05 June, 2014

Driving

Today I said to my daughter that I was instituting a 100% patience policy when on the roads. From now on, people can do absolutely anything - cut me up, undertake me, beep me for slowing down to avoid a cyclist, refuse to give way even when they don't have right of way, go through red lights, stop their car in the middle of the street for 5 minutes so they can chat to their friend, stop on a double red light during rush hour while they pop into a shop and think that they make it OK by putting on their hazard lights, beat the queue by going in the filter lane and then barge in at the top - and not one snarky word will pass my lips.

She snorted in a manner that I can only describe as derisive. And added, "I give you one week tops."

03 June, 2014

Mouse and university

The Mac is doing that thing where it randomly disables the left click button on the mouse. Then in order to fix it, you have to somehow manoeuvre yourself to mouse settings, using only whatever options are available to you by right-clicking, switch the left/right settings on the mouse, which reactivates the left-click button (but only with right-click functions), and then go back and switch the left/right settings again, back to the normal settings. Can I just say that this never happens on my crappy old Asus netbook that everybody scoffs at because it takes 10 minutes to wake up in the morning.

Well, I 'm back after a titanic struggle involving two different mice and hopeless attempts to execute functions on the Mac using only the keyboard. Why on earth do they make this so difficult? There should always be something that enables you to do most of what you want, using the keyboard alone. If the mouse functions aren't working, how on earth are you supposed to rectify it when the only way you can switch the mouse buttons is by using the mouse? Gah!

Reading that thing in the Guardian all about how Kirstie Allsop is right out of line for daring to suggest that maybe girls should have babies first and then go to university. I can kind of see what she means. I actually think that everyone, male and female, should leave school after A levels and work for five years before they go the university. Apart from people who already have a very clear idea of their vocation and need to train for years to do it, like doctors. For everyone else, if they'd already worked for five years, they would really appreciate university when they get there and have a lot better idea of what they want to do for a living, having been obliged to live in the world for a bit, rather than spending all their time at uni boozing and acting like arseholes. Mind you, tuition fees are probably changing that scenario.

But setting that aside, the problem with Allsop's suggestion is that if girls effectively don't finish uni till they are 30, because they have been off having babies, they are going to be competing with fresh young male graduates and even though an experienced worldly wise young mum is actually going to be more useful and mature than some callow male doofus, our society is set up so that the callow male doofus is the one who will get the job. For Allsop's suggestion to work, society will need to be remodelled so that women who have the baby first and then join the work force and focus on their careers are not disadvantaged relative to the chaps. Maybe that's not easy, but it's a heckuva lot easier to change society (even though it is not easy at all) than to change Mother Nature - and Allsop is quite right, the body clock is ticking and you've got a lot better chance of having a healthy baby and a healthy mum, if she has the baby in her early twenties. I speak as someone who had my kids in my 30s and had the successful career, but my setup only worked because the husband was OK with being the homemaker, while I went out and brought home the bacon.

Anyway, off out to post the direct debit form for St Paul's school fees (argh!) and buy some deodorant. And the house will be safe, because I just had proper locks fitted to all the sash windows by our lovely lovely local locksmiths Oakleys at Southfields. Before today, if you'd been so inclined, you could literally have slid open our ground floor sash windows from the outside, walked in and helped yourself to our precious valuable collection of 5 year old malfunctioning Macs and netbooks and our displays of housedust and half-used pots of Dulux brilliant white gloss.

01 June, 2014

Saturday

Sofa guy didn't turn up. Does nobody want our sofa? It used to belong to a scion of the Earl of Minto! Are there no raging snobs out there any more? To go by Balzac, I'd do better to be trying to offload it in France, which seems to be full of raging snobs.

Unfriendly girl turned up and took away the Country Lifes. Seemed very standoffish, as if she thought I might have lured her to our house in order to murder her.

Attacked the Virginia creeper in the garden, which is starting to get above itself again.

Kung pao chicken for dinner. Fungus helped with the cooking. I think she's starting to get to be quite a dab hand in the kitchen.

Watched Mean Girls with the grils, which I have never actually watched in its entirety. At last I have found a film that I like Amanda Seyfried in. Then girls went to bed, Welsh Anne came home and we watched the rest of The Rebound with Catherine Zeta Jones, who is just so beautiful. Frankly, Michael Douglas should consider himself privileged to be permitted to service her orally, not go around casting aspersions on her lady parts. Then cracked open the chilled rose and watched The Makeover, with Julia Stiles, who is just lovely. She should actually run for Congress. I would vote for her.

Asked the girls whether they wanted to go and see Richard Armitage at the Old Vic in the Crucible. On the one hand: it's Richard Armitage! On the other hand, I don't want to see something about the Salem witch trials. Ever. Hashtag firstworldproblems.

