Monday, 24 February 2014

A Book Review

Well first I must say we're all home from our trips and all in one piece. Unusually for us it was uneventful (well excluding the newly acquired travel sickness in the car and plane, and our taxi crashing into the back of a bus) but as I haven't uploaded or even looked at any photos yet, nor have I got my head together as we arrived home at midnight I thought I'd do
 a little book review of my holiday reading.

I was given this book as a gift from my best friend when we were away together in January. We often buy each other little gifts to open when we get there, more often than not a book.
She started it the first year we went to the spa, she knew I'd been a bit stressed and was SO looking forward to a break, we stopped just outside of Norwich (about 15 miles from home!) for our McDonalds drive through coffee (it's traditional!) and she presented me with a  beautifully wrapped box to cheer me up. Inside the box I found a very glamorous and very high heeled pair of strappy sandals, she went on to explain that they were a must buy and had only been in my size. Apparently she'd seen them some months before reduced from £125 to £5 - I never see bargains like that! I've never worn them but love looking at them in the wardrobe!

Most years we buy each other a book and this year I gave her my favourite read of 2013,
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson which had been a reading group choice and I reviewed it here.

She gave me a book she'd enjoyed earlier in the year although enjoyed may not be the right word.
It was this...

It took me a few days to get into it as it dots about telling the stories of four people and their families, two are related and the other two are seemingly unconnected at the start. Their stories go backwards and forwards in time for each group, until in a twisting and turning way they all meet due to their various circumstances.  I may have found it hard to get in to as we were preparing for our respective trips at the time and I was a little stressed, however once we got away I couldn't put it down.
 It is set largely in the mid 1970's in India and the main theme at the centre of the book is
"The Emergency" put into place by Indira Ghandi's government, 
and how this affected those less well off and so called "slum dwellers".

Now although I enjoy learning new things about other cultures and their politics I found this a really tough book to read. Not a difficult read, it is superbly written and very easy in that respect. It is a difficult subject to have laid out in front of you, so clearly described - it's a hard subject to swallow.
I shed tears in the reading and had many other things to look up after we got home, I knew a few things but, as it turns out, not very much. This was a real eye opener and what ever I read on one page I hoped would turn into a happy ending overleaf, it never did.

There are a few phrases which I won't be able to forget, and I apologise if you find this upsetting but the one line which will stay with me forever is mid book where a beggar gives birth to a baby and that baby is then sent away for "professional modification" to become a more successful beggar himself. It was just written very matter of factly, that one line, I won't go into details but this line will stay with me forever, I knew it went on but in the book you have already got to know and like the man before you know his back story. I cried.
There are all manner of facts and figures which I knew nothing about, the population control, in more ways than one. The book's characters come from different religions, castes and areas of India although none are wealthy, it is a truly eye opening book, and very, very sad. Two of the main characters are tailors and in my opinion this can also be taken metaphorically, as they try to make, repair and join many other things, not just the fabric they use for their work.
I would highly recommend the book, but it's not for the feint hearted.

Friday, 21 February 2014

A Bag of Mixed Nuts

I have tried to schedule this post to appear while we're away on hols, I've never done that before so I hope it works!

The weekend before we left we were invited to two family parties, both on the same evening; due to a, how should I put it?, lack of communication,! Two of my sister in laws both planned big birthday parties for the same evening! One was 50 and the other was 60, and we really wanted to attend both.

I have made mention before that my husbands family are best described as eccentric, so we left home with more than a little trepidation; you never know who/what you may meet at these occasions!

Not my actual in-laws but a good representation!
Only The Builder, myself and Little Miss went in the end, both boys had cried off! We ventured into the city centre for the first party, a room above a "spit and sawdust" pub, it was a while before we realised there actually was a room above as we mingled with some odd characters in the bar! The invitation, via Facebook was a little unclear.....

Several family members hovered around, noticeably the chap wearing all black, a vest top and trousers which probably didn't really flatter his beach ball physique. His specs with their bottle bottom lenses probably meant he couldn't actually see what he looked like although I do remember him wearing the same outfit 30 years ago!

The lady with the slightly askew wig was scaring Little Miss, well in between making her giggle that is. She'd had to give up the booze she told us, whilst downing a half of lager,
and the wig tilted slightly further over one eye!
There was more than a usual array of leopard print in the room,
most of it bustling about on the dance floor
to a 60's soundtrack played on a loop.

The buffet, laid out on the pool table was good though, some made by our talented nephew who has just sent off his entry for The Great British Bake-off 2014. Two enormous birthday cakes full of all manner of sugar laden fillings were hastily scoffed by all, in between cigarette breaks on the balcony (in the freezing weather).

Little Miss was very wary of some of the strange creatures, particularly the odd looking gentleman who said he was so pleased to see her again, he'd not laid eyes on her since her Christening - odd we all thought as she's not been Christened. We just nodded and smiled, as we backed away!

