Week-end: ancestral

Head and front half of large eel made from tie-dye fabric with several pairs of human legs visible beneath

The good and the mixed

Spending time with family (and the friends who might as well be family). We buried Pa’s ashes in the family plot, as he’d always wanted, on the most beautiful April day with the bluebells coming out and a cherry tree in blossom, and had a long late lunch afterwards.

Then there was a theatre trip with the brothers – of which more later.

And it was a good week. But everything felt like a dreadful rush, somehow. (Bolting a meal at Wagamama and dashing to the theatre is fast becoming a tradition for me and my eldest brother…) I didn’t speak to many people for as long as I’d have liked, and I have a nagging sense of having missed opportunities. Part of it, of course, is being tired (partly because it’s a lot of rushing around, partly because I am just tired all the time these days) and therefore not being able to engage as fully as I might otherwise; and part of it is pure practicalities: it’s difficult to talk to people when they’re at the opposite end of the table from you, and of course you can’t talk in the theatre.

The difficult and perplexing

I could really have done without skinning my knees again. I suppose there’s a certain symmetry in bookending my week with sticking plasters.

What’s working

Naps. Naps continue to improve everything.

Reading

I finished Wildfire at Midnight. Hmm. Personally I’d have murdered some other characters, but there we go. It’s a very compelling read. Then I finished Bad to the Bone. This was excellent: a five-minutes-into-the-future (at least, at the time of publication), quasi-surreal account by an anonymous narrator of a doping(ish) scandal in the professional cycling peloton. The prose was excellent and, while the mechanics were far-fetched, the racing felt incredibly real. I feel that it could have tried to answer a few more questions, though.

Yesterday I had a ‘lounge in bed’ sort of a day, and read a lot of Agatha Christie: A Murder is Announced (very good, but I remembered too many of the twists from last time for it to be surprising), Ordeal by Innocence (not one of her best, and very of-its-time in the way it thinks about adoption), and Appointment with Death (OK, but not brilliant).

Mending

Some things that have been waiting for a very long time – Tony’s dressing gown, a fancy T-shirt, the collar of my Apollo blueprint dress.

Watching

Sweeney Todd – subtitled The Victorian Melodrama, and sub-subtitled NOT the musical by Stephen Sondheim (Opera della Luna). This took the script of the original 1847 production and added – as seems to have been consistent with period practice – background music from a small orchestra. The music came from various (higher-brow) composers of the era, including my great-great-great-grandfather Julius Benedict. Hence our going to see it: I may never hear Benedict’s music performed live by professionals again. Of course, the problem with its being so very obscure is that I couldn’t distinguish it from that of the other composers (though I did recognise Home Sweet Home – Bishop – and When Other Lips – Balfe). But anyway, it all sounded great, and the orchestra also did sterling service making the sound effects.

Quite apart from family pride, it was extremely enjoyable as a piece of theatre – a proper old-fashioned hiss-the-villain fun, with a small and talented company playing a very large cast. The theatre (Wilton’s Music Hall, in the East End) is a fantastic building.

And today Tony and I went to watch the eel parade, which is one of those delightfully specific local celebrations. The eel was constructed along the lines of Chinese New Year dragons, and followed by: representatives of the Royal British Legion; a samba band; a couple of dance schools; and Brownies/Guides/Rainbows. And one enterprising youngster had a smaller papier maché eel. Very much like Remembrance Day, except for all the ways in which it wasn’t.

Looking at

St Swithun’s, Martyr Worthy, which is a delightful little church with a Norman door. According to the lay reader who took the ceremony for us, it’s still regularly used and there is a decent variety of services. There’s a monument to someone from Sir John Moore’s company – Pa was always interested in the retreat from Coruña and I wonder if that was where that started.

I was interested to see that the visitors’ book was chock full of people walking St James’ Way, which seems to have really taken off since I did it in 2015. (For starters, I don’t think the church was open then, or I’d have looked in; these days it has a sello.)

