers, is a sad day, a day of reflection, today Aurora has reached a milestone. Her 65th birthday, how can I bear it? I cannot possibly be 65 years of age. Unfortunately, it is the stark truth, 12th August, 1945, was THE day, the day of my entry into the world. Three days before VJ Day, a new beginning for a war-ravaged world. Somehow, it seems fitting, as I am now experiencing a new beginning, a renaissance.

This is the first birthday of my whole life that I will spend on my own. A good friend will drop in tonight for a glass of wine and some melon and parma ham. I do not feel abandoned: I have had many cards and the phone is ringing constantly. Old friends from whom I have not heard for some time, even some years, suddenly, I find that people are thinking of me and supporting me. I have lost very few friends, it would appear.

I have just spent two days in London, staying with the Junior Daughter. The dog posse came too, to see their London cousin Posetta Baddog, and we all crammed into the tiny London flat. Thankfully the Junior Daughter has a very pretty little garden, so dog beds were spread outside, and down flopped all dogs in the sunshine.

The first night I went out to supper with the Senior Daughter, so we could have some catch-up time. We ate delicious dim sum and other related goodies - and had a good gossip. I am getting a dab hand at collecting vouchers and freebies, this particular restaurant was offering one free main course with a meal for two or more. I am getting exceedingly proud of my thrift, borne out of necessity. The dim sum were some of the best I had ever tasted - spinach, mushroom, and scallop with prawn. I shovelled them down.

Bedtime that first night was hilarious. Bill and Miss Maud are beyond clingy with me when we are away from home - and the Baddog is guilty of extreme possessiveness. I share a double bed with the Junior Daughter - but up hopped Bill, Miss Maud, followed by the Baddog, all jostling for pole position.

Not the most comfortable night of my life. I eventually got to sleep in the early hours, waking to find the Baddog upside down between the Daughter and me, paws drawn up beneath her chin, Miss Maud tangled up with her, and Bill draped over my knees, anchoring me so completely that I felt as if I was in a straightjacket, and eyeballing me to make sure he wasn't forgotten. Ah, such dominant dogs!

This day was the Junior Daughter's birthday - amazingly, she had been due on my birthday, but arrived twenty minutes too early, much to my chagrin.

After a leisurely start, we sallied forth for a joint birthday lunch. Eating out is a rare treat for me now. So - twice in two days is sheer extravagance.

The Junior Daughter wore her best bib and tucker, she looked enchanting, and I was so proud to be seen with her.

We ate the most lip-smackingly delicious lunch, we both had herb-encrusted scallops, all buttery and juicily, burstingly fresh, baked in the shell, followed by chargrilled squid, with a salad of broad beans, tomato concasse and mint. It all just exploded in the mouth. Sated, we stumbled out to Marks and Spencer at Marble Arch, for a little light shopping therapy. Just the odd T-shirt.

When we arrived back at the flat, the Senior Daughter had popped in whilst we were out and left us both a ravishing tarte aux fruits for our tea. Clever, as we had not had a pudding! There was also a wonderful bunch of roses for me, deep yellow fringed with orange, long stemmed, with glossy dsrk green leaves.

So - to be on my own today is not such a hardship. It would not be truthful to say that the day will not be without a certain poignancy - but the tristesse I feel, is for the loss of my family life - not at all for the loss of a husband who lied, cheated and spent his way through a 45 year relationship, and must confront his own demons.

I am free.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The return of the heron

Sunday morning, total peace here in my own little corner of heaven.

This peace, however, was rudely shattered at 7.45 am by Bill baying, and Miss Maud yapping in a high-pitched frenzy. The Sunday papers, Lordy me, were being delivered - hours earlier than usual. This, coupled with the fact that for once I had slept far longer than usual, and wished to remain asleep, should have made me very grumpy indeed.

However, I was secretly proud of my protective canine companions. Last year, when our beloved Violet had her terrible accident in the lane outside the house, Bill saw it happen, and since then has waged a war against the perpetrator, the man who delivers the papers. Bill has never forgotten, and wreaks his revenge whenever L appears outside the house. Dear, clever Bill.

My lie-in ruined, I stumbled out of bed and drew up the blind. On the bank of the stream in the paddock, stood "my" heron. I could not believe my eyes - I had not seen him since the beginning of the summer, when the water levels dropped due to lack of rain, and seeing him today, seemed like a wonderful omen.

Usually he is balanced on the hand rail of the little chinese bridge we had built over the stream. I had never seen him on the ground - he looked a little like a pelican, crouched down. Then he stretched up, and put his head straight up, beak vertical to the sky. I opened the casement window to watch him. He preened himself, and then slowly rose up to the handrail on the bridge, perched for a minute, and took of in slow motion, wings flapping slowly, legs hanging down, positively prehistoric looking.

As he slowly rose up to clear the trees, a shot rang out, my heart sank, but he just veered right round, and flew off in the other direction. My clever heron, how pleased I was to see him again. Was he back again, to reassure me all will be well?

Now I am sitting in the kitchen as I am wont to do, Classic FM playing softly in the background, the dogs slumbering outside on the terrace, there is a small bird making little urgent whistling noises, and though technically in the village, I could be miles out in the countryside.

I have just listened to Faure's Agnus Dei, and next it will be Elgar's Serenade for Strings. A feast for the senses. I get such joy from wonderful music and my little personal nature reserve that surrounds me here.

Billy the Kid has just lain his dear head on my lap, and gazed up at me with his gentle, liquid brown eyes. Maud is standing in the doorway, staring intently at me. Time for a walk.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

So - ex-Mrs W, how would you describe .... ?

So, ex-Mrs W, how would you describe the end of the first week of your Life Reclaimed? My response? I reserve judgement.

It has been an interesting renaissance. I have already written about the lunch party I so enjoyed last Sunday, I hsve mentioned a supper with friends, followed by lunch with friends and all rounded off by a visit to Glyndebourne.

Lunch on Wednesday was such fun - my friends, B & T, have been so kind and have given me such support. We ate at a local restaurant which is quite unique - it is owned by a Portuguese family, who have run it for many years. It is an amazing experience to eat there, it is always full every day of the week, even though it is out in the countryside, the clientele are mainly regulars, members quite definitely of the silver foxes, and the staff are unbelievably jolly.

Looking around the dining room, I realised that whether I liked it or not, I also was one of these silver foxes, although obviously, I considered that I looked years younger than anyone else, of course. Such conceit.

Notwithstanding, it was fun and I find B & T charming and great company.

To Glyndebourne the following day. I had not realised that the dress rehearsals were like performances, not actually open to the general public, but all the tickets are made available on a complimentary basis to family and friends of the cast, and some Friends of Glyndebourne.

It makes for a very relaxed atmosphere, because the dress code is not the usual black tie and evening dress one, but just ordinary clothes. One still picnics in the Interval - my friend and I arrived very early, so set up our little picnic camp, had a glass or two of chilled white wine, some olives and some cheese. It felt slightly strange because the performance starts at 4.30 pm, too early to have had a proper lunch.

I loved putting together our little picnic. As I was unearthing picnic paraphanalia, finding cutlery, tablecloth and napkins, I felt a little tearful. Life is so different now, and I so miss doing things like this. I packed a beautiful lace trimmed cloth that belonged to my aunt, big linen napkins to cover our laps, and as I did so, lots of memories came flooding back.

I roasted a poussin, with tarragon, butter, and lemon, which I just cut into quarters, to eat with our fingers if necessary, cooked tiny new potatoes, made a little mayonnaise flavoured with lemon juice, white peaches poached in sugar syrup and white wine, with a little creme de framboise liqueur stirred in at the end, to be eaten with thick Greek yoghurt, and put together three cheeses, some ripe epoisse. Shropshire blue, and some goat's cheese. My friend brought the salad made from lettuce grown on her allotment, all unusual, some dark red, some frilly, some mottled, and some Russian gherkin cucumbers, sweet, crisp, and slightly bitter, and also the wine. All quite delicious.

Now for the opera - I had never heard of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress - a huge oversight, as it turned out. It was wonderful - a alightly slow start for me, but then, I really began to enjoy it. The libretto by W H Auden, the scenery by David Hockney, what more could one ask? I loved it - opera is actually light on story - but always the music and singing are magical. We knew Matthew Rose, who sang the part of Shadow, and who had kindly given us our tickets, so it was lovely to have a connection with the performance.

It did turn out to be a very long day - nearly six hours driving in total, but so enjoyable. I am fortunate that I can continue to do things that give me so much pleasure - but I do have to cherry pick now, I cannot do everything.

So - my final answer at the end of this first week? I have had a jolly time, but it was all still tinged with a certain sadness, old memories die hard, and it will take time for the dust to settle.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A resume of the first half of the first week of my new life

It is a vile day - dull, miserable, and raining with a thin persistency that soaks surprisingly quickly. Bad news for dogs.

I decided to take them out at 8 am because I am going out to lunch, and wanted to wash my hair without getting it ruined before I even set out to meet my friends.

