Thursday, 27 September 2012

Dublin without the black stuff this time

"I told you I love her more than you do"

Um, I've racked my brains long and hard to think of something new I've done since last posting and I've really struggled. Which I suppose, in itself,  is new. Problem solved.

It's been two weeks since the last post and that's mostly because I haven't really been at home. I come home for a night and then disappear for two which seems to have had a great effect on the children - in that they're pleased to see me and not hurling toddler abuse. I've never really had anyone fight over me unfortunately so it's nice to see the twins arguing over whose mother I am. "She's my mummy!" "No, she's my mummy!" I don't expect it to last.

The last few days have been spent in Dublin which is a great city. I've only been a couple of times. The first was on a university history society weekend. Obviously we didn't go for the history. That's like assuming someone joins a university wine society because they want to learn about wine.  But I did, perhaps misguidedly, think that the weekend might involve some long boozy sessions in proper Oirish bars with my then relatively new boyfriend. Not so. The minute we arrived he disappeared and spent the whole weekend with his ex - a flame haired girl called Yvonne from Londonderry which isn't even proper Ireland. The rest of it is unsurprisingly a blur but we did end up going out for the next two years and I did end up seeing The Committments (it was 1991) in its home town for which I'll always be grateful to him.

Dublin Airport Terminal 1
or Sat Nav error?
Anyway, the point is, as we were going to drive around Dublin for two days this week visiting wine shops (work, not play), I hired a sat nav. This was the first time I have ever used one and will most likely be the last. If you hire a car and a sat nav, presumably you get the cheapest and most unreliable on the planet? I mean, for gods sake, it couldn't even register our planet in its system. We were lucky I suppose that it recognised Dublin when we keyed it in because it didn't recognise anything else. Apart from 32 different Vernon Avenues in a city that doesn't have postcodes. You would think that of all the places it would help you get to, it would be "Europcar Car Rental Return". But no. Having already abandoned our last two meetings because it lost us half an hour on a journey by sending us almost to Limerick, we changed tack and plugged in the rental returns office which, incredibly, was an option in the system. Instead it sent us to the main door of Terminal 1 where abandoning cars isn't usually encouraged. As Thomas Paine, the well known 18th century radical and philosopher once said, " Attempting to debate with a (sat nav) who has abandoned reason is like giving medicine to the dead". Warning lights should have flashed when I picked up the bloody thing. It was a Garmin. I have a Garmin app on my phone which is supposed to track my running routes. I have Garmin to thank for the amazing feat of running 15km in about 4 minutes. It doesn't seem to be known for it's reliability. Bizarrely I did actually end up doing around 15km in 4 minutes when I ran from security to the gate as my flight closed. All part of the training.

Talking of which.....only 10 days till race day. I have got to the point where I am past enjoying going for a run. I'm resenting having to clock up miles each week. It used to be quite enjoyable in a sado-masochistic kind of way but now I'd rather stick red hot knitting needles in my eyes than get my trainers on. So I was delighted to hear today from someone who is much more of a seasoned runner than me that, yes, I can start to wind down now. In fact, I need do nothing from next Tuesday other than eat pasta and mashed potato.  I knew there was a reason I was doing this.

May as well ask - if you want to sponsor me you can do so at

It's all in a good cause or at least that's what I keep telling myself.......

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Boys will be Boys

So, the week didn't get that much better.

Poor grandad turned the lights out 9 minutes after I posted that last blog so then I was feeling a bit bad about being relatively jovial when he had breathed his last in hospital. What is astonishing is that he and Nan have been married for 72 years. When I mentioned this to The Boy he made a funny groaning noise and asked if I realised how old we'd be when we got to that stage (the answer is him 107, me 103 - first calculation had it as 164 for me which is very wrong or I look extremely good for my age).
I said "don't worry, I'll have killed you by then". He said "don't worry, I'll have killed myself".

The Boy's arrival home from a hard day
in the office while I pray for the
redemption of my smaller boy
(missing from picture) who is
outside stoning someone's Hillman Husky
Oh happy married life! It made me think of those lovely nuclear families that you used to get in the 50's (I've been watching too much Mad Men), when women wore petticoats and torpedo bras and spent all day putting pineapple and cheese on sticks and men drank manhattans for breakfast.

CN8/1; picture of a workshop, 1937
Borstal - reforming naughty boys
by donning aprons and learning
how to gut rabbits
One thing that also existed here in the 50s was "borstal" which, for those of you outside this wonderful land, was a form of youth prison run in the UK by the prison service and used to "correct" seriously delinquent young boys. Obviously girls can't get seriously delinquent because we're just too nice. Girls were sent off to convents instead and I'm pretty sure they were also run by the prison service. Borstals were for offenders under the age of 21. I'm not sure they catered for boys as young as 5 but that's where my boy would be heading today if he'd been born 70 years earlier. 

