If I am honest this month has reminded me of a Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times and the worst of times. August is often like that. It is the month I passed my driving test, one of my nieces was born in August, I received A level results which surpassed my wildest dreams in August. However it is also the month my beloved Grampy died, the month in which I realised that I would not after all be spending my life with the person I thought I would. It’s the month I collapsed with physical and nervous exhaustion but it is also a month where I poked myself up and put myself back together.
This month was no exception. The bad tales are not really mine to tell – the stories belong to others and they can tell them or not as they choose. I was saddened for them because they matter and did not deserve the things that have befallen them and upset because I could do nothing to help.
I can tell you that a former colleague died much too soon. I liked her, I respected her and she taught me so much about understanding the technical detail behind the legislation. I don’t think I ever said thank you properly. I thought so was indestructible if not immortal I was wrong. I am sure that somewhere up there J is busy telling the Angels how they could better organise their lives.
I can also tell you I managed to blow two job interviews one after the other…
But I have dwelt enough on the worst times. It’s time to move on to the best times:
Mum and I had a lovely picky dinner in front of the TV we rewatched My Big Fat Greek Wedding and it is still amusing.
I needed distraction so I went to the pub Quiz with K. We lost spectacularly.
My parents knew I needed distraction so they took me out for a Harvester Lunch on pensioners day. It helped.
For reasons I won’t go into I suddenly lost my nerve about driving. This lead to me being pressed to drive my mother to the coast on the grounds that the best thing to do if you’re scared about driving is to face it and drive. So we went for a delicious lunch at the Marine Hotel then wandered on the beach at Tankerton.
I found a tiny oasis of calm in the City. Actually found is the wrong word I’ve known Postman’s Park since I was a little girl. I’ve just not been there for years. The memorials for heroes are strangely poignant. I found the 2007 one especially moving because I remember the incident. It was the first new plaque for about 80 years too. I wonder why there was such a long gap.
The day was finished off with very Tipsy drinks at the Star.
I saw S for the first time in years. Possibly 5.
A friend’s surgery was successful.
I had an ego boosting cut and colour.
Then I braved having my eyebrows threaded. I always look better when I ge it down. Somehow I forget the transformative effect it has.
I spent a whole evening on the sofa devoted to reading
Waitrose make a knock off of my favourite Burts Bees bath stuff and it is around 80% cheaper. Little things you know.
L’s birthday dinner and cocktails. How’s this for a Gin and Tea?
Amazing parcel from L
They were doing some renovation work in my grandmother’s house and found scraps of the wallpaper I had in the little bedroom there as a toddler. I remember that clown wallpaper so clearly.
I was lucky and stayed in a fabby hotel. The Cardiff Hilton was splendid especially the pool and the bathroom was at least twice the size of my own at home. While swimming a small boy looked at the scarring on on my ankle and asked if I’d been bitten by a shark. He was clearly deeply disappointed when I told him it was just an operation.
I had dinner with M I’ve not seen her for years and it was so nice to catch up.
A colleague took me for lunch in the Norweigan church on Cardiff Bay. There were guide dog puppies being puppy walked.
The second evening I met E for dinner and a gossip.
L’s birthday dinner at the ever delightful Annies
A 30th birthday party
A friend’s very poorly son is recovering
Dinner at Ziyafet
Dinner at the Chinese Buffet
I’ve been promoted
Great British Bake Off is back. Watching with my big niece was a joy.
Meat market with the girls a tasty and economical dinner. The Halloumi and Mushroom burger was sublime.
Another super Parcel from L
Dinner at a new Italian to celebrate my new job
Finally booked a weekend away it was effortful at one point it seemed as if every hotel everywhere was fully booked but we got there
Playing with small niece
Making pizza with big niece
I have reimmersed my self in Elinor Brent Dyer’s Chalet School. They are an excellent antidote both to awful things I can’t change and the iniquities of SouthEastern trains. The Tyrol books really are superb.
July has been a lovely month
I went to the Christening of one of my oldest friend’s children and while there I caught up with an old friend and met her baby.
I went for Dinner at S’s to plan our adventure. She served the most amazing Cherry ice cream.
Mum and I had a TV Evening. We finished watching The Durrells and consumed a takeaway from Ziyafet.
There were homegrown Sweet Peas.
And Peonies this time from Waitrose.
My friend K held the first ‘Gather’ in years. I saw old friends and made some new ones.