I wished I had had my camera to hand. Both dogs rushed off across the garden to the front gate, as usual, However, two strides before the ford, and Miss Maud went on strike. God, she is annoying. I am afraid I just went on ahead with Bill, but I turned round after a minute or two to see a forlorn little Jack Russell just standing in the middle of the lane, the rain dripping off her little body. Every inch of her body said "How could you, how could you a) take me out in the rain b) how could you abandon me and c) you obviously love Bill best because here I am all alone". Daft mut.

Needless to say, we quickly turned back, and as she saw us heading towards her, she made an Olympian spurt back home. Now - I will have to go out again, and ruin my freshly washed hair.

This is turning out to be a very jolly week - life is definitely looking up.

On Sunday, I went to a lunch party held by friends the day after their daughter got married. The marquee was in a field, beside a little tributary of the Cherwell river, the sun shone, and it was a quintessential English high summer's day. We had drinks outside the marquee and then lunch inside. I just had the jolliest time - I am past the stage where I was nervous about going out socially on my own and I find that people now accept the situation and are very warm and kind to me. In fact, I actually enjoy myself more, and am even beginning to meet more people than I did when I was married.

Last night friends came to supper, today I am out to lunch.

Tomorrow I am going to a dress rehearsal of The Rake's Progress at Glyndebourne with a girlfriend. We both know one of the singers, and he has given us complimentary tickets. We will take a picnic but it will not be as formal as a full-blown performance. So - life is fun again.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A metamorphosis, Damascene conversion ....?

Well, this feels like the first day of my new life. After months and months of railing, and wailing, and torrents of self-pity, a metamorphosis has taken place, a Damascene conversion, the light at the end of the tunnel, call it what you will, hurrah!

Maybe it is because my health is improving after months of being under par, maybe I have at last grown-up, maybe it is the build-up of strength I have accrued from good friends, who tell me the truth, how I should pull myself together, how I am worth more than the personna of the bleating poor little me, oh yes. They have often told me what I did not want to hear - but buried within the trenchant advice, I have picked up on what I needed to know, and here I am - hopefully a mended and stronger person.

I salute you, all those good friends who have been there for me, told me to p sometimes! On how I have come to appreciate you all. In my previous life, I was so unhappy, so buttoned up for years, that I did not realise how many good and kind friends I had, and whom I now treasure.

There is so much more to life, and I am ready to grasp it with both hands.

It really is interesting how the clouds suddenly lift, and there is a way forward.

I have much to do, and how I will enjoy it all with gusto.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Arome de Reynard

After finishing my post "Pastures New", I decided to settle down on the sofa in the family room to watch my secret vice, Casualty. I know, I know, but I secretly love it.

I poured myself a large glass of chilled rose, I felt I deserved it, called the dogs in from the garden where they had been for some time, and we sank into the cushions to relax for a while.

Ten minutes into the programme, Maud was curled up beside me, Billy draped around my shoulders, his head hanging down under my chin - I became aware of a pungent and all-pervading smell. Sniff, sniff, what could it be? I idly put my hand up round Bill's head to massage the soft velvety fur round his neck, it felt a little stiff, Oh my God, he had been rolling in fox shit!

I eyeballed him - he looked shifty and very embarrassed indeed, hopped off the sofa and fled.

How very self aware.

Pastures new

It is a beautiful evening - but more like early autumn than a nascent August. The recent dry spell has really pole-axed the garden, and everything is spent with no freshness to it, and a month ahead of its usual cycle. The light is magical though, bathing everything in a soft yellow glow, a harbinger of mellow days to come.

It is hard to believe just how quickly yet another year is passing in which I have lived alone, and still without the final resolution to all the ever-present unpleasantness.

However, I do feel that within the next six months, everything will settle down. In a funny way, the two years that have passed in limbo, have made me realise that it is time to start a new life, and move on. I have loved this house and garden with a passion, a mantra oft repeated here, but I cannot continue to maintain it, both physically and financially, and so now feel ready to move on to a new stage in my life. In fact, I would welcome it.

An opportunity to reflect, to run the gamut of a tangle of mixed emotions, a chance to re-evaluate, to surgically examine a failed relationship, many people do not have that luxury. Often marriages fracture seismically, with no warning like an earthquake, and how much harder that must be to cope with than the situation in which I found myself, where I was the instigator of the break - and the other party continued to behave so badly, and refused to settle, and thus gave me time to really decide that the marriage was well and truly over.

Yes, I have had time to reflect on the past 45 years. There were many good times at the beginning, and little things keep nudging and rising up in my mind - it is impossible to spend your whole adult life with someone, and then forget everything you shared together. I suppose the most difficult thing is to realise that most of the things that I remember and once enjoyed, were not mutual. Every single day aomething jogs my memory - a tune, a smell, a photograph, a book, a classic car racing past me in the country lane near my home, all lost in a fog, a mist of incomprehension that what meant so much to one person in a marriage mattered not one jot to the other partner. Everything airbrushed from history.

Notwithstanding, I have had a good life, and had many experiences, travelled widely meeting many interesting people, so no regrets on that score.

Today, a kind friend on loan from his understanding wife, came to give me another lesson on my computer. I am slowly learning all manner of good things - I have almost mastered properly the art of inserting my photos on my blog, {instead of the senior daughter coming to the rescue!) He also unblocked the filter on my washing machine and dismantled my large, ripped and very dishevelled garden umbrella - what will I do when I move from this village? Everyone is so kind. On to pastures new.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Another week, another life ...

Another week, another life ....Where does the time go?

I have just got back from yet another hospital appointment. This time for treatment to correct a problem which arose after my cataract operation 18 months ago. Honestly, I am beginning to feel very mortal indeed - I have always been so healthy, but now I feel that I singlehandedly fill the hospital coffers by stuffing their parking machines with my spare cash.

Apparently an opaque membrane had grown over the lens inserted during the cataract operation. This morning it was lasered off - and hey presto, by the end of today, my sight should be much clearer. No more groping for my glasses, no more squinting at the credits on the television screen - I have very poor sight in the other eye, so was very compromised.

Life here is now more peaceful since I returned the Baddog to her London home on Wednesday. I really miss her, but life is calmer - and I do not have to lug her up and downstairs all the time, defying the instructions to me not to lift anything at all for another 6 weeks. That dog weighs a ton - although I do think she lost a little weight whilst here.

Getting ready to lesve for London brought back memories of the school run. All three dogs had to be taken out first for a quick tiddle, then loaded into the car, the Baddog hyper-ventilating with joy when she saw her bed on the front passenger seat. Billy and Maud snuggled into their sheepskin on the back seat - then check list - water bowls, leads, the Baddog's muzzle, some doggy treats for bribing. Just as I had set the burglar alarm and was heading for the front door, Billy leapt out of the car, he had changed his mind and he flew back into the house. I had to turn off the alarm, catch Billy, and start again.

I was exhausted before we even set off up the lane. Just like a car load of unruly schoolchildren. Ah memories .....

Monday, July 26, 2010

A country Christening

A steamy, damp Monday morning greeted me on chucking the dogs out into the garden this morning. What a change from yesterday - although by evening, the sky was a uniform grey tinged with yellow, a sure sign of rain to come. I was distinctly bleary-eyed. At least three times during the night, the dogs had rushed downstairs barking hysterically, and having been constantly woken up, I felt in bad shape. I assume it was a fox on the prowl, because this morning, the dogs picked up a trail of something interesting around the garden.

Even though I had had yet another enjoyable weekend, so many people say to me in concerned fashion "I expect your weekends are your worst time - I expect they drag, and you feel rather lonely" My unspoken response would be "How about asking me out" but in truth, there is always at least one invitation, family or friends visiting or staying, or perhaps two days in which to just chill out and relax.

Yesterday, for instance, some great friends invited me to the Christening of their first grandchild, which they were hosting at their home. I was thrilled to be invited, not least because I am extremely fond of their daughter and son-in-law. I have found since I have been on my own, that friends have often included me in their family gatherings.

The Christening took place in the local village church where the young couple had married 4 years before, and I had had the joy of decorating the church for them.

The sun shone, baby Tabitha behaved beautifully, and we enjoyed lunch in the garden, with lots of pink fizz and delicious food. Talking to all the young, and seeing all the small children running round the garden, blowing bubbles, and paying games, it slowly dawned on me that I have now joined the ranks of the older generation, the grandparents, to be exact. How time flies.

It was all tinged with an almost unbearable poignancy - because I realised that I would never host such an occasion myself, in similar circumstances. My lovely home is the perfect place for such a gathering, but it will not now happen. I felt, in some ways, like the spectre at the feast. I still have to explain to people, if they are only acquaintances, why I am on my own - it takes time for a change in circumstances to filter through to the wider world.

When I arrived home, I was in deep trouble. The dog posse were so unamused by being left alone for 4 hours, for heaven's sake, 4 whole hours, that I had hardly turned off the burglar alarm, before they stationed themselves by the kitchen door, "Walkies, NOW", the body language of three abandoned pooches almost febrile in its urgency.