Last night he broke his first car windscreen. Or rather he broke a very big and scary friend's car windscreen.  I'd taken him for tea and to play with his two best friends from his old nursery. This is the triumvirate who, even when they were three, were separated at lunchtime and were put in opposite corners of the room on a more than frequent basis. So, they were busy being boys outside and throwing stones at eachother (which is fine apparently) when said big and scary friend came in and asked for masking tape to mend his rear windscreen. I knew instantly my boy was the culprit. I didn't shout and scream, merely gave him a stern talking to, made him apologise and had a glass of wine (me not him). Then I took him home and asked him to tell his father what he had done. Later on I asked The Boy what he thought of this transgression and he said "Well, I don't know what he was thinking because he knows not to throw stones at people". Um, so he didn't mention the windscreen then.......

It must run in the family because when I traced my family tree a couple of years ago I discovered that my great uncle had indeed been sent to a "home for delinquent boys" at the age of 8. That's the Irish side of my family. Funnily enough my great grandmother was also sent to a prison, I mean convent.

I was mortified at the time. I'm just lucky it was a company car and big scary friend wasn't that fussed or I'd be facing a large bill instead of owing 15 quid for duct tape to hold it all together so he could drive to the Isle of Wight. A little part of me was a tiny bit impressed that my boy has fire in his belly.

Although I gather that fire is another thing that little boys like to learn about so I'm just going to turn off all the gas before I go and watch Mad Men.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Up, up and away

Back in the dim and distant past of 1997, I read one of the best books I've ever read but the first chapter or two have haunted me ever since. Well, I say haunted. Not constantly but in a way that has always been there though not necessarily at the surface. Until last night that is, when we were bouncing along in a land rover looking for our launch site for the long awaited balloon flight and I suddenly had this blinding memory of the scene that has lain semi-dormant in my subconscious for 15 years.

Funnily enough I've always, always wanted to go in a hot air balloon so what better excuse than someone else's birthday. Obviously I didn't want The Boy to have to experience such a generous gift on his own, where's the fun in that? So I martyrishly stepped in and treated myself to one at the same time. It was only about a month after buying the vouchers that it suddenly dawned on me while I was brushing my teeth that I actually have a morbid fear of big drops / sheer drops / massive heights. I'm the girl who burst into tears and handed the keys of my soft-top over to The Boy because I couldn't handle the drive up St Bernards Pass in The Alps. But I tried to overcome that only for the sudden flash of memory from Ian McEwan's "Enduring Love" to take its icy grip in the middle of Dorset. It was an unfortunate moment for this to hit me because it's about a hot air balloon accident where one unlucky victim falls to the ground and is found in a sitting position with his spine sticking out of the top of his skull. Nice. Thank god there was going to be champagne on this flight.

Almost as fascinating looking
up as down
It's a strange feeling to think that there's only a layer of wicker separating you from an absolutely certain and very messy end. But weirdly, as you take off it all melts away. It's so silent up there (apart from the woman next to you threatening to throw her partner out because he got lost en route) that you suddenly feel that, actually, if you fell out, there might be worse ways to go. Until you hit the ground at least.

Anyway, the upshot is that a) I have overcome my fear of big drops/sheer drops/massive heights, b) being a martyr is a wonderful and selfless thing and c) it makes you bloody hungry. Shame then that the KFC in Wincanton that we started fantasising about (I know, a sad existence) 10 minutes in, was closed on the way home on account of not actually being built yet.

Not scary in the slightest.
Not our house though unfortunately
Today is Friday. I know we still have two days of the week left but already that has been the absolute highlight. The rest of it has been pretty pants and a series of firsts (other than the balloon) have been thwarted by far superior powers. After a day of meetings in London on Monday and just as I was due to meet my sis, BIL and dad for the Paralympics Athletics, we got a call summoning us to the hospital 3 hours away - Grandad was critical and not expected to last the night. So we drove like the wind up the M40, made a mess of dad's car with our noodle and doughnut picnic and then spent the entire night in the hospital which also blew our plans for breakfast. As Tuesday was the first anniversary of mum's death we were going to go for a swanky breakfast in London to "celebrate" (in the nicest possible sense, not that she ever really ate breakfast). Instead, Dad and I had a greasy fry-up in the hospital canteen at 7.30 having stared at our watches for at least 4 hours, counting down to the minutes till it opened. It was cheap. So are tattoos in Bangalore but neither of them are recommended by the World Health Organisation.

So mum's anniversary passed almost unnoticed which is tragic considering its enormity (to us). How ironic it would have been if the nurses had been right and Grandad had shuffled off his mortal coil on Tuesday. Now it's Friday and he's still clinging on but it can't be long now.

In a funny way I didn't really miss-out on the anniversary. The Boy pointed out that being 1300 ft over Dorset was 1300 ft closer to her which in its own way was quite comforting.

If you believe in all that......