Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hullos and goodbyes

Granny's life is deep in her extended family just now. All week it's been cousins, filling her in on bits of family history she didn't know. In her family it's especially complicated: owing to the early deaths of mothers in all generations and the level of divorce - mostly in hers - the numbers of half and step relations are considerable and constantly get added to. Strange how one's view of one family problem gets turned back to front in the light of further knowledge from another part of the family. (Eg 'she left because she was no better than she should be' becomes, 'no she didn't, she left because he was the naughty one'. Etc. Etc. Or 'her name was X/no it wasn't it was Y'. Etc. Etc.)

Tomorrow Granny is off to Malaga, to join not-so-little sister and very-poorly brother. Her brother her sister says - she keeps forgetting this is their brother they are attending and calling him 'dad' - is like someone from an earlier generation: their dad's in other words. Among other effects of Big Brother's refusal to get to grips with the present is that computers/the internet do not come within his orbit: short of an internet cafe Granny will be out of communication for a while. She will try not to call BB 'dad' but who knows if she will succeed. It's strange how different siblings can be. She and her sister have managed to enter the 21st century, more or less. Big Brother remains back in the 20th - in some respects the 19th century - hard as his own children have tried to bring him up to date.

Meantime Beloved has put his back out and the goat has still not produced her young. She is so big that it gives Granny the chance to use that lovely word 'gravid' - this goat is, definitely, gravid - very. But the weather at least has improved: the cousins have brought more sun, less wind than for weeks. The cousins are all out, Granny will retire to her hammock shortly.

Back to cleaning up the kitchen, meantime. How meals do go on, not to say lurk. Guests it's called. Cousins may be cousins but they are, also, in terms of domesticity, still 'guests'. And guests mean a) work and b) no slobbing out with a glass of wine in front of the telly. Let alone in the jacuzzi. Jacuzzi, restored at last after two months' to-ing and fro-ing over need for new cover, has been full of gleeful cousins all week.

Very expat thing, a jacuzzi. But very pleasurable all the same.

See you all later.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Death and Co

Beloved is a man of many bags - up to twenty of all shapes and sizes, most of them black. This makes for certain confusion....'Where's X, Beloved?' 'In my bag.' 'Which bag?' 'I'm not sure...' etc. One black bag, however, that rolls out rather than opens with a flap or clasp is quite unmistakable; it contains a cleaver, a hammer, and a number of lethal looking knives, all of them made of stainless steel. These are Beloved's butchering tools; at the moment they are laid out on the table - yet another poor little lambie has met its end. Yesterday it was gamboling happily, today its corpse lies ready for the knives, cleaver, hammer, very soon it will be dismembered, wrapped, labelled and in the freezer. It is organic lamb, reared and killed half an hour's ride away. Granny and Beloved may eat very little meat - Granny doesn't like it much. But what they eat - mostly when friends are round - is good.

One way and another death seems to be all round Granny just now - it always is, she guesses, but it isn't always so brutally forced upon her notice. Last week, despite her cold, she went to dear old friend's memorial service and as usual after such things was left wondering about the many things she had not known about that friend revealed in the various eulogies. 'I must ask her about X'.... comes to mind in distracted moments; followed by instant realisation that short of an effective medium - if such people exist - which Granny doubts - her friend is no longer available for such questions.

The next day Granny and her friend with breast cancer - doing very well, thankyou - are sitting together with another friend, making three out of four of their still tight-knit university group. The telephone goes - it is, coincidentally, the one missing member of their group reporting that her long-ill husband has died. This husband is the last of the four men their group met and married out of university: all of them - ex-husbands in two cases - now dead of cancer, none at much over 70. (Granny discovered, via an obituary, something she did not know about this dead man too; that he was in his youth a whizz dancer - think Fred Astaire.) The women, on the other hand, remain in pretty rude health, give or take a rogue tumour or two. Granny admits she would miss these women even more than their husbands - perhaps even more than her own ex-husband; but she wishes they hadn't all found themselves so prematurely - a bit prematurely - mourning. Other men survive happily to eighty odd and more. Why none of theirs?