Off we went, me muttering under my breath that I would much rather have a cup of tea, and attack the Sunday papers. The irony of all this - after about 10 minutes Maud and the Baddog turned tail, and headed for home, leaving Bill and I to trail back behind them. Contrary? Pah!

Today - will any of them go out, apart from a quick visit to feed the sheep? Not at all - but, it has now stopped raining, and the sun is weakly showing, so tough luck, lazy dogs. After their behaviour during the night, they will toe MY line. Out we all go.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Damn the bacon sandwiches

Today has been reflective - it is interesting how the slightest nudge can bring memories flooding back, and start the mood deep contemplative.

I slept well last night - I was beyond exhausted. On Thursday night,I received a call from the Senior Daughter to tell me that the Junior Daughter had had a bad fall on Bristol station, on her way back from a short break in Cornwall. My heart pounded - the Junior Daughter is unsteady on her feet, and a fall is not good news, because she falls flat on her face.

Apparently Great Western were brilliant, and arranged for the paramedics to meet the train at Swindon to check her out. They advised her to continue on to London, and to go to A & E at the Royal Free, her local hospital. This she duly did, but no mobile phone reception, so Mamman sat up until 3 am waiting to hear what the prognosis was likely to be. We were lucky that the Senior Daughter was in charge, who always rises to the occasion and copes admirably, and eventually all was sorted out, a black eye, and a badly sprained wrist. A very good thing that Possetta Baddog was in the country with me as it was one less thing for them to worry about.

In the past, if the philanderer had happened, but not often, to have been at home, Mamman could have driven off to help out. but leaving three dogs now is a problem.

This scenario nudged back to my consciousness that the philanderer has never been there for the family in times of need and crisis. Always unavailable, always out of touch, and never to be relied upon.

I remembered all the times I needed to contact him - the hotel had never heard of him, non, the Monsieur had not been here for months, the recorded message saying that the hotel had been closed for a year for refurbishment, non, this Company had not used this particular hotel for a long time, non, Monsieur was not in his room, but Madame was ( oh really, I would say, funny that, because I was Madame, and the hotel would ring off instantly) Non, monsieur et madame were honoured regular guests, but had not been for a while (I had never been!) And on and on, and on, it went. The dinners he attended with his "wife Mrs W" not me, and friends of ours were there! And I always gave him another chance. What was my problem?

Do you know something? Someone said to me yesterday that they were convinced that he had serious mental health problems, and suddenly everything falls into place.

God, how I hate him, his lies, his profligacy, his needy grasping doxies who swallow all his fantastical stories - how I hate myself for allowing him to behave like it.

We hsve two beautiful intelligent daughters, yet, apparently none of us were good enough but to look at the substitutes, oh God, is he blind?

It all seems so trivial, so inconsequential, so ridiculous, so banal.

On Thursday, an old friend came to lunch. I had not seen her for over 20 years, - we had been friends in Kent when our children were little - we had all moved on - but she and I had continued to exchange cards at Christmas and the odd phone call. Her husband had a stroke 11 years ago, and then another several years later. He is "locked in" he understands everything yet cannot communicate at all. She adores him, she looks after him at home, they still travel to London on the train, to the theatre and opera, he loves still being able to do so, I salute her. She said to me simply "I love him". It made me realise that my husband had never even liked me, let alone loved me. He had never in 45 years ever made a gesture that showed that he even cared.

I remember breaking my leg some years ago - the next morning. up he got, I smelt wonderful aromas of grilling bacon and brewing of coffee, a little while later, the front door slammed, he had left for a day's rough shooting, complete with bacon sandwiches and flask of coffee - and had abandoned me for the whole day. No visit to the bathroom, no cup of tea, no breakfast, nothing. He spent 40 years in a marriage behaving like this, making my life with him a mockery.

One day, oh please, if there is any justice, he will come a cropper.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A day in the life of .....

Posetta Baddog - the Baddog is staying here in the country for a couple of weeks to give the Junior Daughter a bit of a break.

The Baddog's day goes something like this:

"I wake up to birdsong, all cosily curled up with Maud and Billy on the lovely fleece my country mummy lays on her bed specially for the three of us. I yawn, stretch, and eye my companions, amd give country mummy a little butterfly lick to say "Good Morning" and to make sure she knows we are all awake and it is time to go out for a wee.

When we are then turfed off the bed, the three of us dogs fly downstairs, and out into the garden, running off across the lawn, disturbing the sheep, who start calling for their breakfast. Sometimes there are a pair of green woodpeckers on the lawn, who fly off making funny noises, a bit like one of my squeaky toys, to the willow trees in the paddock. I would like to catch up with them as they dip and swoop away, but my legs are too short.

When we return to the kitchen, we eat our breakfast and then I curl up in a lovely big sheepskin bed and have a nap.

An hour or so later, the big sheepskin bed is put out on the terrace for us dogs, and if the sun is shining, it is heaven to just lie there soaking up the warmth. There are lots of toys scattered around, and if I am lucky, some of these will be thrown for me to chase.

Early afternoon is the time when the three of us go on our lovely walk. We are taken across the lane, over the ford, and into a huge field. The farmer has thoughtfully made a wonderful cart track all along one side, which makes it so much easier for my short little legs to cope - I don't have to hop over the long grass, which is very exhausting for me.

Billy charges off, jumping up at the butterflies, racing up and down the track, flying to and fro, it makes Maud and I tired just watching him.  We are much more sedate, and take life quietly, but I do love to snuffle through the grass, sometimes finding something small and furry to chase, although I never catch anything. Country mummy says my tail looks like a periscope waving through the grass, and that is how she finds me if I seem to have disappeared.

My life here is paradise, especially when the sun is warm on my back, and I do feel very happy. I do miss London mummy though, and sometimes I have a faraway look in my eyes when I dream of being back in her arms, she does love me so.

When we return home, it is time for a very long nap, because exercise is very tiring for a dog like me, with such short stumpy legs. I have my supper at about 6 o'clock, and if I am lucky, it might be home-cooked chicken dinner. It is possible I will quarrel with Billy and Maud over the food, but one can't be on one's best behaviour all the time.

Then - time for a slumber again - I find regular naps very restorative, the country air is very soporific. Apparently, I snore very, very loudly indeed. Who cares, I can't hear myself."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oh woe is me, for I am undone

Oh woe is me, for I am undone. No life reclaimed for me.

I have quite obviously somewhere in my past life offended the Gods - for my heavens, am I being made to pay for something hidden deep within my past.

Whatever I touch turns to dust. Please excuse the Biblical references here, but until now, I considered myself a committed Christian, but am now so sorely tested, that I question my faith.

Everywhere I turn, my Machiavellian, twisted, tormented, positively evil ex-husband has got there first, grinning inanely at me, red horns and flashing eyes leering at me. I do think he is the Devil Incarnate, and his consort is a Jezebel, spewing her poison.

I despair - what have I done? Simply pulled up the drawbridge and called a halt to the nightmare that had been my life for more years than I care to count.

How destructive and how pointless - now apparently, after nearly a year without any financial support from him, and having to continue to run the family home until it is sold, he is now telling the world that I have had all the assets and more, and when will it stop, I will apparently never stop, because everything will never be anough for me. Er -we are divorced - I can't claim anything to add to the paltry settlement I accepted finally. I think he very conveniently forgets that after a 40 year marriage, a wife is entitled to a fair deal, not the crumbs he thought were my lot.

This man lied to the Courts, plundered the joint pension funds, spent for England for years on his mistresses and racing cars, was sacked from a good few jobs, and has basically continued to spend like no tomorrow on a finite purse, whilst I have lived hand to mouth. Great behaviour. He is ably urged on by the greedy grasping witch - how do they sleep at night? He lies to her, she lies to him, what a toxic combination.

Despite the obvious injustice, I never win. What use is a moral victory, when all around you are people who lap up their poison, and ignore me, because I am at fault, I must be musn't I, because that is what they are told?

Shame on the lot of them - not one of them has a moral compass.

I suppose I am feeling down because I have still a way to go before I recover after my recent major surgery - it will be several months before I can return to a normal life and pull myself together to pack up the house.

How can two people behave so badly, so spitefully, so selfishly, and believe that they are somehow blameless? What use is a moral victory to me, I gave 45 years of my life to this sewer rat, and in the process have lost almost everything that mattered to me, but not my lovely girls.

Life is never simple - and I know that many people have difficult, complicated lives, and one must be grateful for blessings and small mercies. but sometimes one is sorely tested, as I have already said.

But - you know something? Underlying all this spite and venom emanating from the ex I detect an unhappy man. After all, for years he had got away with so much, more fool me, and he obviously thought he was invincible. I chucked him out, I divorced him, I turned the tables on him, one can only assume that he is furious that I eventually got the upper hand on that score.

If he had intended at some time to go off with the bleached blonde trollope, I got there first - which means his finances have turned turtle on them. No big house in which to continue to entertain her and her friends behind my back, no large pot of gold, as he was sacked, so no large salary, or expense account to dip into any more, so no spoiling of the trollope at someone else's expense. Maybe, just maybe he is bitter. Dear, oh dear! After all, he has lost all the trappings that he felt defined his "success" in life.