We made our excuses and made the journey to party number 2, closer to home but with a very similar mixture of dysfunctional family members. I'd say the individuals are dysfunctional more than the actual family as a whole! Given that my family is mainly just dysfunctional I like being with my in laws, what you see is what you get - what you see isn't always pleasant though! But I love them dearly all the same.
We chatted at the second party to one family member who regaled us (again and again!) with  tales of his career as a champion boxer, marathon runner, bricklayer, darts champion, award winning chef, professional footballer (I'm sure I've missed a few out) - obviously none of it is true but we like to humour him! We had a great evening just people watching, something I love doing anyway however it is slightly different when you're related to the whole box of frogs! (is that just a local saying? "mad as a box of frogs") We didn't venture to the buffet this time, although there seemed to be an endless supply of it.

I may make fun of my in-laws, as does The Builder in private, but I love them loads and I'm happy I married into this bag of mixed nuts!
Little Miss thought the whole evening was strange but fun, but as I said to her at the time, she has more than a little of this insanity coursing through her veins, I however do not!
I chose to marry into it though which may be slightly worse!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Holiday Jinx

Well tomorrow is the day we leave for our hols, I'd like to say annual hols but it's definitely not a yearly occurrence, I wish!

This morning I had to drop number 1 son plus friend at his college at 1.30am, there were tears I have to admit. I feel bad going away without him, going somewhere warm when he's off to the ice box that is currently New York and then leaving him home alone for 5 days before we return. I know he'll be just about 1 week shy of his 18th birthday but all the same, emotions were particularly high after having a good friend suffer a personal tragedy on Monday night which seems to have floored me.

Anyway after a brief and slightly troubled sleep, I went to work (I doubt anything I did was correct - just a normal day then). Right now I'm keeping my eyes open with a little help from two matchsticks and some sellotape!

I've been thinking, as you may expect, about our holiday happenings, some would say down right disasters but I prefer happenings. I did write a few posts about our holiday experiences here and here, then we went to Cuba and met Sandy.

It has suddenly dawned on me that the one common denominator in all these holiday experiences is ME! The builder and I have had holiday disasters with and without children and we've been away without each other but the only person who consistently has a "problem" be it big or small, is me.

It started with my very first trip abroad, in 1975, when I was 10. I've had to look that up as I thought I was younger than that but no matter. My Mum had booked herself on a "girls holiday" to Spain, with a few mates, I guess she would have been 32 at the time. The only other person we knew who'd been abroad was my Great Auntie Dorothy and her husband who owned a local business and had no children, they did have a poodle called Simon instead though!. Simon always had 3 course meals and a fried egg for breakfast.
Auntie Dorothy was my idol, with immaculately coiffured silver grey hair and a cleaning lady, she regularly flew to Italy where she bought her leather shoes. I've spent my whole life wanting to be Auntie Dorothy!

Anyway I digress, just before Mum was due to leave one of her friends dropped out and as she was Mum's room buddy she asked if I'd like to go in her place. As they were mainly single ladies I'm sure I seriously cramped their style! Security was very different then, I guess it was no problem for her to pass the ticket on to me. I was so excited no one else at my school had ever been abroad so I puffed up my chest and bragged like mad!

We arrived in a very Spanish Spain, and stayed at what seemed to be the only high rise hotel for miles around. I don't really remember much about the holiday apart from the big straw donkeys every one was buying. But a couple of days into the holiday General Franco died and the whole of Spain closed down! It was disastrous and we could do nothing but stay in the hotel, mournful music was played everywhere, I remember that bit very clearly.
 However I still considered it a treat  - I was having time off school.

My second time abroad was with my Gran, she was a bit of a jet setter and over the years she's travelled far and wide. After she lost my Grandad tragically early she ran their two businesses for a while before retiring, then over the course of a few years she took all her grandchildren abroad for a week, separately and in order of age. I was third to go and she booked a week on a Spanish Island, Majorca I think - not sure of the year but I was around 13 I think.
Gran and I in Spain, a very long time ago!
Gran was travelling up from Devon and we were travelling from Norfolk to meet at the airport - I can't remember which one. The roads in and out of Norfolk were diabolical back then (not much better now!) but we set off in the middle of the night with me asleep in the back. I became aware in the early hours that we'd stopped, the rain had been torrential and the road was flooded. (yes I have been thinking that sounds a bit like the weather right now!)
Mum and her boyfriend made an attempt to drive through the flood but the car conked out in the middle and we were rescued by the police!

We were eventually taken to the airport by taxi, after spending quite a long time at the police station. As this was in the days before mobile phones we hadn't been able to get a message to Gran, she was at the airport beside herself with worry.

When we finally met up amongst the crowds of delayed travellers, Gran was crying buckets and we'd missed the plane! We ended up getting a flight to Spain and then sleeping in the airport overnight before getting a little commuter flight to Majorca the next day - we enjoyed it in the end!

