Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Brave New World

A brave new world, pastures new, hurrah.

My silence over the past few weeks was firstly due to ongoing laptop problems, but more importantly, I have a buyer for my beloved home, and simultaneously, I have found a perfect home in which to start my new life. This new home is just across the fields in a neighbouring village - far enough away for a change, yet near enough to keep my good friends.

It is so extraordinary how, after the worst three years imaginable, everything has come good. Fingers crossed - as we hurtle towards a twin exchange of contracts on both properties.

A whole gamut of emotions has been flooding through me these past three weeks. One moment tearful, the next fearful, sudden rushes of elation, and moments of sheer relief that at last I can plan a future.

Needless to say, the ex threw a huge hissy fit and tried to put a spanner in the works. Methinks if he was hunkered down in connubial bliss with my replacement, he would be too pre-occupied to still be causing trouble with his petulance and spite.

I now feel as if my dear home and garden are saying goodbye to me - the garden has never been so verdant, green and beautiful. Despite the warm weather during April and the early part of May, there are few signs of drought here.

The roses are magnificent, in front of me on the kitchen table is a large glass bowl of sweetly scented Madame Alfred Carriere - this is one of my most favourite roses. It rambles slackly over fences, up trees, over walls, with thin stalks supporting lovely creamy heads blushed in places with the palest pink. The scent is of a quintessential English garden rose. It has taken many years to reach perfection in my garden and I fear that I will not be alive long enough to establish it in my new little cottage garden.

Tour de Malakoff is breaking its magenta/mauve buds, and my rambling Seagull is poised to follow suit. What a joy. My paeonies are big, blowsy, flopping over the borders, Duchesse de Nemours, one of my favourites, a clear white. One tree peaony, Davidii, dark small single magenta flowers with a yellow centre, has just finished, and my absolute favourite, Souvenir de Madame Cornu,huge,, heavy sweetly scented heads of yellow streaked with dark orange, just going over. There are clouds of Alchemilla Mollis, and many hardy geraniums, purple, white, such as Kashmir White, deep Johnsons Blue and many more. Spiking up through the borders are maturing drifts of Nectosicordum Siculum, cream Camassias, and cream Martagon lilies, known as Turks Cap. Exquisite.

Dear garden, how I shall miss you, but as moving day draws near, I shall be moving through this beloved garden with my trowel, spade and pots, lifting precious specimens to take with me to my new life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Almost back to normal

Glory me, at last. After days of struggling with my laptop, one day it worked, then it expired, then all was well again - finally, a kind and thoughtful friend took me to PC World,and explained the nature of my problems, and hey, a result!

An unbelievably polite and helpful young woman called Rachel took us under her wing, and in no time at all my sick laptop was whisked away - my Product Support Agreement, no less, was found to be in order, and the infuriating machine will either be repaired, or be replaced. The downside? 28 days! The upside? It will cost me nothing other than the monthly payments for the insurance. Cheap at the price.

I did have to spend money - I bought a tiny Netbook which was on sale, so I do have "wheels" for the next 28 days, and in future, I will have a back up in emergencies. Halleluia.

Thank heavens for friends - I can honestly say that the past two and a half years that I have spent on my own,though not exactly a bowl of cherries, has been a revelation. There are some very kind people out there, and I have never lacked help or support. Indeed, life has actually run far more smoothly than at any time during my long marriage. What a treat to ask someone for help,and for it to be freely given, instead of having to wait an age for my requests to be even acknowledged yet alone for any kind of help to be forthcoming.

It is now very late, and I am off to bed with a quiet sense of satisfaction that at long last my computer problems are sorted. As I lie waiting for sleep to descend on me, I shall quietly muse on what to write about in my first forays back into the blog world.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Que sera sera

I feel like a spy - maintaining radio silence in case the enemy is listening in to my clandestine broadcasts.

There is definitely some dark force at work preventing me going about my daily business. Now - in a rare moment of freedom - I have both internet access and broadband coverage. It is a strange feeling to be bereft of the chance to communicate when the mood dictates, to be at the mercy of modern communications technology, and its frequent failures whilst living in the depths of the countryside.

Well, we are half way through April, the third April living my solitary existence, and still no house sale in the offing, and no further on my journey to a new life that is hopefully waiting to embrace me.

It is exhausting, this business of always being ready for a possible viewing of my house. Cushions plumped, dog hair hoovered up and the dog beds hidden, also the bowl of biscuits in the bedroom, the cooker spotless, the sink sparkling. Phew!

To expand on my previous polemic about the young and their sense of entitlement, what is it that makes them decide to view houses way beyond their pockets and then to pretend that they wish to buy, only to retract almost immediately and fade away into the distance? It is s seriously unpleasant trait, and one that needs to be stamped out. Today I had a young woman who, amongst other criticisms, said that the house had no view! No, only two and a half acres, and an uninterrupted view of them to boot - and as the house lies in a lane, on the outskirts of a village, is unlikely therefore to have rolling hills upon to which to feast one's eyes. She also said there were a lot of alterations she would wish to make.