I was invited to Dinner at FGT where we dined on L’s sublime homemade quiche.
I managed to swim 50 lengths of hydro pool
Wonderful fan girl moment. I do not intend to embarrass myself by elaborating but I was full of squee.
Lovely Snail mail from K.
Some delightful belated birthday gifts from D, from H and L and K.
I attended our annual conference Civil Service Live. There were some fantastic sessions and I remembered again why I do what I do and why it matters. Then there was the view from the conference centre. Admire this. Even in the rain it is stunning.
Then we headed off to the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. Photos aren’t allowed so there aren’t any. There was something just perfect about watching the ritual of locking up the tower for the night knowing it has taken place every night for 700 years.
We were so lucky because as we left a tall ship passed us and Tower Bridge opened. We were in absolutely the right place at the right time.
I went to the Pub Quiz, had dinner at K’s, we may not have won but I won a glass of Pimms.
I managed five full days in the office and two evenings out my energy levels are going up and I think I’m getting better.
There was Dinner at my godparents
D came to stay
I had a little adventure with S. We went to Paris on the Eurostar.
I was finally brave enough to go right to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was worth it. On K’s advice we went first thing and had breakfast up there. The hot chocolate was delicious.
We stayed near Montmartre which I love especially in the dark. I know it’s a tourist trap but I don’t care. I also feel I owe it to Mabel Esther Allan aka Jean Estoril to like Montmartre. We explored once during the day and once at night.
The Galeries La Fayette ceiling
CityPharma I spent entirely too much here but French pharmacy brands genuinely are deeply discounted and it is such fun to watch elegant Parisienne ladies squabble over the bargains.
The Garden behind Notre Dame. This was a little oasis of peace and tranquillity in the middle of a hot bustling city. I loved it.
My ceiling fan in my bedroom – it remains one of the best investments I have ever made.
Unexpected good news
Rereading Joey Goes to the Oberland. It’s a weird book nothing really happens and yet it is one of my favourite Chalet School books. It a fantastic cosy comfort read.
Whiskers has come to stay. I do like visiting cats although this one behaved like a mischievous middle. He’s not meant to be an indoor cat.
Reading My Naughty little Sister with big niece
New sandals I can walk in. I also managed to wear my favourite blue sandals with heels for a short while. This is real progress.
The joint nieces’ birthday party
As I said in my previous post, I was going to give up logging the small things that cheer me up because it seemed so very irrelevant in the light of what has happened. Then I thought a little more and realised that the little pleasures that enrich life actually matter even more when life is challenging.
I’m a Harry Potter fan and I found myself thinking of Dumbledore and his famous remark that “Happiness can be found even in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light.” I know purists will say it is from the script of Prizoner of Azkaban and JK Rowling didn’t write it but it doesn’t detract from the meaning.
I need to remember to keep turning that light on and I confess I am taking the advice literally, switching on my fairy lights and lighting candles in the evenings because it makes me feel better. There’s something about lighting a candle in particular that to me reminds me there’s always hope.
We have a family tradition that wherever in the world we go, when we pass a church we slip inside and light a candle for my grandparents and late great aunt. There’ve been candles lighted for them in places my Granny would never have dreamed we’d go. I like to think she knows and is keeping score.
And so I move on to the things that helped me through June.
I went to a pub quiz night with a friend who cooked me a delicious dinner. I got to make a fuss of Millie cat and the very friendly golden retriever puppy in the pub. W didn’t come bottom either.
I spent a day in Brighton with H – we ate ice cream, drank Gin and wandered along the seafront.
I’ve started knitting again.
A lovely gossipy dinner with L, K and S
I have an outside tap at last – no more carrying the watering can up and downstairs to water my pots.
I have really quite flattering new glasses and clearer sight.
We had the first Barbecue of the year in the garden – we didn’t let rain stop us, the automatic awning on my parents back wall is ace and we stayed dry eating burgers and sausages while the rain poured down. Later we put the patio heater on and determinedly stayed outside in true British fashion. Picnic in the car anyone?
I had some splendid snail mail: from L and A
Bonus flowers from Bloom and Wild
Second Quiz night lovely dinner, Millie Cat, Gin and friends. We didn’t distinguish ourselves in the quiz but we weren’t last.
Father’s Day barbecue
More foundation garments which actually fit – the joy of a bra that rounds one up and points everything in the right direction without bruising you is grossly underestimated by those who’ve never acquired bruises courtesy of their underwires.