Cooking

Not much this week, as I’ve mostly been out, but I did rösti with purple sprouting broccoli and fried eggs yesterday. Pretty good.

Eating

Scampi and chips in Winchester; ramen with vegetable gyoza at Wagamama; Scotch egg from the market today.

Noticing

A bush with blue flowers and loads of bees. From the train, several deer. In a charity shop in Sutton, several James Bond tie-in model cars.

In the garden

I did quite a lot this afternoon: trimmed a couple of bushes, sowed sweet pea and nasturtium seeds, watered the pear trees, pulled up some weeds. I also repotted the agave and aloe veras. Our predecessors’ compost bin has obligingly produced a load of compost (I’m not sure I looked into it at all last year). The wisteria is looking likely to produce more flowers than we’ve ever had here; the lily-of-the-valley is beginning to flower, and I think the peony may not be dead after all.

Appreciating

Sunshine. Small towns. The way you don’t need to explain family to family.

Acquisitions

Two parcels today: a new bra and Run Away Home.

Hankering

I was rather taken by a lampshade with a print of eels. I shall continue to think about it. It would certainly be an improvement on the ribbon-and-plastic-bead monstrosity that’s currently in my study.

Line of the week

There were several candidates from Bad to the Bone.

Their nerves are running on ninety seven per cent adrenalin, their fuses so short that if they were off their bikes and a leaf fell on their head they’d beat it to a pulp; and then somewhere inside someone’s head the little glass capsule shatters, the acid snaps the spring, muscles convulse, tyres lash tarmac and they’re on their own, elbows overlapping, bikes barrelling through forty five degrees beneath them as they screw them left and right, arms heaving, feet whipping, riding inside the arc of each other’s elbows, trying to get down the inside, through the gap that opens and closes three times a second, round the outside of a guy who’s going nearly as much across the road as along it because he’s got his head down between his knees because that way he can concentrate exclusively on pulling the bars off his machine without distraction.

This coming week

Bank holiday. Antenatal class. Midwife appointment. And we are going to a spa.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: I think the cover was blue

White pear blossom and young green leaves against a red brick wall

The good

It’s been an excellent week. I have slept a lot; I got a load of cat-herding and yak-shaving done on Monday and Tuesday and am now much less stressed about all the things that were formerly stressing me; I had a long phone conversation with one friend and went out for tea with two others. I logged into my work email once to see what the news was, and I liked it. I had my hair cut and I liked the result.

The mixed

April showers! Only one of them seriously inconvenienced me, though, and I got a lift home.

A visit from a hedgehog! (I was very glad to see the hedgehog, and it’s certainly good news that it’s got through hibernation, but it shouldn’t have been in the garage.)

I’m still slightly despairing about the state of the study. And I would have liked to have got more writing done.

The difficult and perplexing

Honestly, it’s mostly been good. Woke up too early this morning. That’s about it.

What’s working

Setting deadlines (for other people). Just doing things. And, on occasion, not doing things.

Reading

I was very zonked on Wednesday morning, so collapsed first on the bed and then on the sofa with After the Funeral (Agatha Christie). (My copy has a cover consisting of stills from the – very loose, by the looks of it – adaptation Murder at the Gallop, starring Margaret Rutherford. It looks bizarre.) Yesterday I read through all of the Heartstopper webcomic (Alice Oseman) that currently exists. I shall now do my best to forget about it for six months, as I know from bitter experience that waiting eagerly to read three panels once a fortnight (or whatever) is the quickest way for me to fall out of love with a canon. (It happened most spectacularly with Check, Please!, though I think Heartstopper is more coherent in tone and certainly less eyebrow-raising in its attitude to coming out. All the same, I’m not going to take the risk.) Anyway, I read the Nick and Charlie novella today and that ties things up nicely.