Unfortunately for her, a mutual friend, on hearing that this young woman had been to see my house, told me that there was absolutely no way that she could afford to buy it. So definitely no makeover of my house et al. So - here we go yet again.

Well, here I am, no further forward, but to be frank, the weather has been glorious, and I am able to enjoy yet another Spring here The wisteria outide the kitchen french windows is smelling magical in the late afternoon warmth, the cherry blossom positively bridal, big puffs of exquisite white blossom, more prolific than for many a year The grape hyacinths are the most intense blue, the grass a vivid lush green, the bees are buzzing round the blossom, and I am happy to be remaining in my much loved home for the time being. Que sera sera.

I am continuing to empty cupboards, drawers and shelves, how can a family accumulate so much, so many random possessions Today, I put out three bin liners for the monthly collection by the Salvation Army. There will be many more, as yet more sorting out and pruning takes place

In the past, when the Senior Daughter and I started the cleansing of the Augean stables, we used to sit for hours, reminiscing and remembering, but now, I just chuck everything on to piles, shove it into the bin liners for the designated charity, and off it goes. It is a strange feeling, this binning of a family's past life, at some stage everything must have meant something to one of us, but now is consigned to oblivion.

I remember when my mother died in Spain, the Senior Daughter and I flew out to sort out the apartment and my mother's possessions. It was very poignant - my mother relinquished her responsibility as a mother to me when I was tiny, and I was brought up by her parents, my mother flitting in and out of my life as she pleased. We sat on the floor of the apartment, and went through letters, photographs, treasured possessions, and I realised how little I knew about my mother. There were many photographs of her life before the Second World War, and afterwards when I was growing up away from her, none of them meant anything to me, so we reluctantly decided to destroy them rather than bring it all home to England. That was when I first realised how transient is life, one moment we are alive, and mean something to someone, the next, we are gone, and life continues on its way. A sobering thought.

So - I must plan my new life, and not look back - I must be thankful for the life I have lived so far, dwell on the positives, remember the good times, and hope, that when my life on earth draws to a close, that my treasured possessions will mean something to those loved ones I leave behind.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Mother and Daughter Day

The elusive internet - I am still suffering with my laptop etc, so - I am snatching a rare moment of connection to hurriedly put pen to paper.

It is obvious that what I need to do is to drive into Banbury to PC World and sort out the problem, but hey, the sun is shining, the birds are singing furiously, and I am lazy. My real problem is that for the past week I have been really busy, and am now surrounded by so many boring uncompleted piles of paperwork, spring cleaning, an overgrown garden, et al and I haven't the will or a clue where to start.

The Senior Daughter stole my thunder with regard to Mothering Sunday - but I will still reiterate that I had a lovely day, and at a time when I was feeling low again, it was so spoiling, and a day to remember.

I did squeak at her when she told me were to lunch at The Ivy - I was not wearing my Sunday best, and I had not washed my hair that morning because I had to give Maud and Billy a good walk before we left for London, and I did not have time. If I had been a little less disorganised, I would have washed my hair the night before.

It was a proper old-fashoned Mother and Daughter day. Writing this, I am mindful of India Knight's comments in her column in the Sunday Times, that it is not necessary for mothers and daughters to be one anothers' best friends. Quite right - but I like to think that we do have a good relationship, albeit an often explosive one, but I am proud of her, and I love being in her company, and yes, sometimes things do not always go according to plan!

It is such a special feeling to be taken out to a surprise lunch, and for the roles to be reversed, and for the Senior Daughter to be in charge.

We had a brilliant table, I sat on the banquette facing into the room, so was able to people-watch, which is one of my great delights. I ate scallops, and cod, and had a glass of champagne, yum-yum. At the table alongside us, sat the architypal mother and son combo; when I departed to find the Ladies Room, apparently the mother tried to encourage the son to speak to the Senior Daughter. A classic scenario - one that made our day.

Afterwards, we went into Zara, for a little gentle retail therapy. Over the past two and a half years, I have shed over two stone, and even though the pennies are in short supply, it is a thrill to be able to fit into clothes from such a shop. I bought a pair of cobalt blue trousers, and had to be restrained from buying a pair in bright orange. "Muv, too bright for someone of your age!"

As already reported, we then went to Bond Street to see the Dolce and Gabanna window styled by the Senior Daughter. Lots of photos were taken, and I really was immensely proud. I felt like stopping the passers-by and saying "This was done by my daughter, you know" but knew that I would be thoroughly told off.

A dog walk in Regent's Park followed, and then Maud, Billy and Muv piled into the car, and returned to the backwoods, thoroughly exhausted, and replete with food and fun after a wonderful day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mothering Sunday

Enfin! For the past eight days I have had the most appalling problems with my laptop and broadband coverage. It is like losing an arm - I have felt bereft - heaven only knows what the problem has been - script wiped unsaved, and the frustration - the frustration has nearly caused a heart attack.

I am now settled with Maud by my side, glass of wine to hand, laptop at last functioning, and Gold help me if everything goes south again.

I have had rather a jolly time since I last put pen to paper, so where to start? I shall commence backwards, does that make sense?