Maybe I should take stock, and rejoice that his life is turning to dust as well. I cannot believe that the trollope is a satisfactory substitute, for instance, for his lovely girls. And - when I look in the mirror, boy, do I feel superior to the bleached blonde - no redeeming features when she confronts the looking glass. Personally if I looked like her, I would wince at my reflection!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

The search for a new home

Does absence make the heart grow fonder? Well, dear readers, I hope so in your case, because I am back, and I hope you have missed me.

The past six weeks since I had surgery have been a mixture of highs and lows. In my innocence I thought that being at home, with beautiful weather, unadulterated Wimbledon on the television, and nothing much to do would be just wonderful. Er, no! How easily ennui sets in when everything you think you want is handed to you on a plate but you realise that you are severely constricted in what you are actually capable of within that context. No lifting, no long dog walks, no gardening, no driving, light cooking only, and the list goes on, and oh dear, a six week old pile of ironing.

A six week pile of ironing? How mortifying to realise that I can still go to the cupboard and dress myself after six weeks of hot weather, and frequent changes, and there is still no shortage of clothes to wear.

In my defence, over the past two years, I have lost a lot of weight. After the senior daughter and I had a massive clearout of the attics and cupboards earlier this year, I found a lot of clothes that I had put away because I could no longer fit into them. So - lucky old me.

This draws me to my next observation. For the past four months, since my home has been on the market, I have been trawling the internet, and myriad estate agents' lists, looking for a suitable new home. What a thankless task. The money that will be available to me will severely limit the possibilities. Basically, the category into which I will fit is the second home one. This means over-priced, over-decorated bijou cottages, that look wonderful, but are wildly impractical for everyday living.

It is astonishing how this category has sprung up - I assume that money has been freely available, and architects/developers have indulged their flights of fancy. Always tiny bedrooms, absolutely no wardrobe/clothes storage space, bathrooms squeezed in downstairs, huge conservatories, impractical because no furniture fits because there is no wall space, the same with kitchens, no room for a freezer or everyday food storage, they have fireplaces, too many doors, a long walk from the cooker, placed miles away from the sink, no work surfaces, no cupboard space, no proper utility rooms, nowhere for coats and boots, absolutely no storage space anywhere.

They have expensive professionally planted gardens, but nowhere to store mowers, garden furniture in the winter, or store gardening tools, nowhere for log storage, or dustbins. Instead of all the posy nonsense, what happened to the simple solution of just adding an extension, instead of the ridiculous conservatories and garden rooms and odd little pushed-out-a-bit single storey kitchen extensions, leaving huge terraced eating out spaces, with garden furniture with nowhere to go during the winter! I feel a new career beckons for me.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mildly pissed, grumpy, and tomorrow is another day

I love you all - I simply can't personalize my replies - incompetence - but I sooo appreciate every comment, suggestion and gesture of support. In time I will get myself in order, but please accept my salaams and thanks - I also support you all, and do understand all the shit that everyone else goes through. No situation is unique to the person mired in their personal shit.

I am mildly pissed - another glorious English summer's day - another house viewing, and yet another couple who do not want to buy my lovely home. I love this house with a passion, as I have said repeatedly to the point of boring all readers of Aurora's ramblings, and cannot understand why buyers are not beating a path to my door.

This morning I stumbled out of my bed, followed by the lights of my life, tails wagging, tongues lolling, thundering down the stairs to the kitchen door, desperate to charge down the garden. I stumbled over them as I tried to unset the burglar alarm, fell over the cat, cursed, and bleary-eyed, ejected all animals out into the wide blue yonder, to be met by the baaing of the wretched sheep.

Hell, a house viewing at 10 am, and I am not so mobile that getting everything into apple pie order was going to be easy. Life seems so complicated - perhaps sorting my house out was not so important. Actually it is - if I want to find a buyer, ancient bowls of dog food, and empty wine glasses,, and unplumped cushions give out the wrong messages. I have been told to streamline - but hey, after a while just where do you hide hundreds of books, kitchen equipment, etc? Damn everyone.

Today, apparently, the prospective buyers complained that the house was dark, the wisteria cast shadows. the apple tree outside the dining room door had to go, damnthem - find another house. It was pointed out to them that it was 10 o'clock in the morning and the sun was barely up, and a little later on, the house, south facing, would be flooded with sunlight. Use your imagination and find another house to buy!

This is not the right attitude. Personally - I think one knows within seconds if a house is right - it does not require 4 visits, endless ctiticisms, and negativity oozing from every pore.

I am definitely sour tonight - a shame really, because it is a lovely evening - but I am tired - emotionally exhausted and ungrateful. It is draining to be jolly all the time, my yawns are as big as the entrance to the Channel Tunnel so maybe I should retire to my bed with my beloved canines, a mug of weak Earl Grey and a pile of books. A large gin and tonic and two large glasses of chilled rose are turning out not to be a panacea for all ills.

But - I did hsve a delicious dinner - I found some excellent Cumberland sausages in my freezer, which I grilled and they were meaty and yummy,steamed a great pile of shredded curly kale, split a large sweet potato in half, criss-crossing each piece and smearing with softened butter, and freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, and baked in the oven. Heaven. I have suddenly regained my appetite.

Tomorrow is another day - and it promises to be peerless weather-wise. Enjoy, dear readers.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Introspection mixed with bitching! - catharthis?

The end of yet another glorious day. There are definite benefits in being housebound whilst the weather is so wonderful, and whilst there is Wimbledon to watch on the television.

Yet - it means there is an awful lot of time for introspection - and for going over time and again the cesspit of a marriage I have just left behind, and one's hopes for the future.

To be quite frank, if I was brutally honest, my marriage was a disaster, from start to finish. The philanderer was totally unable to be kind, or faithful, right from the start, and I am just as much to blame, because I should have recognised what an incipient car crash I was involved in and should have bailed out years ago.

If he had just been a gentleman, and perhaps chosen something other than scrubbers, out for what they could get, and maybe perhaps made me jealous, rather than pissed off and furious I might feel a little better. I hug myself whenever someone tells me what a tart his latest woman is, she has slept with half the county, and certainly has made it her business to home in on every divorced and widowed man, plus any married man who has taken her fancy, and usually it has ended in tears. Sordid. She certainly is stuck in a seventies time warp, bleached blonde hair, bad roots, and no dress sense whatsoever. But - I handed her to him on a plate, it probably is not such fun now it is not clandestine.

There is so much discussion in the public domain at the moment about couples divorcing in their sixties, and how it is mainly the women who instigate it, although there are an awful lot of sad middle-aged men who think the grass is greener, and get a nasty shock.

I find it immeasurably sad that at a time when we should have been enjoying a gentle retirement, our home is to be sold, he has marched off with a huge chunk of our joint pension fund, and most of the money, and seems impervious to the chaos and hurt he has caused to the family, especially our daughters. A Pyrrhic victory, I fear, and I doubt in his quieter moments, he feels proud of his behaviour. I cannot believe she is a substitute for his girls - and as most of our friends do not want to see him, he has a whole new circle of acquaintances to get used to late in life. And - oh joy, one couple who seem to be his new best friends, he always for twenty years, said he could not stand! Yippee.

Bitch, bitch, but a catharthis! Sometimes it is necessary to purge the venom. Bring on the leeches!

My Bill has just rushed in from the garden - I love him so much it hurts. Today I managed my first little walk since leaving hospital - Bill and Maud were so excited, and leapt and snuffled about the track along the perimeter of our field. Dogs are so intuitive, they haven't left my side since I was discharged, and what a joy they are, so loving and responsive. When I am lying on the bed thinking my evil thoughts, they both lay their dear heads on my laps and gently reproach me. We have an adventure ahead of us, where to go, we could go anywhere in England, should we move away and make a fresh start, or should we stay around here, where I hsve many staunch friends? Who can tell, who knows? Karma will kick in I feel. The chance of a fresh start is seductive - watch this space.

Finally - my e-mail is up and running again, what a shambles. A dear friend in the village who is a computer whizz is coming soon to coach me in the finer points of coping with my laptop - a bit of barter going on here! Maybe the pull of this village will be too much to relinquish. How kind everyone has been to me over the past two years. I feel taken care of in a way that I have never experienced ever in my life before.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An English Garden in all its glory

How glorious the English summer is when it is at its best.

When I awoke this morning, as usual the bedroom was flooded with light and the birdsong was magnificent. I lay in the cosy warmth of my bed, idly stroking both dogs behind their soft ears, deep in thought.