Sent a protest text to Amnesty re that poor woman in Sudan who's been sentenced to death for apostasy. Two hours later, it was announced that she's being released. I like to think it was my text wot done it.

30 May, 2014

Passing On

Woke up this morning to an email from my husband, that his father had died in the night. His brother has driven over from Nottingham to be with his mother. He was 80-something and had not been well for a long time - heart condition, diabetes and some sort of cancer also diagnosed earlier on in the year, so I guess it was not unexpected, but still very sad. A blessing though that he went quickly, without suffering or lingering on, at home with his wife of 50 years, entirely lucid and himself right to the end. I guess that is the way most people would prefer to go. The thing that makes me sad, as with my own father, is wishing we could have seen more of him, more recently. It is a great shame that families nowadays live so far apart.

Not much else to report. Anne came up from Somerset for her usual shifts, but apparently the newspaper is getting rid of all its casual staff by June, so she has already started looking for a new job - she seems to have quite a few prospects - and at better newspapers too! She's also thinking a lot about her mother in Merthyr, who is ailing and how they can work it out so she can take care of her at home.

Went up to Clapham Junction to pick up Lol's shoes. Bought the girls steak bakes from Greggs and raspberries from the fruit stall, forgetting there was leftover spag bol for lunch.

Tried to use coupon for discount on Guardian at Tescos self checkout. Failed to work. Eventually the guy had to just give me 60p from the till. Honestly. These coupons are more trouble than they're worth. Since you have to swipe your Tesco card anyway, why don't they just automatically deduct the amounts or credit you with the points without your needing to scan the coupon?

Gave the old kid booster seat away to a tanned old lady on Freecycle.

My Glen Campbell Greatest Hits 2nd-hand CD arrived today. Loaded it up onto the cloud. Galveston! Oh Galveste-on!

Trimmed the lavender border and planted some peas and rocket in a spare bit of the back bed.

Accosted by young chap who seems not all there, while was out walking the dog. Harmless, just kept on repeating questions about the dog.

Spoke to someone at National Power about getting the meter moved. Weird accent from somewhere up north, I think. She was actually really helpful and got it sorted, even though I was pretending to be my own husband, as he is the accountholder. Luckily he has the kind of name that could be either gender and I have the kind of voice that ditto, especially over the phone.

Dhal, okra, mackerel and rice for dinner, ably assisted by my lovely sous-chef Fungus, followed by She's the Man on DVD, which was strangely enjoyable, even though it starred Amanda Bynes, who is now off her head, and Channing Tatum, whom I can never recognise. Dog got a bit uppity at dinner, kept on barking and bouncing herself off my thigh in a bid for titbits, even though Fungus had already given her a bit of mackerel. In the end I got so fed up with her, I shut her out of the living room. So then she went out the back door and re-appeared at the living room window, looking in wistfully.

And so to bed. As Samuel Pepys would say.

29 May, 2014

Brazil

Today, bagged up a load of Country Life's to give away to a Freecycler. Took dog for a walk all the way up to Clapham Junction to get Lol's school shoes resoled and heeled - it cost £25! This is the last time I bother to do this - I might as well buy a new pair and be resigned to them only lasting a year. Took Fungus up to the Brazilian embassy to do a schools' exchange thing for the 2016 Olympics. Got loads of Brazilian Olympics loot and also ate some excellent cheese puffs and drank guarana juice. Muy exotico! as they don't say in Rio. Back down in sweltering hot train and taught Fungus how to cook spag bol. After dinner, watched School of Rock with the grils. Joan Cusack just brilliant: "I've just been informed that all of your children are missing. So..."

Think I may have found someone to offload that old sofa on, that the Countess of Whojamaflip offloaded onto us 7 years ago.

28 May, 2014

Half term

Girls are on  half-term. Lol is revising for end-of-term exams next week so we haven't gone anywhere. Although we did go to see X-men: Days of Future Past last night, which suffered from a problem that many blockbuster Hollywood films seem to suffer from nowadays. They want the characters to seem deep and to have some kind of emotional life, so they give them a problem, like they've suffered a lot in the past, so now they're a drunk. But the demands of the plot mean that once they're called upon to act, they miraculously throw off their drunkenness/addiction whatever and back to fighting fitness without any visible effort or screen time spent on it, so the whole thing ends up being more like a treatment for a movie than the movie itself. Perfunctory. Time is spent on effects and plot, rather than on character development. On the plus side, we have Michael Fassbender, as @mayambialik says, wet, shirtless or in a hard hat, though not all at the same time, looking smoking hot; James McAvoy doing his darnedest to inject a suggestion of humanity into the proceedings, and JLaw exuding star power like a 25000 watt bulb.