Yesterday was Mothering Sunday - and in the preceding week I wondered whether, finally, I would spend my first such festival by myself. After all, the senior and junior daughter lead their own lives in London, don't they? Muv is getting a bit long in the tooth, so she must not expect anything, must she? The week drew on, and nothing had been planned, so I just got on with life, maybe hoping just a teensy weensy bit that I would see one or other or both of the girls.

I was busy during the week, culminating with Friday lunchtime, when I met two girlfriends for lunch, and then was out during the evening as well. When I returned home finally, there was a yellow flicker on the handset, a message on the answerphone. I had missed the senior daughter, and when I rang back, she was unable to talk.

We finally spoke on Saturday morning, a nonchalant invitation to London on Sunday, bring the dogs, we would go out to lunch, and I could see her new flat and pop to Bond Street to see the window she, as Liberty London Girl, had styled for Dolce and Gabbana.

Well, dear readers, I had the best day, and my next post will be full of this wonderfully happy time Maud, Billy and I spent in London Town, on Mothering Sunday. Watch this space.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Prophet by Kamil Gibran

Another week has gone by - previously I have used the word inexorably, and that does aptly describe the relentless progression of time within my life's journey.

I am sitting in the family room, Maud sleeping beside me, the fire glowing warmly, lit after a chilly day which surprised me because the last two days have been unseasonably warm, so warm, that I was gardening yesterday in a short-sleeved shirt.

There have been more house viewings, nobody new, yet more repeat visits from previous
viewings. This house seems to have some sort of hold over people, yet no resolution.

I have settled down into a routine, which is very satisfying because in all the forty years of my marriage, it was impossible to get life into any sort of order, so out of chaos does come a form of peace, even with a high price attached.

I was sitting at the kitchen table this morning, coffee to hand, addressing one of the crosswords in today's papers, and one of the clues was "title of a book by Kamil Gibran - holy smoke, back flooded the black memories of the ex's bizarre behaviour. One day, in the dim and distant paat, this very book appeared on the window sill of the ex's dressing room. Here we go, I thought.

He never read anything, barely a newspaper, he was one of the least literate people I have ever met, so as usual, I knew this was a sign that he was conducting yet another relationship outside the marriage. We had already had Wild Swans by Jung Chang, a book way beyond his ken so not one he would have bought for himself, the Sudoku craze that died afer several months' intense activity, the criticisms about how many pairs of shoes/trousers. etc I owned, when he would not himself have had a clue, so someone had been poking about (sorry about that lewd word)in my dressing room, the expensive presents he bought for me and the lack of presents from me (dear me, it waa actually the other way round)) and so on ... He was a complete idiot. did he think I was so stupid I wouldn't realise something did not ring true. But - cottoning on from intuition was not the same as having concrete proof. Although eventually that manifested itself, and I did, although latently, despatch the weeping wen from my life.

I am so weary of all this, but there are always subtle reminders throughout my daily life of his appalling behaviour, and I suppose it will always be so. but would people please cease from spouting that facile phrase "Just get over it". I never will because first of all I am furious with myself for not addressing the problem earlier, and the enormity of what he has done to me will never be expunged.

He has just returned from a three week holiday with his ghastly companion, most of it in South Africa. I can say with all authority that this, coupled with Christmas in Ireland and another subsequent holiday, then followed by South Africa, would have cost at least half my annuual income. This venal creature told the Courts he was living on £2000 a month and had no assets. Strange really, because these three holidays taken over the past 12 weeks must have cost him at least six months declared income - how will he live for the next three months! It is certain that I will never be able to afford a holiday ever again

Notwithstanding all this, life does continue, and we must make of it what we will. One lesson that I have learned over the past two and a half years, is that one can trust only a handful of people, and when life gets bloody and it seems there will be no end, there are but a handful of people who truly understand and who are there for you.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Life goes inexorably on, come what may

Tennis again today - it was warm this morning, but by lunchtime, the sky had clouded over and it is quite chilly once more. One is so easily fooled into thinking that winter is totally over and spring has arrived.

Playing tennis on a Monday morning is a very energising way to start the week, and I am glad that for these past two Mondays the weather has been clement.

Today - as I looked across the garden, down to the house, thinking how I was going to miss this whole scenario, my partner suddenly voiced my thoughts exactly, saying what a glorious spot, and how strange it was that noone seemed to want to buy the house, thus prolonging my agony. Turning this round, I repeat a former comment of mine, that by not finding a buyer quickly, I have more time to acclimatise myself to the eventual move.

As we spoke, a muntjak deer ran across the paddock by the tennis court, a pheasant came clacking out of the hedge, and suddenly overhead the noise of a helicopter, but most hilariously of all, preceding the helicopter flapping its wings nineteen to the dozen, flew a pigeon desperately trying to out run the noisy machine. It is good that life is full of such amusing little vignettes.

It would appear that yet another putative buyer has thrown in the towel. It all started to promisingly, as always. First visit, absolutely love everything about the house, husband must come to see it, please can this be on Saturday, he works in the City during the week. Husband comes, loves the house, couple are SO charming, discuss price with agent who says offers must be near to guide price, Monday comes, do not return agent's call to get feedback. Eventually ring back two days later with offer, offer far too low thus not acceptable, silence.

