Thursday, 21 July 2011

A reason, a season or a lifetime.

'tis a sad day. After only a year next door to our lovely neighbours, they are packing up to move to a new house in the next town.

We've always been very lucky with neighbours and this time was no exception. I already knew Anna when we moved in last June - she had been head of the school PA when I was on the committee (joint Catering Officer, responsible for e-numbers and caffeine) - but you never quite know a person until you've seen them in their pyjamas putting the rubbish out. Our youngest daughters became friends, walking to school together and in each others' houses and gardens most days.

Once, during the snow in winter, I came home from work and nearly slipped A over T on the compacted icy pavement outside my house. Feeling really grumpy, I grabbed my shovel and started to clear it. It was going to be a long job. Anna returned shortly after, offered words of encouragement and disappeared indoors. 10 minutes later she re-appeared with two hot cups of tea, and started sweeping my broken up chunks of ice into the gutter. We then swapped tools and cleared her pathway, chatting as we worked. It turned a horrible job into a nice memory.

Similarly, we had great fun in the summer with my neglected and overgrown bush (ahem) which borders our properties. I'm not a fan of ladders so when Anna found me standing on tip-toes brandishing a borrowed chainsaw at the hedge top (much to the horror of the elderly gent the other side, who almost had a heart attack at a woman loose with a power tool), she got up the ladder to finish off, then we shovelled and swept again.

As for the new neighbours, well the DDs had their usual list of requirements for any new people entering their lives, number one being they should have kids their ages. Oh, and a tortoise, a house rabbit and a dog. I was hoping for either a hot single dad or another woman my age to share shovelling duties. Well, we are awaiting the arrival of 'a middle-aged couple, no kids, moving from London to be near the sea'. The jury is still out on whether they will bring livestock, but I'm sure they will be lovely. I believe that you get what you expect in life.

I also firmly believe the adage that we come into each others' lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Sadly, as the children will be at different schools I'm not sure our paths will cross again, other than by chance. I think Anna and her family were there for a reason: to provide familiarity and help ease us into our new home when we were all reeling from newness and change. I'm not sure what our purpose was to them. Maybe my loud, bad singing made them finally make that move they'd talked about for years. Either way, we'll miss them a lot. And yet our former elderly neighbour is definitely in the lifetime category: We still see her all the time, and she has an uncanny knack of calling me out of the blue and saying things like "How's your headache, dear?" and "What's wrong?" at exactly the right moment.

So I have a card and welcome gift ready for the new people, and I'm looking forward to finding out whether they are reason, season or lifetime people. And whether I manage to scare them off with my singing too.

Monday, 11 July 2011

A novel is born

Something very exciting has happened. I say this as though it was unexpected, and in a way it was. I've dreamed of this moment for the last 20 years and after several false starts there were days when I didn't think I would get to this point. So forgive me for wanting to scream it from the blogtops:

I have just finished writing my novel.

Of course, it's a first draft and in a condition that only a mother could love, but it's mine. I've typed 'The End'.

I don't profess to have the writing knowledge that many bloggers offer. I am learning as I go. But if any other writers are struggling to finish their first draft, let me share the one piece of advice that changed the way this novice writes and helped deliver my first victory. It is this: Momentum is key. It's so important, I'll say it again: Momentum is key. Don't stop to make it perfect. Keep going even if you think it's crap. Some of it will be. Much of mine undoubtedly is. But now my task is to nurture my baby through to adolescence before sending it out into the big wide world with love and optimism. And a big fat prayer that it won't land back on my doorstep too many times before it finally flees the nest.

Monday, 4 July 2011

5 things I want to do this summer - Listography

The Reluctant House Dad is hosting Kate Takes 5 listography for this week, '5 THINGS YOU WANT TO DO THIS SUMMER'. So, here are mine:

For the past 13 years, my job has been to plan the whole 6 weeks of activities like a military operation, in consultation with other Entertainment Captains and the Met Office, and with the aid of the equivalent of the national debt of Greece. September would find me spent in more ways than one. So this year, I'm hanging up my hat: the DDs are going to amuse themselves the old fashioned way. We had a taster of it at half term. After outgrowing her previous bike, DD1 refused several offers of a new one on the grounds that it was 'so lame', then she acquired one by accident (thanks, Aunty H!) and I couldn't get her off it. She was gone for hours each day, punctuated just once by a teary phone call that she'd fallen into some nettles and knocked her chain off the gear mechanism miles away from home (mum's Emergency Services and her big car boot came in handy that day.) The eureka moment came for me when she took DD2 with her. Deep breath from overprotective mummy and off they went off like a couple of Enid Blyton characters with lashings of ginger b... ok, water bottles, cycled for hours, stopped off at the park and the library, and returned home sweaty, scuffed and grinning. And very proud of themselves. All for zero expense. Priceless. It's time.

No, not tanning.  But when my kids make a pit stop from their adventures with a pile of equally ravenous friends, I will make sure I always have a home baked cake or biscuits to hand (as well as the ubiquitous freezer full of ice pops). That way, I get the therapy, and I can guarantee they will make it home at some point.

By the beginning of the school holidays I will have finished my first draft - I know where it's going and how to get there and it's currently hitting the page in all its messy glory before the really hard work starts: editing. So while the intrepid explorers are out and about in the sun, I will get my new baby into a form fit for human consumption.

Like many, we can't afford a holiday this year so are thankful we live five minutes from the beach, with woods, farms and castles all within a ten minute strike. And, we are doubly thankful for the lovely friend who has invited us to her holiday cottage in Suffolk. Last time, we went crabbing at Walberswick, prom strolling in Southwold and toy boat sailing in Aldeburgh. And the now legendary 'Strawbelly Jam', as the kids labelled it, was made after an afternoon picking our own weight in strawberries. I'm thankful for old fashioned, low-cost, lazy summer days.

The DDs will be spending the first and last weeks of the holidays with their dad. In the two previous years, I have dreaded them going, hated the silence and spent the week thoroughly miserable. This year will be different. As they grow in independence, so must I. I already have a party invitation, a promise of a bottle of wine with a friend, and our annual grown-up girls weekend at my friend's house in Suffolk. We'll go for walks, wander around antique centres and silly gift shops, make regular cuppa and cake stops, and in the evenings the odd bottle of alcohol may even get a look in. Ok, so we previously discovered that Cava and popping candy in the same mouthful make your nose run, and how, by rigging straws through the face hole in a massage table, you can enjoy several hands-free Pina Coladas whilst being pummelled (ahem, massaged...) On reflection, perhaps I already get the hang of this grown up thing.

Happy summer, people!

For more '5 THINGS YOU WANT TO DO THIS SUMMER' see The Reluctant House Dad's blog.