I did a virtual tour of my beloved garden, recalling the names of all the roses I had planted over the past 24 years, Tour de Malakoff, a deep purply red with an exquisite scent, Ghislaine de Feligonde, a huge affair, with small glossy pale green leaves, and multiple heads of the most beautiful sherbert orange flowers, Veilchenblau, opens a deep violet single flower with a yellow centre which fades almost to a soft grey, Alberic Barbier, creamy with dark green glossy leaves, the white ramblers, flopping and climbing everywhere Kiftsgate, Seagull, Sanders White, Wedding Day - Etoile de Hollande, a dark red heavily scented rather sparse floppy affair, Rosa Moyeissi Geranium, little leaves and great arching spires of geranium red single flowers, Madame Hardy white with a little green eye, Blanche de Belgique, soft pink little scented flowers and almost grey leaves, this one with a dark purple clematis, Warsaw Nike, rambling through it. So many old favourites, Buff Beauty, Souvenir de la Malmaison climbing through the white wisteria, partnered by Lady Hillingdon, egg yolk yellow, floppy, with almost red stems and green glossy leaves. And my favourite, Madame Alfred Carriere, soft pinky white, scented and climbing over the garage roof, the greenhouse and up through the damson tree, lax and floppy yet still vigorous and gloriously invasive.

How I have loved planting up this garden,and as I wrote several days ago, my garden is now saying goodbye to me, in all its blowsy fullsome glory, the best it has ever looked. Five years ago I planted peonies throughout the garden, and now they are speaking to me, blowsy, opulent, and bursting out of the framework of supports I placed around them earlier this year. White ones, deep pink single ones with a yellow centre, pale pink, how I love peonies, their delicate scent which wafts through the warm summer evening air. And earlier - my wonderful tree peonies, soft yellow streaked with orange, double, sweetly scented, Souvenir de la Madame Cornu, old and woody, yet still flowering profusely, and Davidii, vigorous, but little dark, dark red single flowers, almost hidden by the foliage.

Over the years I learnt hard lessons gardening here, we are in a frost pocket, and sometimes the garden gets extremely wet in winter, yet in summer, it can bake as the house is south facing and quite exposed. I have divided the garden up into little rooms, and this has worked well, whilst I have been mindful that I have to plant to suit the conditions.

Luckily, it appears that many of my favourites have flourished, great fluffy mounds of Alchemilla Mollis, almost a weed, which pushes up everywhere and which I welcome, Canterbury Bells, Peonies, Roses, Foxgloves, Hardy Geraniums, Astrantia (not called Marshwort for nothing!)Iris Sibirica, Aqueligia, Clematis, rambling over the trellises, through the roses, Grandiflora rambling through the apple tree when the blossom has finished.

How I have loved planning it all. It really is true that it takes many years to get a garden to maturity - I personally like my garden blowsy, cottagey, not manicured, I encourage many plants to seed themselves, so every year there are surprises throughout the garden.

I used to sow many annuals in my little greenhouse, lovely white Cosmos, lime green Love-lies-Bleeding with its grest lambs tail tassels, white and blue Love in the Mist, deep red Sunflowers, and many more, but for the past two years have not had the heart to continue.

I have had the space to be generous, and along the bank by the tennis court planted over a thousand Pheasant's Eye Narcissi in swathes - these remind my of my childhood garden, where I lived with my grandparents, and from whence I gained my love of flowers. These narcissi flower after all the other bulbs have finished, and look magnificent. The philanderer always hated bulbs, and every year, behind my back when I was out or away, would spitefully mow down the leaves when the flowers had just finished, instead of leaving the leaves to die down. My abiding memory of him was his spiteful behaviour in my garden. Ramming the lawnmower into the base of my clematis, cutting off the shoots at the bottom of my Kiftsgate rose, it used to break my heart. He truly was malevolent.

I made a little damp area, and this year the gunnera is huge, its great umbrella leaves casting giant shadows, the yellow flags are standing to attention by the Rhus Palmatum, the deep blue Iris Sibirica colonising themselves along the length of the stream.

I shall miss it all.

My redcurrant bushes, never pruned and growing magnificently, have burst out of the fruit cage, great fronds arching over the potager - the berries are just turning colour and I must watch them like a hawk or I will lose the fruit to the jackdaws who, as usual, have colonised the chimneys, sometimes appearing in the inglenook in the drawing room. Over the past few days, they have stripped my two cherry trees of the just ripening fruit. I am unable to pick the fruit as climbing a ladder is out of the question at the moment, so I have just had to look on helplessly as they squawked and cackled and plundered, the leaves shaking and bowing under the onslaught.

Today I am really tired, exhausted. Yesterday every time I sat down I fell asleep, always waking wondering where I was, with a dry mouth, and taking time to focus. I suppose I should listen to my body - I was told to do absolutely nothing for a month, so perhaps I should just settle down each afternoon, and watch Wimbledon - after all, how often does one have the opportunity to watch every second of the television coverage.

What I really need to do is sort out my Google Mail account. Somehow I hsve pressed something incorrect, and cannot access my e-mail - I can't answer any of the security questions, and go round in circles. It is a good thing I can access my blog. I am quite ashamed of myself - the term Luddite is so apposite to me.

I am just aware of something in the background - the Habanero from Carmen - how I love this - so forceful, so right on, so positive. I feel like stomping round my kitchen. Yes, my girl, get on with your life.

Monday, June 21, 2010


It is hard to know where to begin - life is still spiralling downwards, like a biplane in a tailspin.

I have never felt so vulnerable,yet over the last three weeks since I left hospital, my friends have been amazing. I have had major surgery, and am unable to do very much for myself and life is very proscribed and stretches ahead of me until the end of July, when I hope to be able to drive once more. and try to resume a semblance of a normal life again and perhaps start walking my dear dogs once more. I do miss the walks in the countryside during the summer.

It is difficult to comprehend just how bad life has been for the past two years - just as I think a corner has been turned, one is struck by a double hammer blow yet again.

I do believe in Karma, but I am being sorely tested at the present time. I know I am fortunate to have such good friends - I was taken into hospital, visited regularly, collected and taken home again, my dogs were lovingly looked after whilst I was in hospital, and when I arrived home, delicious meals were delivered on trays, flowers sent and arranged, and I have had many visits, and loving care. I was so worried about living on my own, thinking I would never cope when I came out of hospital, but I have been so fortunate. A girlfriend came with an enormous bunch of peonies from her garden, another with freshly laid eggs from her hens, another regularly walks the dogs, I have been out to one of two social events, and have been collected and taken home again afterwards. The senior daughter came home and cooked delicious food - it has made such a difference.

The house is on the market now as I have written before, but as things stand at the moment, I am not able to sort the house out further, so events will just have to take their course. I am at least able to watch Wimbledon and to enjoy the sunshine and the gsrden for the last summer before I finally move away. A bittersweet experience after the vicious winter, the garden is fecund, green and lush, as if it is saying its goodbyes to me. The roses will be spectacular this year, as was the wisteria.

However hard I try, I find it difficult to accept how life will change for me over the coming months. I feel very unwell, and will take months to recover, and the thought of losing my life is very hard whilst I feel under par. I am completely unable to understand how my ex-husband could have been allowed to treat me as he did - and how the Courts could have sided with him, the wrongdoer in every respect. It is doubly hard to accept him living under my nose with his mistress,ruining everything I do, and enjoying a lifestyle that I can only dream about.

Before I sign off and clamber into my big soft bed with my beloved dogs, I must hug to myself the residual wonderfulness of last Friday night, when some quite darling friends of mine took me to Garsington Opera, and treated me to the most delicious dinner inthe interval. We saw the Marriage of Figaro, quite my favourite opera. It was glorious, the singing was amazing the cast obviously loved every minute and it cheered me up immeasurably There are still some very cheering things in my life amid the gloom and i do realise that one's cup is always half full, not half empty.

The kitchen french windows are still ajar, and the night air is really cold, despite it being Midummers Night. An owl is making quite an eerie racket, otherwise the night is very still. Bill is breathing deeply in his basket, and Maud is supine on the sofa next door - neither will appreciate being booted outside for a late night widdle - tough luck!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A New Dawn

Yesterday evening I heard that my Decree Absolute has finally been granted. I felt absolutely nothing.

Last week I left hospital after major surgery and am now holed up at home for another six weeks, unable to drive, garden, or do very much at all except, now, ponder the dawning of a new phase of my life.

The last two years of my life have been a living nightmare. As regular readers of my blog are aware, this has been a journey fraught with misery and an inability to understand the sheer vindictive, self-serving, brutally unkind behaviour of my now ex-husband.

I know I am repeating myself, but how could I end up the total loser in this sordid business when I asked my husband to leave our home, finally realising that having put up with his philandering, and profligacy, for years, this was the end. This final affair, being conducted behind my back with a local woman with a very sordid reputation, and on my doorstep, was more than I was prepared to accept. It was certainly his 16th long-term affair, and I have realised since separation, there have been more.

In my innocence I thought he would put his hands up and settle quickly so that we could all get on with our lives. No such luck. He has waged a despicable war against me, lied to the Courts, refused to make full disclosure, basically ruined me. I have had no maintenance for 8 months, struggling to maintain our substantial home and grounds, whilst he and his doxy have enjoyed many expensive holidays, he races his expensive cars, is doing up a house, and told the Court he was livng on £2000 per month and had no assets bar his equity in the family home. May he be damned.

He made sure the Court turned me out of my home, half of which I own, and his assets were aplenty for a deal to be done. But, of course, he was hiding his true financial position. He now tells the world that he has given me all I asked for and more, and what is my problem!

