Sunday, 7 June 2015

Just an average birthday...

This weekend has seen a return to personal form on a level not known since about October last year. There is clearly a correlation between holidays, lack of stress, and being able to live a normal active life. Or it's just taken me six months to get over completing my MA and emerge, blinking mole-like, from  dark book baggage.    

On my return from foreign parts last week my brother called me to remind me about the imminent maternal birthday festivities. He was wondering when the heck I was arriving on 6th June. My brother stresses a lot. Strange, because I don't worry about stuff at all. 

Oh no. 

To be fair he was right to be worried. It turns out I had the wrong weekend in my befuddled head. After a hurried ticket booking and further consultation with the man of the family, everything was organised. All I had to do was get to Pewsey at 9.30 and he would pick me up. I managed it despite over-sleeping and set a world record for crossing London in the process. 

We arrived at his and I finally had my first cup of tea of the day. My nephew hid under a cushion. So my sister in law decided that we'd better put on our party faces as we didn't want to send anyone else scurrying under the soft furnishings. Chris made a fabulous eggs benedict and we sat in the sunny garden, discussing food. It's pretty much staple conversational fodder in our family. 

My brother is proud to announce that in four years he's grown one stalk of purple asparagus. He reports it tasted the same as green. I'm glad we cleared that up.

Roo's favourite colour is red. And he enjoys writing his name. He also loves cars, doing roly-polys, telling stories, swimming, BMX tracking around the garden, and playing catch with Izzy the dog. He doesn't do sprinting competitions at school because he isn't fast enough to win. After all it's not the taking part... His ambition is to explore the jungle. He had me in stitches. He's also a perfect budding worry-wart. On being left in the car, we conspired to drive away; neither of us have a driving licence. He thought about it with a naughty smile, then looked panicked. 'We can't drive', he announced, 'we'd be 'rrested'. 

True. I have a feeling I'm going to have to work on his more anarchistic side. 

The party went off well, despite the many and varied ailments of the family grandees. The pub was a lucky find given that someone had mixed up The Snooty Fox and the The Fox. Chris had asked me about venues and mentioned foxes. I thought it was the 'other' fox so he booked this fox. We were clearly utterly foxed. But thankfully the landlady was charming and the food was all home made. The apple crumble was excellent according to those in the know. My uncle only deals in cider apples so went for the icecream. Wise man. Roo agreed that the strawberry was the best he'd ever had. He's a card. 

After all the fox kerfuffle, we went to see the White Horse. Chris and Roo demonstrated the art of rolling down hills, given a piquant twist of sheep droppings and the boys being in their best party clothes. My mum and uncle enjoyed the walk from the comfort of their stationary vehicle. My family is truly priceless. 

After an excellent day, it was rounded off by a walk in a jungle-like Pewsey nature reserve, and Roo being excited by the trains and tannoy at the station. I only know one person in Pewsey but we haven't spoken in years. Turns out she was standing on the platform, catching  the identical train back to London that I was. Coincidence made for a great ending of a really good day. 

And the most exciting thing? Next week I get to introduce my nephew to Dippy at the Natural History Museum! 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Let them eat cake...

Today was something of a first and a last for me. The first time I've been to a garden party and wandered aimlessly around Buckingham Palace gardens. And probably the last time I'll be allowed back. Not that I did anything naughty just that that's what most of my readers would presume...


Queue hats...
Best laid plans of mice and harridans meant that I didn't actually leave my office until after 2pm for a 2pm start, which was nice. On the bright side it meant I was expecting queues from Buck House to the home counties. Wherever they are. The event was part of the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the Women's Institute.

I wasn't disappointed, the queue from the main gate was along most of Constitution Hill, but fortunately it disappeared before I found my intended queue at Hyde Park Corner. I whiled away the time chatting with a lovely lady from Wiltshire - I think - who was looking for her mum as she knew she was there and wearing a hat...

Hats. There were a lot of them.

I was definitely in the minority as I didn't have one as a) my head is slightly larger than Phobos and b) it was a trifle windy and I'm actually not as daft as I look.

Fortunately the extremely well behaved queue moved quite quickly and after a quick look at my passport and a suppressed smirk from the policeman we were inside. I forgot to mention, we were warned clearly, everywhere, that no pictures were to be taken and phones should be switched off.

It seemed only I read that bit...

Hats. And cranes.
There were endless excited ladies of a certain age having their photo taken amongst Lizzy's shrubbery, I even took one for the nice lady from Wiltshire, though had to decline one of me as yes said phone was firmly switched off.

We meandered through the fabulous parkland with no idea of where we were going until we reached a frenzy of hats and heels. As near as I could gather this was waiting to meet a royal lady in a hat who also probably had heels. Sort of a cult thing was all I could thing.

At which point I fell in to conversation with a fabulous lady from Oxford. When I say conversation I really mean cackling, lets's just say we were kindred spirits and had an almost identical sense of the occasion...

Nobody but me and a tree :-)
Eventually she went off to attempt to get near the tea tent as I wandered off to have a snout round the garden. I didn't actually get massively far as I found a bench by the lake under a glorious tree where I sat and thought. Living in London you don't get much time in the open to yourself and there was something utterly magical about being so isolated with the sound of the wind in the trees drowning the traffic on Grosvenor Place and beyond.

A lady came to join me, I explained that I was simply enjoying the peace because normally in London I get so little, she made to go but I insisted she was welcome. It turns out she was from Norfolk so I naturally asked whereabouts, she launched in to a familiar explanation of "about 15 miles south of Norwich" when I interrupted her and said where my Norfolk house is. We chatted amiably for quite a while before we wandered back towards the tea tent as she explained she'd come down from Norfolk with friends and she'd mislaid them. Oops. Turned out that you will always find a Norfolk lass near food as they were all there when we wandered in.

Band. Ladies. Hats.
In the queue I began chatting with a lady from Northamptonshire, I think, she'd left at 7am to get there! I admitted I didn't leave until 2pm... She couldn't quite get that I was happy to have just one small slice of victoria sponge and a cup of tea. For me the joy was in simply being out and soaking up the atmosphere.

As the day wore on I slowly wandered towards one of the two military bands that were entertaining the massed hats though I was slightly distracted by a tub of ice cream that a young man with a tray offered me. It would have been rude to say no...

After a few hours of being windswept I decided it was time to head home, I'd toyed with the idea of popping in to Duke's for a martini as I was so close, or maybe wandering up to Claridge's for similar, but as ever the feeling of not wanting to drink alone in a place won over so I scuttled to Green Park and the journey to Contrary Towers.

It was a pity I didn't bump in to any of the ladies I wanted to bump in to but it was also unsurprising and really didn't detract from what was a very pleasant afternoon.