The day after that, Granny plus very good haircut, is walking down Marylebone High Street when her mobile rings. It is beloved Australian sister: their brother with lung cancer is going downhill fast, much faster than expected. The upshot of this, several days and many phone calls later, is that on Monday week Granny will be joining beloved Ozzie sister in Malaga to spend time with their dying brother. One sad consequence of sisters living continents apart is that they tend to meet over or subsequent to deathbeds -this is the fourth. Granny loves her Ozzie sister a lot, she'd love to see much more of her, she does so wish it wasn't like that.

Meantime she is preparing for the visit of a cousin and his family. She has only met this cousin three times - twice, guess what, at funerals- but she is sure it will all go well. What with that, what with grief - surprising grief given how poles apart, she and her brother were, are, how little they saw of each other - what with mourning all this dead and dying past, it doesn't leave much time to sorrow for the poor little lambie being dismembered behind her; no funeral for it. No worms get to to eat it either. The still-living humans make sure of that. Life goes on, all too brutally, doesn't it? How it does go on.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Good hair. bad hair

Sunday April 6th.

8.30 am. Granny prises open an unwilling eye. Still snuffling and hacking somewhat, she has not had a good night but today is leaving day.... so -
8.32 am. she crawls out of bed with reasonably good thought that everything is packed and ready and even better one that she is going off to breakfast with Beloved Son and middle and youngest granddaughters a short bus ride away.
8.33 am. She merges into the sitting-room, pleased to notice a kind of brightness the other side of the curtains. Sun?
8.33.30 am. She flings open the curtains. No sun. It is snowing. She thinks of retreating back to bed.
8.34 am. She resists the temptation.
8.34-9.40 am. Granny washes, dresses and performs various tedious tasks like filling in her proxy vote form for London Mayoral Elections. (Keep mad Boris out at any cost including this one.)
941.am. She gathers up her keys and goes into the kitchen. Notices left-over fruit to be taken to Beloved son and puts keys down again. Also notices bags of garbage garbage and one of recycling garbage, gathers them up along with fruit bag and puts all three in hall.
9.41-5. She finds waterproof coat, puts on boots, hat, puts bus pass, mobile phone and sundry bits of loose change into the pocket of waterproof coat, gathers up bags in hall. shakes pocket, is reassured by jingle - keys in then - opens front door, goes out of it, hesitates a moment, shuts it behind her.
9.46. Worried thought. She had picked up her keys, hadn't she?
9.47 She roots in her pockets - all of them - coat, jeans, fleece jerkin. No keys. Roots in all 3 bags, including both garbage ones. No keys. Ghastly, resisted truth dawns. They are still inside empty flat. Along with luggage, passport, tickets, etc etc.
9.48. She takes out her plastic bus pass and tries the opening-yale-lock-with-creditcard-trick (yes she does have some disreputable skills.) Vainly. Card snags on draught excluder, can't get through to lock.
9.48. She calls on-holiday flatmate to get mobile number of other flatmate supposedly back in London since Saturday - but so far absent. On-holiday flatmate's mobile is of course switched-off. Both holders of spare keys are away. (This is not only Sunday, but the first Sunday of school holidays.)
9.49. Next door husband turns up with two snow-covered and excited small boys. She explains her plight and gets invited in.
9.51. Given welcome cup of coffee she calls Beloved Son who finds numbers of two locksmiths and calls her back. She calls one locksmith. No answer.
9.52. She calls second locksmith. He can be with her within the hour. Quotes £120-30 + vat, for privilege; this is Sunday, ie emergency call-out, darlings. Granny gulps. Would it be cheaper to wait for arrival of flatmates and ditch her ticket? Probably not. This is the beginning of school holidays, remember, the chances of getting a ticket home to Lanzarote this week - short of one costing £800 minimum from BA - small. She agrees.