No attempt is subsequently made to negotiate. This happens nearly every time. I ask myself, are most people actually not able to afford my house? Backtrack to recent posting of mine lamenting the sense of entitlement amongst the young looking to buy a house in the country. I am afraid that if I was honest, I would say that people sniff out a "divorce sale" and think a low offer will be acceptable because I must be desperate. That, my dear prospective buyers, is far from the truth. I shall continue to cut out coupons, do 2 for 1 deals, sell possessions on E-Bay, and generally cut my coat almost according to my cloth, and wait ....

Meanwhile, my life "trundles" along. Intrinsically, with each day that goes by my old life starts to recede, and a new one starts to take its place.

I thoroughly enjoyed this last weekend - on Saturday I went to a Recital given by a young quartet of musicians just starting out on their musical careers, having met at the Yehudi Menuhin School, and who then moved on to the Guildhall School of Music. This was held in a private house, in a music room that held 60 people, so a lovely intimate atmosphere. The programme was Haydn, Beethoven. Hugo Wolf and a modern composition written by one of the musicians when he was only 11, called The Twin Towers, inspired by the events of 2001 in New York. That piece was quite remarkable.

Afterwards, we ate fish pie, and chatted to these young musicians. It was a privilege.

Yesterday - a girfriend and I walked Maud and Billy along part of the Knightley Way near Fawsley and then went to a local pub for a Sunday roast. Maud and Billy were allowed into the bar, and settled down on their piece of fleece (just like a baby with its comfort blanket) the landlord provided a bowl of water for them, and everyone was satisfied.

Life goes inexorably on, come what may.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Town versus country

When I awoke this morning, warm and snug, I took a little while to remember where I was, and this worried me. Was this a manifestation of my mortality, my ageing, my passage from middle-age to something altogether more frightening - old age?

Then I came to, and as I turned to my right, there lay Miss Maud fast asleep snuggled up to me with her head on my shoulder, Bill was deep under the bedclothes, his head hanging out of the duvet down the side of the bed, just as his mother Violet used to do. This brought me back to reality.

I lay for a while, feeling tearfully nostalgic, and ran through the last 25 years or more of my life, and then quickly decided "Do not go there", leapt out of bed, and reached for my ancient fleece dressing gown, shoved my middle-aged feet into my Fit Flop Billows, and hauled myself to the window to raise the blind.

Outside, it was magical. There had been a hard frost during the night, and everything twinkled in the weak early morning sunshine, the sky a heart-breaking colour of pale ice blue satin, the sort of colour associated with extremely expensive couture eveningwear.

The English countryside has no equal, whatever the time of year, the changing seasons always bring a quickening of my heart, I feel so English, so much a part of these changing landscapes, it is something so personal, so rich. I have tussled hard these last nearly three years, since I have been on my own, trying to decide where my future lies. Town or country. I am quite a metropolitan creature, yet I have a deep love of the English countryside - it is a dichotomy that is difficult to resolve.

During the night, I woke to find a silver light shafting from my dressing room into my bedroom. I rose, and looked through the window. A full moon. Exquisite - bathing everything in its silvery magnificence. Molly, who walks my dogs on a Friday, told me yesterday that there would be a full moon, and she exhorted me to look at it, and wish, and my wish would be granted. I wonder if that was why I had suddenly woken, deep in my psyche I had been programmed to awake, and make my wish.

Will this wish be granted? I doubt it, but it has inspired hope, and where would we be without hope?

It is now early afternoon - outside I can hear the faint whirring of lawnmowers, as the very first cut of the season is made - I can also smell the smoky wisps of a bonfire, and Spring is indeed on its way.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tomorrow is another day.

The house is quiet as a mouse, except for the murmurous crackling of the dying embers of the fire next door in the family room.

I am tired - today has been a lovely day. My ex's niece is staying with her two little ones, 2 year old Matilda and 4 month old George. As I always comment, family visitors make the house come alive, and cooking again for family gives me so much pleasure.

S brought me a bunch of daffodils and richly perfumed jonquils, and the kitchen is suffused with their lovely scent. The little ones are tucked up in bed, and my eyelids are drooping - I am away to my bed, Maud and Billy are sitting quietly by my side, heads on one side, waiting for me to close down the laptop, pick up my water glass and head for my cosy bed.

Tomorrow is another day.

Apocalypse Now?

The past week I have been unable to even contemplate writing anything on my blog, even though the senior daughter constantly exhorts me to post something every day or I will lose my readership.

The events in Japan have completely pole-axed me, truth to tell.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be caught up in something of such magnitude, the horror, the misery, the sweeping away of one's very soul and existence. How does anyone cope with that?

To be frank, I am still trying to digest the horrors, which seem to be increasing daily, especially the dangers posed by the damage to the nuclear reactors. I am actually ashamed of myself for my self-centred whingeing, my all-consuming self-pity about sheer trivia.

Frankly, it seems to me that the world is approaching its apocalypse - and maybe, it is a wake-up call to us all.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A host of golden daffodils

As is my wont, I am sitting at the kitchen table, and in front of me, is a large Spring Green pottery jug filled with intense yellow daffodils. The sort of daffodils that horticultural purists call brash and common. However, to me, they are a wonderful splash of colour, a hint of nascent Spring.