So it has become apparent that the holiday jinx may in fact be me!

Speaking of Gran she is a little under the weather right now, the very fit and sprightly 92 year old has turned into a rather frail nearly-94 year old so I'll be a little worried while we're away but I'm glad I got to spend some time with her in October.

Well we'll be off in the morning, and I'll update  you on our travels at the end of February.
.....wish us luck!
Once more unto the breach, dear friends....... see you on the other side, hopefully!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Dropping balls

Firstly, thank you for all the comments on the previous post, you do make me smile! And as for those fabulous silver shoes I never said I could walk in them, they're just pretty to look at.
They have had one trip out since I bought them,
to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert - it seemed appropriate!
However I took them with me in my handbag and slipped them on in the foyer of the theatre, then took them off as we left! (Yes it was a big handbag!)
Anyway I seem to have been juggling a lot of balls just lately, more so than usual it seems. As I've increased my hours at work I seem to be needed at home more and there just aren't enough hours in the day. Usually the summer school term, from Easter onwards is the hectic one and probably still will be but right now my head is spinning so much I am having trouble telling my a**e from my elbow!
(Having said that a**e is somewhat bigger, and more wobbly!)
There are umpteen things still to get ready for our respective trips, number 1 son is focussing on the more important things in life, like booking a "lads holiday" for when he leaves college. Minor annoyances like preparing for the college trip to the USA and finding some spending money will presumably sort themselves out. All talk of a "lads holiday" is terrifying me, yes I've seen the TV programmes and it seems likely they'll be off to Kavos, five 18 year olds!
Oh dear, best not to think about it really!

I need to finish sorting our things for the cricket tour to Sri Lanka, I had a day free today to get shopping etc but there is a potential gas leak at the primary school so the shopping trip (aka coffee with a friend) is cancelled and a movie afternoon is on the cards.

Number 2 son's school have organised the tour and the teacher in charge has clearly not done it before! They had hoped to raise some sponsorship to help fund the trip but it's all been a bit last minute. Emails are coming through thick and fast, even at this late stage, we go next week. We had one last week giving details of a triathlon they would be required to get sponsors for and then take part in, on a Saturday, 45 miles away!! Several emails came after it and I lost the will to live, I managed to talk a neighbour into a £2 sponsor and thought we'd make up the rest with our usual assortment of fictional characters and dead relatives! Am I the only one that, after 15 years of primary school and 3 children, sticks £10 in an envelope and fills in the sponsor form with names like Minnie Mouse (she's always good for a couple of quid) and other random names? Have I mentioned I've had my fill of primary school?

Anyway the triathlon was for next Saturday, only 4 days before the tour leaves for Heathrow but as I said they're very last minute. Now in my defence I did have 1 million and 1 things to try to remember, The Builder will phone me at any time during the day, whether I'm at work or not, to ask something vague like "did we buy any plasterboard from Jewsons last month?" Now how would I know the answer to that.....?

Number 1 son is supposed to be getting organised for
a) a trip to the USA, money, clothes, toiletries, etc
b) another round of Uni visits
c) revising for mocks and A2 exams
d) completing an online section of a cricket coaching course
But actually he's checking the weather for Kavos in June!

Little Miss is planning her holiday wardrobe and has a round of school parents evenings and open assemblies (I forgot to turn up at the last one as a very smug parent informed me!)

The builder wants me to sort the entire trip with no input from himself,
and also get the rattle on the car fixed in my spare time.
Number 2 son also has parents evening and umpteen other meetings and forms to be completed
 in preparation for the trip.
The Builder took a day off yesterday to attend a University open day with number 1 son, and in the process left me with a builders truck to drive all day; a filthy truck at that! As I'm not a confident driver, not of trucks at any rate I decided that rather than negotiate our narrow drive backwards I'd swing it round on the back lawn, no one would know. Sadly the fact that I wheel spun round the lawn has made it slightly more noticeable! I also couldn't find reverse so managed to edge my way into a flower bed, Little Miss found it all very exciting when I got out of the truck, took the brake off,
and tried to push it backwards!
Anyway the lawn looks like a ploughed field and my plan to keep the curtains closed failed when the builder saw the mess this morning! It is bad, look.
Picture quality is very poor as it was through the glass, but bear in mind the farmers field behind our house is in much better shape, the ruts are deeper in the garden!

So I've been juggling all these balls, not very well, but in the air they stayed. However on Sunday evening I checked my emails to find yet more from school about the Sri Lanka trip, yes they send them all weekend too. This one was to thank all the competitors in the triathlon and the give the results of each discipline - apparently it was last Saturday not next!!

So down all the balls came, I'm not going to make a career out of juggling. Although running away to the circus to become a clown might be more up my street, I have all the right clothes after all! (See previous post!)
I'll finish with a picture of a lovely sunset taken from the bedroom window, I don't know why!
Just because it's nice!