I hope he ponders well on his Pyrrhic victory.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Billy spreads his wings

So - my lovely home is finally on the market. A very bittersweet experience - the house and garden have never looked lovelier. The weather is astounding, crisp frosty mornings, warm afternoons with the house bathed in sunlight both inside and out.

A whole gamut of emotions are running through me - this house defines me, throughout the battlefield and misery of my marriage, it was my refuge - the place where I licked my wounds over the years whilst the philanderer betrayed me with relatives, good friends, and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. I poured my love, my own money, my ideas into the house and garden. It is an expression of me, my inner self, everything that defines me. And nothing about it has anything to do with him.

As usual, I am sitting at the kitchen table, it is a glorious morning, the weather at the moment is a delight. The birds are singing their morning chorus, the sun is playing on Billy and Maud as they snuggle down in their sheepskin bed on the terrace, and I can hear the woodpecker in the willow tree, at the far end of our paddock, drumming his beak against the trunk. Rar-atat-a-tat-tat. Something is now suddenly annoying Maud, and she starts giving little barks and yelps. She can be so annoying - she is now flying to the front door, and I am getting fed up with the noise. There is noone there. I have never felt unsafe living here on my own - both Maud and Billy would see off anyone who tried to gain unauthorised entry to the house.

These two dogs are my shadows - everybody knows how much I love them, and their complete devotion has been my saving grace. As they are now back lying in the bed outside, both of them are turned towards me, their eyes fixed on me, just oozing love and affection.

Billy has become rather full of himself lately. Frankly, for a male dog, I have found him to be so gentle and no trouble, so I should be thankful for small mercies. Two days ago, a pigeon swooped too low above his bed whilst he was sunning himself, and suddenly, I heard squawks, thumping, growling, and in a flurry of downy feathers was presented with the contents for a stew for my evening meal. A few hours later, a small bird, followed by a mouse, and later still part of a very dead rabbit. I think a little re-training is necessary.

I am expecting Possetta Baddog soon for a visit - I wait in fear and trepidation as during her last visit she taught Billy to dig holes in the lawn, 14 to be exact, and since her return to London, he has been carrying on the good work. It doesn't look too good right bang in the middle of the estate agent's expensive pictures in the sale brochure. Poor old Bill - he says he is just exercising his right of passage to full manhood. God help me.

I think he is jealous of the Baddog. Whilst the Senior Daughter was at home here in the country on her extended visit from the Big Apple, the Baddog was rewarded by Barbour with the offer of her very own tailor-made dog coat. Bill thinks that is favouritism. Especially as his owner was also treated by a lovely lady from Barbour to her very own Barbour. A Barbour International, no less, tight fitting, waisted, belts and whistles, the lot, divine, and Bill says, Bah! The truth is, Bill does not take very kindly to coats, because the one time I tried to put one on him, he said, I am not going to look like a big girl's blouse, thank you very much. Sigh.

I now have to have yet another house tidy-up. The downside of selling a house is that it has to look permanently like a show house. A little tricky for the dogs and I, but we will survive. All bones, dog beds, half-chewed toys, disembowelled
furry meerkats and beavers, and old slippers chucked in cupboards - oh dear. please, prospective viewers, keep your hands off cupboard handles.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Life is a) a beach or b) a bitch? What you will.

I have just read the responses to my last two posts. You lovely people, I draw such strength from you - isn't life fascinating? We do not know each, yet we make comments from which people can draw strength - and I do realise that many people have shit in their lives. One is not unique in one's misery.

Well, folks, a couple of glasses of Julienas have slipped down well - life is gaining a roseate glow, and hey, you bloggers are so right, my name is Aurora, and a new dawn is breaking.

I know that I really am lucky that I can begin to contemplate a new life. I have been so blessed with so many good things, wonderful experiences, good friends and daughters that I adore. So, old girl, just get on with it.

Today I got a phone call from a very old friend, whose husband, back in the mists of time, used to be a boyfriend of mine. I was so pleased to hear from her, because in the 21 months I have been on my own, I have spoken to her only once, and have not seen her husband at all. She came over to see me, and it was so good to see her. She made me feel so much better, old friends feel comfortable, and it made my day.

I suppose implicit in this ramble of mine is the point that there is much from which one can draw strength, that one's cup is always half full, not half empty, and life is either a beach or a bitch, and the choice is one's own.

A lament

The house is flooded with early morning sunshine, and as the kitchen french windows are open, I can hear the usual birdsong and the sheep murmuring for their breakfast.

I am exhausted. Last week I finally had to make the decision to put my beloved home in the hands of the estate agents. Once the decision had been made, their well-oiled machine swung into action. I had to get the house cleaned from top to bottom by the agency I have used for years. Five people for ten hours - the house was turned out, upside down and round about, and by the end of a very long day looked absolutely marvellous. Everything sparkled, smelt wonderful, and my heart was breaking. The garden was weeded, the lawns mown, all the various repairs to the roof, the plumbing, the electrics, and so on, had to be done. Everyone involved went the extra mile for me, and I realised how kind people have been to me since I have been on my own. Nothing has ever been too much trouble for them.

The day before all this activity, the senior daughter returned to New York after nearly five months at home. What a performance to get her packed and ready - a very bittersweet experience for both of us, because she will never return to our beloved family home. When I left her at Heathrow, I had a huge lump in my throat. These last months have been heartbreaking. We have written already, the two of us, of all the clearing out we have done together, the piles of letters read, the books sorted, the wonderful vintage clothes belonging to various members of my family, sll the childhood toys and memories of her and L'l Sis. The end of a family. Just all memories now.

I am finding the destruction of everything that has meant so much to me, everything that has been pivotal to my life, almost unbearable.

Yesterday, in church, I really thought that my heart was going to break. This church, where I hsve worshipped for 24 years would soon be lost to me. The Easter lilies filled the space with a rich opulent scent, and the sunlight came through the windows in great shafts. The news was out that the house was on the market, and everyone gathered round, offering their condolences, saying how sad, that I was a much valued member of the community, and would be much missed. We sang hymns that I absolutely love, and the tears welled up and fell down my cheeks.

When I returned home, I walked round my garden with the dogs. All the memories - the potager, with its brick paths and box edged beds, this was created in memory of my mother, my little gothic greenhouse built in memory of my aunt and grandmother. The huge white wisteria on the back of the house, planted in memory of my father, and which stubbornly refused to flower for 16 years, and which, last year, was suddenly covered in huge sweet-scented creamy racemes of flowers. The Wedding Day rambling rose given by a friend on our 30th Wedding Anniversary, the Ruby Wedding roses, a present 5 days before I had to ask my philandering husband to leave. So many memories in this garden which I created from scratch, and now must leave behind.

I have to face the stark realisation that I am now too old to create another garden, and it is a bitter pill to swallow.

My final sorrow is that Maudie Littlehampton, my treasured loyal little Jack Russell, at 14 years old, is going blind. I fear for her when we move, because an unfamiliar house will be difficult for her to find her way around. Here, when she nips out under the gate and wanders off, and gets disorientated, kind friends return her to me.

I ask myself - what is the point of all this misery? My husband has turned into a spiteful, vengeful, deeply unpleasant man - bitter and twisted. He has destroyed his family, lied, cheated, been consistently unfaithful for years, spent all his money on himself, his myriad mistresses, and racing cars - and to what end? His girls will not have anything to do with him, and what has he achieved? He has ruined me, he has not given me a penny for months, I have spent all my private money trying to divorce him, but he just will not give proper financial disclosure, or me a fair settlement. It is now nearly two years since I chucked him out, and still no resolution God rot him.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The comfort of strangers

I have not felt moved to put pen to paper for a while, but a phrase has been tumbling around my mind, the comfort of strangers.

Whilst the support of kind friends has been wonderful, the comfort of strangers is an amazing thing. Unconditional, unjudgemental, and so welcome and enhancing.

Maybe that is what one needs, the interest and support of people who are not at all involved in the maelstrom of the break-up of a long, long relationship turned sour and bitter.

So - I will slowly unfurl and return to writing - because once the words begin to flow again, it is so therapeutic.

The senior daughter has returned to the US, and suddenly, the house is quiet, and tidy, and somehow, lifeless.

The comfort of strangers

Friday, March 5, 2010

Time for a treat

I overslept this morning - I awoke at 7.30 - late for me - and lay listening to the birdsong, and looking at the sun peering under the blind at the wondow. Yesterday I made up the bed with crisp, clean sheets, and as I lay there with an arm round each dog, it smelt of heaven.

When I got up and drew up the blind, it was another lovely clear, bright morning, the frost twinkling on the grass, the sky a very pale blue, no clouds, and a faint yellow haze on the horizon. England is a glorious country, so many contrasts in the weather, and such a joy on a morning like today.

It is very peaceful, the only sound the birdsong and the dogs munching their breakfast.

My mood for the day ahead was a little uncertain when I came downstairs, but I then opened up my laptop, and saw the most wonderful messages that had been left on my 'blog' overnight. I have tears in my eyes, because they were the most kind and delightful comments to find, and thank you, you have already set the tone for my day.