Yesterday and today, the weather has been glorious, intense blue sky, yesterday still chilly, but today, degrees warmer, and so welcome after weeks of icy cold weather. We played tennis, at last managing a Monday morning with out snow or rain, and we filled our lungs with the fresh air, and revelled in the soft sunshine. Overhead buzzards were wheeling, as the dogs rushed around the outside of the court, Maud, Billy and two visiting dachshunds Heber and Twiglet. I had thought that by now I would have moved on from this house, and to another life, but it felt so good to be able to start yet another Spring here.

I am feeling a little more bullish, last week was jolly, I had my girls' evening, and I loved the fact that I amused my lovely loyal readers with my tipsy account posted in the early hours of the following morning.

On Friday, I was invited to a girls' lunch. Hey, hold on, I can hear you saying, you keep saying you have no social life. Well, this was rather unusual - twice in one week. The lunch party was another jolly occasion. I think there were 9 of us, it was a birthday celebration for one of the guests, and we had fun.

We sat in a long orangery-like conservatory, and it was so warm, through the glass roof the sky was cerulean blue, and though outside it was very cold, the temperature inside was degrees warmer and sunshine flooded in. We ate pasta with a wonderful roasted pepper sauce, and chocolate cake with strawberries, and drank delicious chilled white wine.

My social life has been very circumscribed for the past two and a half years, but recently, it has started to improve and there is no doubt one feels better with some regular human contact. For months, I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable in a social situation, having discovered that the ex had conducted a separate social life locally behind my back.

I always wondered just exactly who had been included in these clandestine arrangements, and it seriously undermined my confidence. Although, to be truthful, one grew to know, due to the way people avoided me. Not surprising, as they had been enjoying hospitality from the ex and his woman, in my home, whenever I was away. To this day, I cannot understand his behaviour, and that of his companions. Nor his craven self-justification, which comprised destroying my character, and attibuting behaviour to me that was unfounded. Let's face it, anyone who indulges in constant extra-marital relationships from the inception of a 42 year marriage is probably devoid of a conscience or any sense of the proper way to behave. I still can't work out why this relationship continued for so long, why did he not bale out of our marriage? Maybe, a case of having his cake ..... What luck I took matters into my own hands and made the decision for him.

Enough of the choleric ramblings of an old woman. It just seems to be taking rather a long time to put it all behind me. If I am not careful I will become a bore - and I am sure that I am guilty of the cardinal sin of repetition. The moral high ground is a very lonely position to inhabit. Maybe not worth it, after all. Oh yes, it is!

Away to the sofa, a decent glass of Montagne Saint Emilion, University Challenge - and of course, les chiens adorable.

Friday, March 4, 2011

One man and his dog

May I say that I did not have a hangover yesterday morning. In fact, I slept like a log until 8 am which, for me, is a rarity. I do not sleep well normally, so maybe the prescription for sleeplessness is a girls' night of gossip, good food, and lots and lots of wine.

So - I felt able to face the arctic conditions in my house, a week on from the boiler breakdown. I have never been so cold in my life - after a while, one's body goes into underdrive, a state of suspended animation. Luckily all is now well, and the warmth is creeping through the thick walls of the house, and the dogs and I are unfurling slowly, savouring the welcome warmth.

My bullish mood was broken, however, when I read my morning paper. There was the most heartrending story about a young soldier and his sniffer dog serving in Afghanistan. The soldier was killed on Tuesday, and his dog died later the same day from shock, aged only 22 months, seemingly from a broken heart.

I sat with tears streaming down my face, salty, angry, and hot, plopping down on to the newspaper. I felt absolutely desolate - and sobbed oncontrollably. I knew how symbiotic that relationship must have been between that young lad and his dog, together facing terrible danger each day, the dog devoted and loyal, his master far from home and forging a wonderful partnership with his dog. Last night the television news showed a film of these two working together, the film specially made to show the wonderful example of the trust and loyalty between them. The newscaster finished the story saying that the soldier and dog would be repatriated together, in death as in life.

This story reinforced my sentiments expressed by me two days ago, about one's love for one's dogs. There is something so very special about the relationship between master and dog. The papers are full every day of tragedy and difficult conditions in Afghanistan, and a story like this brings home how lucky we are to have these young lads giving their all for their country, and how wonderful that this young soldier had the companionship and loyalty of this very special dog.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Three sheets to the wind

It is 1.15 am in the morning. I have just arrived home after a really jolly evening, a girls' evening, and I am pissed.

I have had a brilliant time - thank God ,l only had to walk five minutes up the lane to a girlfriend's house - there were three of us, we had a bottle of champagne, a most delicious supper of a crab and smoked salmon terrine, a main course of pork medallions, some very smelly cheese, and lots of white and red wine. I am definitely three sheets to the wind, and much the better for it.

Tonight was therapeutic - that means bloody good for me, and the welcome from my dogs when I arrived home was the icing on the cake.

Now - what I really want is praise for the fact that I have typed this post without a single mistake.