I was going to go to the Veronese exhibition at the Nat Gall today, but Lol expressed a desire to go and see it (odd, maybe all the revision is making everything else seem interesting), so I'm postponing it till after her exams. Instead I spent all day (1) ironing, (2) cooking, (3) gardening, (4) watching Bleak House, (5) walking the dog, (6) getting rid of things on Freecycle, and (7) having a nap in my big old armchair in front of the picture window. It's a hard knock life, as I keep telling the girls.

Also bought 5000 Vodafone shares.

I've started recording Pepys diary for Librivox, so, inspired, I've picked up this blog again.

In other news, I'm reading Dombey and Son, which I haven't read since A levels (those were in the days when for Eng Litt A level you did Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Keats and Milton. How we suffered! If only they'd let me read Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird instead, maybe I wouldn't have gone on to read English Literature at Oxford.

I'm also still slaving through Balzac's Human Comedy. I started reading this because someone said that Balzac was better than Dickens, because he was Dickens without the sentimentality. Having got as far as A Daughter of Eve, all I can say is that Balzac seems to be Dickens without the genius or sense of humour. I'm also fed up to the back teeth with all his bloody aristocrats. I haven't read that much French literature (well, basically Balzac and Proust), but they all seem to be obsessed with the doings of the Fauborg St Germain, the denizens of which seem to be the most toxic bunch of vile, snotty, self-satisfied set of horrors it could have been anyone's misfortune to meet. And this is AFTER the French Revolution. What they were like before, I can't imagine. I can quite understand the sans culottes wanting to cut their heads off.

In bloom at the moment in the garden: foxgloves, peonies, pinks, alliums. Brunnera need a Chelsea chop. There are a few early apricots on the tree, and the vine is covered with tiny little clusters which will eventually become lovely sweet grapes about the size of raisins.

07 April, 2014

Painting

a seemingly never-ending series of spindles (is that what they're called? the things that hold the banisters up) and the lightbulb has gone in the top hall and the light is fading and I can't reach the bulb to change it - so I'm stopping now and taking the poor long-suffering dog for a walk. Listening to music while painting:

(1) Adele: why does she sing as though she were some kind of world weary torch singer who's really been through the mill, when she's only 21? How many devastating relationships can she possibly have had? She's not bloody Billy Holliday
(2) soundtrack to 8 Femmes: love this. Now these ladies really sound as though they've been through the mill in a super-sophisticated French way. Perhaps I should actually try and work out what the lyrics are saying.
(3) Neil Young: After the Gold Rush - bought this cheap from Amazon and listening to it for the first time. Jury still out.

Going to give choir a miss tonight as I don't want to leave poor ill Child #3 on her own.

Afternoon

Tinned stilton and broccoli soup for lunch and tuna mayonnaise and tomato on toast. Dog looks hopeful. No chance, babes. Watching Gogglebox on 4oD.

Well, I was going to make a lemon meringue pie with Child #3 today, but since she has the dreaded lurgy, I'm going to sandpaper the top stairs instead, preparatory to painting it in brilliant white gloss. This is going to take a really really long time. It took me weeks to paint the shutters in the study because after about an hour, I'd lose the will to live and have to go off and do something else instead.

Thank God it's raining - no need to water the garden.

Mass Observation

I'm trying to get back into the habit of doing some writing every day and this seems like a good way to ease into it. So in the spirit of Mass Observation - so far today: Child #3 came into my room this morning to announce that she'd just thrown up and was feeling dodgy. I didn't think it could be food poisoning because I'd eaten everything that she'd eaten and I was fine - although to be fair, it has to be a pretty brutal bacterium to get through my Malaysia-honed digestive system - so I gave her some juice, some bread, some peppermint tea, a basin to throw up in (she hasn't again, so far) and sent her back to the bed. I suspect it's the same bug that Child #2 had a couple of weeks ago.

Toast and Marmite for breakfast, reading Wolf Hall on Kindle.

Had bath. Finished Norman Davies' Europe.

Walked the dog.

Went to Tescos and bought Spam, All Bran, rich tea biscuits, 2 packs of Duracell AA batteries, flour, chicken, salmon, bacon and Cif. Went to halal grocers and bought tomatoes. Went back to Tescos and picked up bag that I'd left behind.

Had a cup of tea with Anne. Bemoaned our uselessness in the face of life's challenges.

Defrosted mince for dinner.

Funded account with solicitors.

Bought some Sainsburys shares.

Played some online Scrabble against Little Sister.

Played some online Killer Sudoku.

Began JJ Norwich's History of Venice.

And now for lunch!