I actually have a treat today. I was given a voucher for a facial as a Christmas present so - in two hours I am off to enjoy! I am a nightmare beauty client, because I usually fall asleep the moment I lie down on the couch, and settle under the blanket. And then - oh mortification, I begin to snore!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Another glorious day

The end of another glorious day - I cannot believe this weather. The cerulean blue of the sky, the billows of white clouds, the bright sun, the crisp air - it is such a tonic and really, so unexpected.

I opened my bedroom window wide this morning, and the fresh air filled the room. After many months of snow, icy conditions and then pouring rain, the house felt stale and being able to fling the window open was just wonderful.

It has been a good day. The dogs and I had a long walk, the ground is now beginning to dry out so the tracks are less swamped by huge puddles and a sea of mud. Two good frosts in succession have crisped up the earth and walking is beginning to be more of a pleasure. The dogs had such a good time - Maud has recovered well from her illness, and indeed, is a changed dog. I think she must have been unwell for quite some time. She scurried about, in and out of the hedgerows, chasing after Billy, her little tan ears flapping with excitement when she discovered something interesting. It is hard to believe that she is now 14.

I suddenly noticed something in the distance just sitting in the middle of the track - a large fox, the afternoon sun glinting on his beautiful deep orange-gold coat. Then Billy spotted it - and off he went, I have never seen him move so fast. Needless to say, Monsieur Reynard turned slowly to watch Billy hurtling towards him, glided silently into the bottom of the hedgerow, his thick brush held horizontally behind him, and across the field and away to safety. Poor old Bill was brought up short by the hedge. It was an amazing sight, but I knew full well that Reynard had been up to no good. The surrounding fields are now full of young lambs, and the foxes have had a bad winter, and are very hungry. The balance of nature.

We continued up the track. It opens out to a wider area, and the view down into the small dip and up the other side, on the far side of the village, makes you feel as if you are going back centuries in time. There is nothing much to show that it is the 21st century.

The trees and hedges are actually not managed (should I say manicured) and are twisted and gnarled and untidy, with large branches lying in the fields, and huge overhanging ones over the track. Over the other side you can see the tower of the old abbey church on the outskirts, and the old monks' fishponds below. There were ravens who used to circle overhead, making their strange cawing noise, but they have recently disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. I love it - it is peaceful and wayward, and I shall miss it.

On our way back, watching how much the two dogs enjoyed their explorations, it made me realise that, to me, dogs and city life are incompatible. A dog does not enjoy being walked on a lead - they need the freedom to explore. They were in and out of the hedgerows, sniffing and picking up scents of rabbits and small rodent life. Billy loves to race off in short bursts, and then race back to me, which is how whippets like to exercise. We rarely meet anyone on our walks, and I love the solitude and just the company of the dogs. I even talk to them - I am a mad old Englishwoman!

When we arrived back home, I put their big soft bed outside on the terrace, and they flopped down, tongues lolling, then, after a few minutes, curled up together and fell asleep in the sun, Maud's head resting on Billy's flank.

Simple pleasures are therapeutic, and I do value them. Many of you lovely people who have written such supportive comments, and a few trenchant ones, have been so good for my well-being. I read, mark, learn and inwardly digest and so appreciate your interest. I suppose I am a little alarmed at the prospect of starting out on my own again in my mid-sixties. But - I will succeed.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Blue skies and gentle sun on one's back

So - the sun shone, and two sets of tennis were energising and fun. The four of us have played together for quite some time, and are very evenly matched. It was incredible, the change in the temperature and the weather. The sky was so blue and the weak sun on our backs spread a mild warmth that was a harbinger for Spring.

My sheep grazed quietly, something they hsve been unable to do for months. The dogs sat in their bed, which I placed on the grass outside the court - every so often, they got up, and ran around on the grass, Billy racing up and down in great spurts of speed, he was so happy at last to be out freely in the fresh air.

Afterwards we drank tea, and ate the Moroccan Orange cake, which was delicious, citrusy, almondy, and thickly dusted with icing sugar. We sat round the kitchen table and gossiped - and suddenly, life was looking better.

Later, I lit a fire as the temperature suddenly dropped, and the dogs and I settled down for a cosy evening. Billy draped himself round my shoulders, his head under my chin, Maud snuggled up beside me. I drank a glass of red wine, the senior daughter cooked a comforting supper, pasta with a leek and mushroom sauce which we ate in front of the fire, whilst we watched University Challenge, shouting out the answers. Tonight - the questions were particularly cerebral, but we held our ends up rather well, I thought.

Now it is late - outside it is very cold, a frost beckons, the sky clear, stars twinkling. The contrast in temperature noticeable after such a sunny day - I am going to bed with my pile of new books, and of course, the dogs. Two warm, loving, sweet-smelling beings to whom I am utterly devoted. I will prop myself up on a great pile of pillows, angle the bedside light for maximum effect, draw the dogs to me and
open my book.

When I eventually turn out the light, I will lie for a while, gently stroking a soft velvety ear on each side of me, trying to make sense of the maelstrom swirling through my life.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Guilty pleasures

I'm hungover, maudlin, I can't possibly have a hangover when I haven't gone to bed yet. Can I? Yes I have.

The senior daughter, fresh from London Fashion Week, and I, swept up the lane in the pouring rain, to have pre-dinner drinks with friends in the village. A very jolly affair, but three gin and tonics later, I felt much like "the morning after" It has dawned on me that they must have been at least trebles.

I began this post on Saturday evening - then ran out of steam completely. I am afraid that these days, try as I might, I cannot raise much enthusiasm for A Life Reclaimed.

I am beginning to realise that there is not going to be a Life Reclaimed, and I fear for my future. Nothing seems to touch my philandering husband - he refuses to answer questions about his finances, he refuses to cooperate, he refuses to pay me any maintenance saying he has no money. Unsurprisingly, he still owns 5 cars, takes frequent holidays, is in the process of buying a house, and is not short of money to live a full life. Why cannot the law protect me, and call him to account? He is threatening me now that if I do not accept his unfair offer, based on non--disclosure, he will apply to the Courts for me to pay all his costs.

Last week I rallied briefly, and went down to London to see the junior daughter. In the past I went every week, to check she was OK and to do various things to help her - but now, I cannot afford the petrol to go very often, and have only seen her twice since Christmas.

We had lunch at Pizza Express, using a 2 for 1 voucher, I might add! It was good to spend time with her, and also, to see Posetta Baddog again. She excelled herself by howling with pleasure when I arrived, and then did a huge wee, totally losing control!

On the way home, I thought, damn it, and went into Daunts Books in South End Green. I bought 4 books, and felt so guilty - I could not afford them. I hugged them to myself, pushing away the guilt: Excellent Women by Barbara Pym, The Book Thief (can't remember the author - I actually had to order that one) The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy, and the new biography of Irene Nemirovsky who wrote amongst others, Suite Francaise. A cornucopia - I suspect that I will burn the midnight oil with these, dogs curled up beside me in bed.

Daunts is my favourite bookshop - a brilliant eclectic stock of books, they will order anything, and the staff are beyond charming. Every book gets a bookmark, and they have brilliant cloth bags to carry away one's prizes)

(Some friends took me to see The Last Station last week, which inspired the purchase of Sofia Tolstoy's Diaries. The film was excellent, I adored it, so well done - Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer were amazing. It was actually a German film, shot in Germany, but it might well have been shot in Russia. Well worth seeing)

To compound my extravagance,I nipped into the Euphorium Bakery next door to Daunts and bought three slices of a delectable Tarte au Pomme, to take to friends who had asked me to supper on my return home.

There are some delights still to be savoured, but they are becoming few and far between.

Today the sun is out, last night there was a welcome sharp frost, so today the sky is blue, the air is sharp, and there is much birdsong to be heard. This afternoon, I am playing tennis, which will be a joy after all the terrible weather we have had recently. For the first time in months, my lovely kitchen is flooded with sunlight and maybe, Spring is around the corner. I have a bowl of red floppy tulips and catkins on the table, their pollen dusting everything with a fine mist. I am about to make a Moroccan Orange Cake, a Diana Henry receipt, which we will eat after we finish our game of tennis.

I keep telling myself that I must be positive - I suppose that after a lifetime with someone, it is difficult to comprehend how they could be so unpleasant and so spiteful. It negates everything - and so there are no good memories left. And - a much loved family home will have to be left behind, and he will depart for a new life that does not include his family. His loss.

Just writing again, I suddenly feel a little better.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"I was unfaithful, I had affairs, I cheated ..."

"I was unfaithful, I had affairs, I cheated, my behaviour was unacceptable" Poor old Tiger Woods, mea culpa mea culpa, but at least his next utterance was "I am to blame". This was a public relations exercise, no doubt, but it took a lot of courage, I suspect, for him to deliver it.

How I have longed for the philandering husband to utter such an expiation - instead of telling me constantly "to put up or f.. off" whenever I confronted him. I just feel so sad, but of course, there must be an element of blame on my side, noone is ever blameless, but I have endured years and years of infidelties and lies, and what a waste - everything turned to dust.