My head is spinning, bed is beckoning, and I say thank God for one's girlfriends.

Hasta la vista.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My love for Maud and Billy


My dogs - ah yes, the dogs.

It is absolutely a given that dogs are man's best friend. The reason that I have survived the last two and a half years has been because of their unconditional love, the sheer joy of their companionship and constancy.

They have adapted to every situation seamlessly, lovingly and supportively, the one constant in my struggle for survival.

When my ex-husband was still at home, Maud was a strange little dog - very loving to me and liked to go everywhere with me, but she spent a lot of the time under a chest of drawers in our bedroom. Now - she is so loving and gentle, she is even more my shadow, always with me as is Billy, if I sit down they both hop up beside me, if I leave the room they follow me, sometimes I weep from the sheer misery of my situation and they lick away my tears, they intuit when it is bedtime and run upstairs, waiting for me at the top, as I set the burglar alarm. Every waking minute, there they are beside me.

When Violet was killed, both dogs were amazing. Dear Bill saw it happen, and he truly grieved, but he was so loving to me in my misery. Miss Maud behaved like the matriarch of the family, as indeed she is, and took Bill under her wing, snuggling up to him, licking him, and loving him. It was quite extraordinary, when I brought dear Violet home to be buried in the field, I put the box on a trestle in the barn overnight. Dear Maud trotted outside, Billy following, and they sat down beside the trestle for some time, as if they were paying their last respects.

I have been truly blessed with these dogs. We are a triumvirate, facing the world, and my love for them gives me a pain in my heart, it is so great.

I am looking at them now, snuggled up together in their huge sheepy bed, curled up side by side, both looking at me, their eyes following me, wondering I think, when I am going to take them out for their walk.

Maud is getting very old, she has just had her fifteenth birthday, she is going blind, has lumps and bumps which will have to be left well-alone, and in my heart, I know that this loyal little dog is nearing the end of her life.

Billy is a strong young dog, just coming into his prime, beautiful soft brown eyes, fur like grey silk. Full of bounce, loving life.

How I love these two dogs, I feel privileged to have them beside me.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Lazy Sunday, wet Monday

Monday morning, wet drizzle, grey sky. I usually play tennis on a Monday morning, weather permitting, but obviously today is yet another disappointment. The forecast is for the rain to clear up by midday, so we are going to try to play early afternoon.

I need the exercise, yesterday my putative dog walk to find the "fox in the tree" fell flat. The weather turned absolutely vile, the heavy rain lashing at the windows, the sky glowering dark and menacing. We did manage a short foray outside, but soon ran for home. I managed to fill the log basket a couple of times, dashing to the shed with the rain soaking me each time. Then - joy, oh joy, I threw a fur throw onto the sofa, banked up the fire, the dogs and Iggy the cat aprang up and settled down around me, and I worked my way through the Sunday papers, glass of chilled white wine, and a gorgonzola and pear bruschetta to hand. You know, there are a few pleasures, indeed simple pleasures, still to be savoured.

I won't embarrass myself by admitting just how long I hunkered down in this blissful state, suffice it to say, I felt rested and so much calmer.

Unfortunately, by bedtime, the rest of the house was so cold, I toyed with the idea of settling down for the night on the sofa It was the end of day 3 without heat, due to the boiler breakdown, and the thought of crawling up to bed in a freezing cold bedroom did not seem such a brilliant thing to do.

However, I quickly let the dogs out, made myself a cup of hot chocolate, Charbonnel & Walker, no less, amazingly purchased in T K Maxx, and the dogs and I scuttled upstairs. I heaped two fur throws on the bed, a hot water bottle in the bed, donned a thick granny nightdress, a cashmere shawl round my shoulders, and cashmere bedsocks, and hopped into bed. Up popped Maud, not so agile any more so she has to hop on to the bedside stool and then on to the bed, quickly followed by Bill. Each dog wolfed down a handful of dog gravy bone biscuits, and then down the bed they tunnelled.

Such bliss - I lay propped up on a big pile of pillows, angled my reading lamp, and settled down to my book, a biography The Life of Irene Nemirovsky. Bill lay down one side, Maud the other, and I felt so loved and cosy.

When I put the light out, and snuggled down with the dogs under the two fur throws, the bedroom so cold I imagined I could see my breath, I felt like Lara in Doctor Zhivago, and fell asleep dreaming that one day my Yuri would appear on a troika to whisk me away, bells tinkling, the runners of the troika swishing across the snow.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Alice in Wonderland

I feel a little like Alice in Wonderland - my life has a surreal quality, it has become so cirumscribed that I feel as if I am looking down a rabbit hole and in the far distance, is my old life slowly slipping away.

Originally, I loved sitting down to write, the words spilling out about my life, what I had been doing, and my thoughts from day to day. Unfortunately my life is no longer interesting, as the financial noose tightens and I am no longer able to do most of the things that I love. My days seem filled with preparing the house for yet more viewings, which never produce a buyer, and long spells sitting at the table in my kitchen, working out how to stretch my budget in order to pay the bills on this enormous house.