9.55. In vain hope she rings flatmate no 1 again. Mobile still switched off.
9.55-11.25. She sits making small talk to neighbours - all previous curiosity about neighbours well-satisfied - elderly next-door woman turns, out to be Bosnian mother-in-law of the young English mother of the small boys Granny has encountered at times over small matters of broken balcony doors etc. Elderly woman and son are Bosnian Muslims who arrived as asylum seekers after her husband/his father was killed by the Serbs. She doesn't speak English. He does, volubly. He works for Harrods, he tells her all about it. All very interesting. and Granny is delighted to know some asylum seekers are or were decently treated. On the other hand she would have much preferred to be given this interesting proof of a) decency, b) multi-national London's ethnic diversity in more salubrious circumstances. It has stopped snowing. At last.
11.25. Two-three phone calls later taciturn locksmith in woolly hat arrives. He too is defeated by draught-excluder. States he will have to break in. Can he save lock? He will try.
11.30. He's broken in. Hasn't saved lock. New lock necessary. Cost? Around £300 odd. (This is Sunday, remember.)
11.40. New lock fitted. New keys left with nice, mostly Bosnian neighbours, so that flatmates can get in.
11.41. Granny enters flat to look for credit card. Finds keys where she left them in kitchen. Bill presented. In all £430. Granny could have got to New York and back for that. It would definitely have been better to ditch her ticket home and hung-about on standby. Taciturn woolly-hatted locksmith says that had it not been for - guess what - Sunday - the work, including parts, would have cost £190 merely.
11.43.a.m. Very much poorer Granny decides that she and her family have all obviously spent their lives in the wrong job. Note to Beloved Son. Change profession. NOW.
11.45-am-1.50pm. Talk among yourselves - Granny finishes up, gets taxi to Victoria, takes Gatwick Express, arrives at suspiciously empty Easyjet Counter. Guess what? Flight delayed at least 4 hours. A fact she'd have checked on internet, but for problems. (See above.) Had she hung on in there, who knows but flatmate might have arrived to let her in, she might still have got her plane. And not have been £430 poorer.
2.15 pm. About to enter security, she can't find her wallet or her mobile phone. Retires to hunt through baggage. Finds both. So that's alright.
2.45-3.45pm Granny gives herself good lunch, plus glass of her favourite wine (Sancerre.) It costs her £30 - peanuts after the morning, so what the hell. And doesn't she need it.
8.15 pm. Plane - at last - takes off.
1.00 am April 7th. She arrives home. Switches on mobile. Text from flatmate no 1. Flatmate: no 2 safely in flat. Bugger. (Granny is selfish here. She is not thinking of conveniently arrived flatmate but of her own pocket.)
12.55. She unpacks her handbag to find she has lost her set of keys somewhere between flat and Lanzarote. Now what? Change all locks including the new one? OUCH. She will definitely tell Beloved Son to change professions. Yesterday.


(And no it was NOT a 'bad hair day' - even leaving aside the fact that this is an expression she can't stand, she had a very nice haircut on Saturday and the one good thing was that every time she happened to catch sight of herself she could see it was a good hair day - pity the same thing could not be said of her ravaged face.)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Snort, snuffle, hack, atchoo. Hack, hack, hack, snuffle, ATCHOO.

The sounds of Granny in London. She has THE COLD in other words - along with practically everybody else she meets/has met. She is feeling sorry for herself. Serves her right for not staying at home on her island with her Beloved and his goats, he implies - but doesn't say. He does say that the pregnant goat shows no sign yet of giving birth, and that the bantams are getting at Granny's nasturtiums. Damn. But it all seems a very long way away. From within her headful of catarrh even London seems very far away. Snort, hack, snuffle. Etc.

Even though she is NOT going outside, Granny may or may not be gone a long time. See you all later.

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