Writing

I wrote 700 words of what’s probably going to turn out to be a blog post on wanting things. I moved some things around in and made some additions to Don’t Quit The Day Job. And I typed up a bit of Your Household’s Rancour that I’d apparently forgotten about. As I said above, I’d have liked to have got more done. Pa used to swear that he couldn’t write if he didn’t smoke, and I’m half-tempted to wonder if I’d concentrate better if I were back on the coffee. (But I have rather gone off coffee.)

Most definitely not writing: The Long Lent, which would be the Stancester gang versus early Covid. I am not sure that anybody wants to read about early Covid. And it would mostly be about Will, and I’m not sure that anybody wants to read about Will, either. It doesn’t have much of a plot. It occurred to me that it doesn’t have to be a full-length novel. All the same, I found myself rereading a lot of The Real World when I was awake too early this morning, and trying to work out what jobs people would have been doing by 2020, and then at lunchtime I was looking for the Pergolesi Stabat Mater, which I think would form a sort of structure. I couldn’t find it. I’m sure it has a blue cover.

But anyway, I have two novels on the go, another one to expand from a short story, and the workbook that is in theory my principal project. I’m not convinced that this isn’t a ploy by some twisty part of my brain to stop me finishing anything.

Watching

I finally got through the world figure skating championships. I was glad I left the ice dance until last; it just got better and better and better through the last couple of groups.

Cooking

Indian masala carrots with coconut lentils.

Eating

Leftover bigos for lunch through the first half of the week. (It was OK, but it really needed belly pork; the meat was a bit dry.) Pizza, with various meat products, on Wednesday night. (Apparently my blood pressure is a bit low, which may explain my recent preoccupation with ham sandwiches.) Easter chocolate. Yesterday I got some rum and raisin fudge from the fudge shop: a rare treat.

Moving

Swimming. My new bathing suit arrived and seems perfectly satisfactory.

Noticing

As mentioned above, a hedgehog in the garage. (I was not, in fact, the first person to notice it; it triggered the motion sensor and Tony saw it. But I was the person to see it in its prickly reality and, protected by a pair of gardening gloves, get it out.)

There have been a lot of goldfinches around lately. Robins and blackbirds, very vocal. And one of our resident woodpigeons has discovered that it can sit in a bush and eat from the seed feeder just above it, which looks most comical, like a student doing a yard of ale.

In the garden

The tulips are most definitely out and it’s all got a lot brighter. The pear blossom gets more luxuriant by the day. I chopped some dead bits off the palm tree (it’s not a real palm tree, but I can’t remember the name of it). I’m not convinced it liked the cold weather earlier this year. Can’t blame it.

Appreciating

Friends who have been in my life for getting on for twenty years. A week to do more or less exactly what I wanted.

Acquisitions

Theatre tickets! We are going to see Opera della Luna’s Sweeney Todd. It is not often that you get to hear your great-great-great-grandfather’s music done live by pros (well, depends on who your great-great-great-grandfather was, I suppose, but mine has slipped into obscurity). I am very excited about this.

Hankering

I still have my eye on the teapot dress, but there’s no point buying it yet. As it is, I’ve been trying on various dresses in my wardrobe and doing calculations along the lines of if I expand by one centimetre every week and the wedding is in a month was it worth paying a tenner for a dress that was a size too big in January and how much extra time do I have to allow to go shopping in Portsmouth and what on earth do I do about a bra?

Line of the week

From After the Funeral:

It was a nice painting of white satin and pearls. The human being round whom they were draped and clasped was not nearly so impressive.

Saturday snippet

From Don’t Quit the Day Job

The challenge is remaining in that [writer’s] mindset when I’m back in London and the phone’s ringing and I have five spreadsheets to convert into a report. Writing on the commute helps. So does reading in my lunch break. I also like to wear one or other of the pieces of jewellery that I associate with my writing identity. (A current favourite is a pair of earrings featuring glass beads in the shape of coffee beans.)

This coming week

Back at work. In fact, it’s a perfectly normal week before things start getting absolutely ridiculous next Saturday, and remain so for the subsequent month.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!