This weekend I have had the house full of B & B guests which has kept me busy and the wolf from the door. In a way, it has made me feel as if this house is a family house again. As usual, the guests have been delightful and it has made the house come alive. Unfortunately, the boiler broke down, again, on Friday so I was worried about the house being cold and the prospect of yet another large bill. However, the weather has suddenly warmed up, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I slipped into the three bedrooms whilst the guests were out, drew the curtains and put hot water bottles into the beds hoping that they would be so merry when they returned, that they would not notice the lack of heating.

The guests wanted me to order them a taxi to take them to and fro, but it would have been impossible, we are too isolated, and the journey too short as the wedding was barely 10 minutes away. So - I offered to drive them and collect them. I sat by the fire, reading with the dogs curled up by my side, until they called me at 11.30 When we all returned, the dogs thought they were in heaven, four more dog lovers, who sat with a drink by the fire, making a huge fuss of them.

It is quite amazing, but every single booking I take for B & B produces such interesting people, all very different, all delightful, and luckily, all besotted with Maud and Billy.
Which is just as well, because Bill hovers, unseen by me, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting guests enjoying their full English breakfast in the dining room. I have to be very firm with him indeed. Maud just lies in her bed and eyes everyone balefully. Nose twitching, tail occasionally flicking, as if to say, "Time to go - I need my mid-morning nap"

I feel huge regret that I was unable to stay in this house, I could have expanded and run a very successful B & B business from here. The configuration of the house lends itself to it beautifully, and I really enjoy meeting such a diverse mix of people. I shall continue until a buyer materialises - it is a lifeline for me financially.

Sunday morning, only 10 am, and I have already done the breakfasts, tidied up, and now, have the whole day ahead of me. The sun is out, the wretched sheep are baaing for their breakfast and a dog walk beckons. Bill wants to go and find the fox that sleeps halfway up a fallen tree - more of that another time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Striking a chord

How funny it is when, writing a post in a choleric mood, it strikes a chord. When I let fly about the weird behaviour of prospective buyers of my house, I felt a little ashamed and assumed that I would create a backlash.

Well, dear readers, you have surpassed yourselves with your comments. How very gratifying.

However, I am still in a state of limbo with regard to the sale of my home - we are approaching the year mark since the house went on to the market, and as yet no serious offers.

Pursuing the cup half full rather than half empty theory, at least I have had the chance to live in my beloved house in the ordered way denied to me whilst I was married. It is a fact that for years I functioned well below par, surviving my toxic marriage cruising just below the surface of reality. Numbing down rather than dumbing down, if you will excuse the excruciating pun.

In the first year of my blessed release, I felt energised, free, able to breathe the fresh air of normality. I did not miss my husband at all, I did not miss the mess and disorganisation, the empty cereal packets thrown on the larder floor, the empty milk bottles abandoned on the larder window sill, the sink full of washing up after I had been on a day out or a trip away, the clothes on the bedroom floor even though he had his own dressing room, the long absences on 'business' trips, the odd phone calls, the suspicions, the sourness, the disinterest in me as a human being, the rank smell of a rotting relationship. To be fair, he did sometimes buy flowers for me on my return home. I will never fathom what went on in his mind.

He paid my maintenance, and for the first time, I could maintain and run the home in the ordered way previously denied to me. Then, he stopped the maintenance, destroyed me in Court, and my troubles began.

However, recently, after months of private misery, which did indeed spill out into the open on occasion, I have come to realise that my wise friends are right, and it is time to move on, and wash that man right out of my hair.

I hsve begun to make some new friends locally, I feel I can hold my head up, I am beginning to make this new life that is continually recommended to me. I know that the disintegration of any relationship is rarely the fault of one person, but I will never forgive my ex-husband for his crusade to ruin me.

I really do have some wonderful loyal and loving friends, and for this I am grateful.

Today - I walked round the bruised battered garden, which was just beginning to lift its head after the harshest winter in years. There were bright white clumps of snowdrops, bright yellow aconites, forsythia sprays just beginning to break bud, fresh green shoots of some of the perennials pushing through the spent and dry earth, how glorious it looked.

Later when I took Maud and Billy on their daily walk, I picked a large bunch of pussy willow, powdery catkins and glossy ivy with fat black berries. I remembered that last year I had written about the fat powdery catkins - here we are again, another year, a new Spring, and another year down the road to recovery. Please forgive me if I repeat myself.

Carpe Diem.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A sense of entitlement

What is it with the upwardly mobile young looking for a property in the country? I personally feel like thumping them, and pushing them up against the wall and giving them chapter and verse of a reality check.

They prance along for a property viewing, love the house, but at the same time pull it to pieces, then put in offers, sometimes nearly half the asking price, and then express surprise that the offer is unacceptable. Or - they come out two, three, four, five, six times over a period of about 8 months, and then disappear. Just what is their problem? Basically, their aspirations are way beyond their pockets, or they fancy themselves as entrepreneurs out to shaft me over the price. Are you listening out there, grow up, and bugger off.

The one really unpleasant attribute to have surfaced over the last 10 - 15 years with regard to the young in the property market is 'entitlement'. 'I aspire to something I simply cannot afford because I am entitled'. Achieving this entitlement in one's thirties means that there is not much else to aspire to for the rest of one's life. Thus perpetuating this sense of entitlement. What a pathetic state of affairs.