My lovely Podiatrist dealt with my sore heel.
I’ve taken to baking again – I made delicious saffron scones, then I made coffee and walnut cakes for my colleagues and sweet biscuits with my niece. The baking muse is back.
I’ve booked a small adventure – more on that after the event.
My favourite GP is back at the GP practice after a long absence. He did not dismiss my concerns and made all necessary referrals to resolve the problem.
I don’t have skin cancer – always good that one. I had a lesion that isn’t going away although neither is it doing anything very suspicious but it seemed better to have it checked especially as my godmother has had three small skin cancers removed this year. Luckily they are not life threatening and my lesion is harmless.
My lovely Big niece came to stay we had a movie night…and I watched Paddington for the first time. I confess I loved it.
The next morning, Big niece and I went out for breakfast.
Then there was the unexpected excitement of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child i have tickets for November but a friend unexpectedly had a spare ticket which I was delighted to use so I saw it early with D, S, L, K and B and I’m looking forward to watching it again in November. The deal is that like the Mousetrap you don’t spoil it so I won’t. I will say it was a fabulous experience and Jamie Parker is Harry! I saw part 2 on Friday 24th and it probably says it all that for the duration of the play I forgot the ghastly thing that had happened.
Ducklings at my grandmother’s nursing home
Blenheim Palace with H and K. It rained more or less all day. Note to self buy a new raincoat and do not believe the weather forecast and go out without a coat. Happily M&S supplied me with a fleece.
Despite the inclement weather we had a lovely day but I’d like to go back and explore the gardens in less precipitous conditions. You can’t see much huddled under an umbrella. I recommend the ice cream sundaes though.
We had Dinner at El Shami my favourite restaurant in Oxford. I adore Lebanese.
Then there was a coffee and chocolate cocktail very decadent and alcoholic but delicious.
I was miserable about the referendum result so I spent about £8 on flowers to cheer myself up. I recommend Lidl for flowers.
Finally I received a large cheque from southeastern trains as a refund for the unused portion of my season ticket while I was ill. I didn’t even know it was a thing then one of the medical staff told me if you cannot travel due to illness for at least four consecutive weeks because you are signed off you can claim a partial refund. Sure enough the details are well hidden on their website. I followed their instructions and applied expecting them to find a loophole and avoid paying me . However I received a letter saying I met their criteria as having been ‘severely unwell’ – thank you orthopaedic surgeon for that splendid sick note – and my cheque for six weeks refund would follow and it did!
It seems I live in interesting times. Work wise we are in an odd sort of limbo which makes purdah seem like a mini break. The official line is keep calm and carry on and so I’m endeavouring to do just that. The odd thing is that for all I see BREXIT as a personal disaster, professionally it could create some fascinating opportunities. As Pa Ingalls said there’s no great loss without some small gain.
I am still sad and anxious but the nation is spoken and I will have to make the best of it along with 48% of those who bothered to vote.
So I pulled myself together and took my late Granny’s advice. She used to say “Sometimes you need to forget how miserable you are and just do something anything.” Mind you Granny qualified this advice by saying “You may still be miserable but at least you’ll be miserable with clean dishes and clean clothes to wear.” She saw her mother in law die in front of her in the Blitz, cleared up the mess in the house, then went to work so Granny knew a thing or two about facing adversity.
So with her advice in mind, I made a long to do list and then set to it, I cleaned my house, did the laundry, made a meal plan, bought groceries and packed some parcels. There is a certain comfort that comes from making order out of chaos and following simple routines. If I’m honest my life does run more smoothly if I stay on top of domestic tasks and actually do my life admin in good time.
Then I devoted some time to personal grooming and took advantage of Elinor Brent Dyer’s excellent advice and ‘shampooed’ my hair. It was just a shame that I couldn’t do as Madge did and get a professional to do it for me – it would have been more relaxing. Brent Dyer knew what she was talking about, it is easier to face bad news when you look and feel better.
I’m trying hard to be strong and independent rather than the spineless jelly fish I was on Friday.
I was going to stop listing the things that made me happy and then I realised that in uncertain times the small simple pleasures matter more than ever.
So I’ve indulged myself with tea in my favourite mugs or cups and saucers, hot bubble baths, candles and flowers.