My friends split into two camps - the ones who can't understand really why I pulled the plug after so long, why upset the apple cart in my mid-sixties, and the others who, for years, had urged me to do something, having seen how utterly miserable I was, but determined to try to salvage something, especially for my girls.

Well, I have salvaged some things, my self-respect, and peace of mind, and I have two wonderful girls, but there is nothing much else. I will lose my home, he has lost his job, and there is little money left after years of his profligacy, racing cars, and affairs.

However - I do sleep at night, and I am not now left at home on my own knowing full well that he is off continually with other women. And - even worse - having to entertain people who later turn out to be his mistresses, or having to endure the knowledge that he entertained his mistresses in my home, when I was away. I must add thst I found these facts out slowly over the years. Dear God, what a fool I was.

I have thought long and hard about why, these days, so many marriages do not survive - many seem to break up later in life. We live longer now, and maybe man is not a monogamous creature, and cannot sustain such long relationships. Who knows - but it is a rare second relationship that survives - and so what was all the upset and heartache really about?

Men are like children, and always think the grass is greener, and the world is full of predatory women, targetting marriages because they feel 'entitled' to such a life for themselves, but it is a mirage, and like thirsty travellers in the desert, just as they reach the oasis, it fades away, and the oustretched hand is full of sand, running through the fingers.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Snow, and yet more snow

Impossible as it may seem - but, I am beginning to think that I am about to be snowed in yet again. It suddenly started snowing at about 11 this morning, and hasn't stopped since.

Luckily the senior daughter left for London as it started to snow -she has gone down for London Fashion Week, so it would have been a total disaster if she had been snowed in here. I gather she had an eventful drive along the lanes towards the M1, but arrived safely in London eventually.

I wrapped myself up and the dogs and I trudged out to give my sheep hay and their special sugar beet nuts - they looked so funny, the snow was settling on their thick coats, on their eyebrows and eyelashes, as they thundered towards me, pushing each other out of the way in their headlong flight to food. Billy flew along behind me, and tried to catch the nuts as I flung them over the gate. Maud picked her way sedately over the snow, disgust written all over her face. I had shut the kitchen door behind us so she could not get back into the house. She hates snow, cold, rain, and tries to nip back inside at the first opportunity. Billy loves the snow, and races across the lawns and round the gsrden at speed, ears flapping, tail whipping.

By the time I had chopped some kindling for the fire, and piled logs up for the baskets, the three of us were covered in snow, cold and running for cover.
I cannot believe this weather - I wouldn't mind it so much if I didn't live down the bottom of a steep lane, which makes it almost impossible to drive my car out up into the village. Damn front wheel drive cars. Roll on the ancient Land Rover for future winters!

I have spent the rest of the day working my way through a huge pile of ironing - lurking in the bottom of one of the baskets were various articles of clothing that the younger daughter and I had taken to Cornwall in September. Almost time to wear them again! The family room is cosy, the fire glowing, the dogs are curled up in their baskets, and there is barely a sound to be heard. The house settles down whenever the senior daughter departs, and I relish the peace - but I know that when she returns to New York in March, I will be immeasurably sad.

Appropriately I can hear Vivaldi's Winter in the background on the wireless. I think it is time for hot marmite toast and Earl Grey tea. I am counting my blessings that I am not commuting home from work this evening - in a few hours, I will pull down the blinds and settle down for the evening with a glass of wine, a plate of risotto, and then a good book to read.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Re-Gifting, Recycling, Make Do and Mend

With the return of the senior daughter from Copenhagen, where she has been attending Danish Fashion Week, my thoughts are returning to the sorting out of the house.

It is unlikely that she will be too involved with this now, as there are exciting events unfolding in her life, but I will from time to time force her to help, before she finally returns to New York.

She has been instrumental in focusing my mind on this problem, and has been very inventive.

Before Christmas, she wrote about the habit we all have of hoarding lovely presents and also her press gifts, and not actually using them up - and I also wrote that I was now using some such things, instead of lining them up prettily on the shelf in the bathroom

I have expanded this practice, and very fruitful it has proved. I have unashamedly re-gifted such things, I have trawled through drawers and cupboards and sold unopened toiletries and bottles of scent on E-Bay, had a wonderful time with the hoarded bath oils and scented candles, and given a lot of good things to charity shops, including good but old bedlinen to a homeless charity.

She and I have been through all my clothes, many of which were too big for me as I have lost over two stone in the last 18 months. I am a terrible hoarder, always putting things away "in case they come in useful". To a point, this is exactly what has happened. We have furiously E-Bayed piles of these clothes as well as giving them to charity. And - delight of delights, there have even been things, some years old but once much-loved, that I can now wear again.

The moral of this story is that out of heartbreak comes positivity. I have had to do all this because my philandering husband has refused for some time now to pay me a penny in maintenance. So - I have had to be inventive in order to pay the bills. So far I am doing rather well - just how many clothes/possessions does one need to live one's life? Not so many - and it is good to also help others whilst cleansing one's own Augean stables.

Today I am going out in my late aunt's woollen-lined Aquascutum raincoat - which must be at least 50 years old. And very good it looks too after a visit to the dry-cleaners!

Monday, February 15, 2010

A much loved childhood home

After writing about my wistfulness over St Valentine's Day yesterday morning, I pulled myself together. Calling the dogs, I set out for the first good long walk of the year.

As we strode up the cart track, the three of us filled our lungs with the damper more congenial air. Maud and Billy sped off. It was so good to see Maud almost back to her normal self.

And - I saw the first lambs - and the catkins were smothered in pollen, looking as if they were dusted with mustard powder, and swinging from the branches. I have written before about my love for the changing seasons, and yesterday I felt myself unfolding, and better able to face the world.

The dogs put up a muntjak deer, a pheasant, a rabbit, life was good they were saying to me, at last we can enjoy ourselves once more.

As usual on a good walk, I became deep in thought. This was what I hsve missed recently, fresh air and thinking time.

The senior daughter has been coming and going since her arrival back in the UK in late November. When she has been here, we have been clearing out the attics and cupboards. We have spent many an afternoon sitting on the floor, sorting through old photographs, letters, bags of possessions. Over the past 16 years, I have had to clear out my aunt's flat, my mother's apartment in Spain, and my stepmother's cottage. Most of the belongings were brought back here, and stored in the attics.

What a rich haul of memories. Coupled with all the childhood possessions of my two daughters, I personally found it overwhelming.

What to keep, what to bin, what to sell, what to give to charity? Three months down the line, we still have not finished.

We found wonderful clothes made for my paternal grandmother's trousseau, about which the senior daughter has written on her blog, my uncle's cricketing sweaters and school reports and memorabilia from his Rugby schooldays before the War, my stepmother's hunting stocks, kid hunting gloves, stock pins, her hunting crop. My mother's long satin evening gloves and pretty lace edged handkerchiefs, photos, letters, my father's camel hair dressing gown and rug he had at boarding school.

And - a photograph album containing pictures of my childhood home. I was brought up by my maternal grandparents, even though both my parents were alive. I was born at the end of the War, in this house, in my grandfather's study. I lived there until my grandmother died, not long after I met my husband-to-be

I loved that house with a passion - sometimes still dream about it. I was a solitary child, it had a huge garden, six acres, and I spent hours outside, reading lying on a rug under the willow trees by the lake, playing with the dogs, riding my pony, annoying the gardeners, who were always 'reporting' me for picking the flowers, and the soft fruit when it was ripe. "Madam, Miss V has picked such and such again"! This was because every morning, the flowers and fruit and vegetables were picked and taken up to the house, and woe betide me if I interfered with this ritual. This is where I got my love of flowers from, I remember the baskets of roses and sweet peas, delphiniums, lupins, and peonies.

I remember the tennis lawn being mown and then rollered by the large old white horse kept solely for this purpose,his hooves wrapped in sacking to avoid marking the grass, being taught to ride my bike by my grandfather's chauffeur, Laurence. In a way, it was a typical Edwardian childhood, a step back in time. I was not allowed to eat my meals with the adults until I was 8 years old - but it was much more fun anyway to eat with the housekeeper in her sitting room!

I did love that house. My biggest treat was to sneak up to the attics where there were old leather suitcases filled with old photographs of family holidays taken between the Wars, my grandparents and my mother and her sister travelled widely all over Europe. (I found some of these albums recently) All kinds of strange possessions were in those attics, piles of old wooden skis and brown leather ice skates, gas masks, and old chamber pots!

Full circle, you see, as I am now clearing out my attics, and the senior daughter is fascinated by her finds. History repeating itself.

I long for my childhood home. I remember every nook and cranny, the creaking back staircase, the smell of the loft over the stables, where racks of apples were stored, 'Mr McGregor' chasing me like Peter Rabbit when I had my hands clasped round illicitly-picked raspberries, how I used to feel when the car turned into the drive when I returned from boarding school. How I used to hide in the kitchen garden when I knew I had handed over a terrible School Report! Memories, memories, how I hug them to me.