It is such bad manners to discuss completely destroying the owner's much loved home, when presumably, it is the current status quo that has attracted them in the first place. In the words of my estate agent, these people are aspiring to a life style, often one that many of them cannot afford. In and out drives, imposing porticos and uninterrupted vistas come with a price tag £500,000 over the price of my home. They need to compromise. A harsh assessment, but true.

I am weary of the whole business - this assumption that I am going to allow myself a) to be stitched up so they may acquire my much loved home at a bargain price or b) find it rejected because it does not deliver features unavailable at the price Heigh Ho.

More and more I long for my youthful early working life, where one understood that the good things in life came through hard work, and thus, were appreciated, and were not the product of that dreadful sense of entitlement. After all, courtesy of Animal Farm, 'All pigs are equal but some pigs ARE more equal than others" Very apposite.

Yes,I am a grumpy old woman, and quite right too.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Two daughters, three dogs, one elderly Maine Coon cat, two ancient sheep .

Writer's block, hmm .. Yes, that is definitely the doctor's diagnosis. I used to find it so easy to sit down and let the words flow - I feel now as if I need to go to a Creative Writing Class.

I suspect that I have become anaesthetised by the sheer inescapable fact that I still cannot move on in my life - the house is stagnating on the market, the first estate agents were worse than awful, full of their own importance, bone idle and lacking in drive and imagination. Now, I have appointed new agents, who are immeasurably better, but suffering from the down turn in the housing market.

I, of course, love my house, which has been my home for many years, and is it possible that I give off negative vibes Surely not. Actually, I sort of believe in Kharma, and at the back of my mind, believe that what will be will be - thus in the end all will be well.

Enough people are telling me that people who behave really badly will ultimately meet their Waterloo. However, I think that spite and cunning often win the day.

This weekend is good - the junior daughter, who has been very unwell lately, has come home clutching the Baddog, to be met at the station by myself, in a high state of excitement Today, the senior daughter has arrived, driving a van, to collect various possessions with which to furnish the flat into which she is moving tomorrow. So - one mother, two daughters, three dogs, one elderly Maine Coon cat, two ancient sheep, and unalloyed joy.

I have cooked a supper dish suitable for the senior daughter's vegetarian tastes, a roasted butternut squash and spinach lasagne from Food from Plenty, the inestimable Diana Henry's latest cookbook (a Christmas present from senior daughter) eaten on our laps by the fire, with for me, a couple of glasses of Chateau Rolland Haut Medoc. I have made many economies this last two and a half years, but good wine has still not been one of them

So - a chill wind is blowing a gale, inside is cosy, comfortable, and perhaps all is almost all right with the world.

Thank you for the welcome back, dear readers, what would I do with you?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

another year, another life

After a long absence, I feel able to tentatively stretch out and restart writing A Life Reclaimed.

For months, I loved my blog posts, I felt energised and the words spilt off the ends of my fingers, flowing inexorably, tumbling forth as a form of catharthis. Unfortunately, I suddenly dried up, and came to a halt, like a stubborn carthorse, not a step further, heels dug in, inspiration dried up.

After my writer's block set in, I realised I was depressed, and although I was busy, the days blurred and before I knew it, the year was drawing to a close still with no resolution to the problems in my life.

However, as we start a new year, I realise that the future for many people will be difficult, and my problems are no more important than those of any man on the street, struggling to survive against some pretty long odds. We are all in this together.

Autumn and winter last year were very dramatic in this village, extreme cold, mountains of snow, icy roads, and frozen and then burst pipes. The senior daughter painted a lovely picture of Christmas here, snow, roaring log fires, carol singing, and long walks, culminating in a wonderful candlelit Christmas dinner. It was truly wonderful, a complete Dickensian Christmas, a Christmas I shall remember with joy and sadness as my last one in this house. However, the reality was a little different for those of us who struggled for some 4 weeks beforehand with the extreme conditions.

Early in December I began suffering frozen pipes - I managed to avoid disaster for several weeks, and then disaster struck. Down came my kitchen ceiling, and chaos reigned. However, true to the television adverts, my insurance company pulled out all the stops, and just before Christmas Eve, we were restored to a position where we could enjoy ourselves. Most people in the village were stuck because of the atrocious state of the roads, and what fun we all had, walking between houses in the deep snow for drinks and suppers, an enchanting Christmas morning communion service in Church, candlelight, holly, ivy, and a warm glow. A Christmas experienced perhaps only once in a lifetime.

The senior daughter struggled to get home from New York, and finally arrived almost at home, having caught the airport bus from Heathrow to Banbury on Christmas Eve morning. There she came to a halt. I could not get my car up the lane to collect her, no taxis were available but luckily a kind friend managed to get into town to fetch her. It all seemed so exciting, but in reality it was nothing of the sort. She was exhausted, and very relieved to be home.

Now - a new year, the third on my own, and I have faced up to the fact that soon I shall be packing up my possessions and 25 years of memories, and hitting the road.