As I said to a select group on Friday however ghastly it seems I have amazing, kind, tolerant friends and there will always be theatre, flowers, Gin, books and cats. I’m considering if there’s anyway I can have a kitten.
The sun will go on rising and setting and we will find a way forward even if it is not the way we planned.
Today I woke up to news I had prayed wouldn’t happen. This is democracy but I cannot say I like the outcome.
I am no nationalist. I believe we are better together, stronger together, kinder together and I fear this will break more than three hundred years of Union which would be a tragedy.
I am afraid of what we will become. It was a vote for insularity, for selfishness, for greed. I am ashamed of my compatriots.i
Now all I can do is hope for the best and maybe stock up on tinned food.
So another month has been and gone 2016 is flying by.
I managed to wear proper shoes for the first time in six months. One day I’ll wear heels again.
I attended a friend’s daughter’s first communion and a rather splendid party afterwards which involved excellent company and a surfeit of Prosecco.
There were three lovely dogs whom I played with.
There was a bank holiday and I had no plans so I went to the Tarn – a park on the other side of town and wandered around in the sunshine. It has a historic ice house, the tarn that gives the park its name although one rarely finds a tarn in the south. There were bluebells, primroses, camellias and ducklings.
I had my first trip to Bluewater since I had surgery and I managed to drive there and back again.
I bought a new bra which is a pretty colour and actually fits – always a joy.
I found Felix the Huddersfield Station Cat on Facebook and she is a daily dose of happiness.
Palmerston the FCO cat I found Palmerston on Twitter and he also makes me happy. I like cats in case you hadn’t realised.
I went to L’s 40th party. I intended to stay an hour and left after midnight. There was Prosecco and a Take That tribute band. I fell into bad company and danced for the first time since K’s wedding last October. I was very stiff and sore the next day but it was absolutely worth it.
I’ve benefited from much kindness and support from myriad colleagues.
There was a splendid Cut and Colour which was a big boost as always.
Flowers from S part 2. The birthday present that goes on giving.
I finally made it to the Bagpuss exhibition at the V&A. It’s very small and not really worth a special trip but I was pleased to admire original puppets from my childhood. Although I must have seen repeats of The Clangers because they stopped making it a good few years before I was born.
As I’ve finally finished decorating my dolls house, I went to the Dolls House Festival in Kensington. There were incredible and very expensive things there. There was some 1/12 scale furniture that cost more than a full size item for my flat would have cost. I bought myself a few treats but I was as restrained as possible. I don’t know if you can tell from the photos but I’ve decided my small house will be set around the time of The Queen’s Coronation so June 1953.
I had a movie night with big niece. I was babysitting and as it wasn’t a school night I decided to be an indulgent auntie. Instead of trying to battle about bedtime I suggested we curl up on the sofa with a DVD. So we watched Harry Potter, ate popcorn and had a lovely evening together. At the end of the film she went willingly to bed and straight to sleep. A win, win situation really.
There was a delicious Curry with H and K … and a pizza lunch with another H & K
A peaceful Sunday evening when I did nothing apart from relax with a book. Bliss!
I went for a lunchtime walk in the park with a colleague – my first of the year.
I’m loving the long light evenings.
Amazing snail mail from L.
TGI Fridays with K and L
Lily of the Valley
A little gift to myself – I had some vouchers and it was 20% off day so I ended up only paying £1.10 for my very affordable treat.
Mum’s birthday Tea
I had a wonderful belated birthday present from my sister and her fiancé. My make up brushes were past it and they bought me some beautiful new ones.
Once I’d forced myself to actually go to hydrotherapy I felt better for it. It hurt but in a good way. The sauna and steam room are really improving my skin and my breathing.
Meeting V a local girlsown fan
Amusing snail mail from K.
Restarting my Abbey reread.
Driving to the station because I was using my Mum’s car which has the right permit. Front door to train in 6 minutes – a rare but delightful treat.
My very early morning. I had to get up at 4:30 to take my parents to the airport. It was exhausting but very productive. I’d done everything I needed to do by 8am.
On the second bank holiday I went to Dungeness and Rye with friends. We had a pub lunch at The Pilot Inn and walked on the shingle bank before exploring Rye.
Another month has been and gone. April was the best month of 2016 thus far because slowly but surely I’m getting better. Every day I’m getting a little bit more mobile and I’m getting more of my life back.
I went to Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey with K and H. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so there are no photos. I couldn’t drive all the way from South East London to Hampshire and back so I had to trust K to do all the driving which I confess was difficult. It was a lovely day. Highclere is smaller than I imagined but it looks very ecclesiastical. I was very taken with the central hall. I could see myself sitting beside that fire with my book. We wandered around the grounds and had a delicious scone with cream and jam.
I finished decorating my dolls house. It’s only taken me five years… Next step is the Dolls House Fair to hopefully buy some furniture. Rufus needs somewhere comfortable to nap.
I have a lovely pink Geranium on my kitchen window sill to make me smile.
I have the satisfaction of clean window frames – sad but true. I have some professional cleaning stuff and it was very pleasing watching years of grime melt off my UPvC window frames.
On my birthday I went out with my toddler niece and bought her a sticky iced doughnut covered in sprinkles. She was delighted.
Then there was the simple joy of a couple of hours curled up on the sofa with a blanket and a good book
Lovely birthday cards and presents – I’m very spoilt.
I went to a Vintage Hair and Make Up Night with K, K, K and L – yes I do know lots of people whose name starts with a K – as part of my birthday. There are photos but I’m not sharing them both to protect the innocent and because I hate all photos of me.
I went to the cinema for the first time this year (I said I was getting better). Mum, my sister and I went to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. We enjoyed it very much.
I went to see Miss Atomic Bomb to celebrate S’s birthday with K and L. Catherine Tate was amazing. I had an Atomic Cocktail – Bikini Martini with Gin, Blue Curaco and Peach Liqueur it was pretty damn good. Thus far I’ve resisted buying the ingredients to make one at home.
Tea from my new cat mug – S bought it for my birthday
I had a Famous Five Birthday Tea or more an Enid Blyton tea. We all have a family birthday tea on the Sunday closest to our birthday when we are allowed to choose the meal. In truth big niece chose mine but she asked so nicely if I’d mind and I though it could be fun. Mum rose to the challenge and we had an amazing tea with ginger beer, coconut macaroons, fruit cake, treacle tart, jam tarts, egg sandwiches, ham sandwiches, cheese sandwiches and pork pies.
I endured my End of Year Review at work – you’ll be glad to hear I’m not being sacked for another year. Some of my colleagues gave me some nice feedback from my colleagues.
I bought these Ranunculus and Anemones to help my recover from the endurance test that is the annual review.
I had this amazing birthday bouquet from S – I know a few S’s too. They came by post in a letterbox pack from Bloom and Wild and they are fantastic. It’s such a good idea. They lasted over a fortnight too.
I treated myself to a Birthday Krispy Kreme doughnut for breakfast or rather Krispy Kreme did as they sent me a voucher. I redeemed it on a morning which needed salvaging because the transport Gods were not with me.
I went to Belgium for the weekend with my parents and big niece. It was a special treat for Big niece and she had a wonderful time.
I own my own copy of one of Elsie Oxenham’s rarer titles New Girls at Woodend. I never thought I’d find an affordable copy but I have and here it is.
I found a new series to read Mrs Pargeter by Simon Brett. They are light and frothy with an appealing main character. Mrs Pargeter follows the tradition of being an observant older lady with a deep understanding of human nature they are a perfect commuting read.
I have been discharged by the orthopaedic surgeon back to the care of my GP and the physios because I am doing so well.
I had a delightful surprise when these letterbox Flowers from M dropped through the letterbox. They are simply stunning.
I shared a picky late birthday dinner with A
Window shopping with A
Meeting A’s niece A.
Family Dinner at the Chinese Buffet – A joined us too
Several gloriously scented Lush bubble baths. Even several weeks off I’m still pleased I can bathe without the cast cover.
I’ve been exploring various other professional options and I’m contemplating a change but it was very flattering to be told I’m business critical and my current team don’t want to lose me
I visited my grandmother and for the first time since February she had a good day and knew who I was.
I had my eyebrows threaded. I always think they look fine and then I make the effort to go and get my eyebrows done and I realise how much better I look when I do bother to get them threaded.
I’ve been able to walk far far more and the Physio has promoted me from an elbow crutch to a small folding walking stick.
One of my birthday presents was a trip to see Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard. My friend L organised it. I’ve not seen her for ages as she’s not a Londoner and I’ve been so immobile. The musical was simply fantastic and then we caught up over dinner.
I had my first (but I hope not the last) Pimms of the year.
In short April was the month when I began to reclaim my life.