Friday, 26 April 2013


"What makes you happy?" I asked a good friend of mine recently, "You know, really happy?" and without missing a beat she said, "I think you can't beat a nice cup of tea." That made me laugh, but she has a point. 

What are we constantly striving for when you can achieve unalloyed pleasure just by sitting down (and the sitting down bit is crucial) and having a nice cup of tea? I think Victoria Wood said a similar thing on the telly last week and it was in the papers only the other day that it's still the nation's favourite drink. 

It got me thinking about other simple pleasures because it's not just having a cup of tea but lots of little things that begin to take on new meaning as you get older. At least, I think it's because of getting older. Take spring, for example. 

I know the winter we have just struggled though has been unprecedentedly long, but still, I don't remember leaf bud and blossom ever causing me quite this level of heart-swelling rapture before. Maybe it always has and I just don't remember
 but I think there might be something particularly springy about this particular spring. 

It's so beautiful at the moment (I wrote this bit on Thursday evening by the way) that I'm even willing to forgive it the attendant hay fever it has so kindly brought along to the party (and can I just add that acute hay fever does not sit well with a middle-aged mother of three who has a weakened pelvic floor, that's all I'm saying, work it out for yourself).

I recall that famous interview with Dennis Potter just before he died, as he alternately sipped morphine and dragged on his I-have-nothing-to-lose-now-cigarette, in which he said that the blossom outside his office window that year was the blossomiest blossom he had ever seen; the point being that he knew he was never going to see any again. 

I think some of us feel a teeny tiny bit like that this year: we really were worried for a moment there that it might never come back. 

And then I thought of something else that makes me happy, apart from blossom, a nice cup of tea and family and friends, of course, and that's work. Bit of a shock that. 

Unfortunately the Nazis rudely stole the dictum 'work sets you free' to use in lieu of a welcome mat above the entrance to concentration camps so its original meaning is entirely disfigured by their extraordinary evil and I will have to apologise for using it, but the whole time I had my nose to the grindstone, working on a little film project over the last few weeks, it kept coming to mind. 
Maybe a better line is: 'happiness is the completion of achievable tasks'? (I've definitely read that somewhere) but it's much less snappy.

Work per se obviously won't set you free if it's back-breaking grind for little or no pay but work that is meaningful, creative, well-paid, that you can see through to completion and has a sense of satisfaction and achievement attached, not to say decent money, this is a wonderful thing. Another reason why it's just so damn criminal to have more than a million unemployed 16 to 25 year olds in Britain at the moment. 

Maybe you knew all about the joys of work already, I guess I did too up to a point, certainly writing has always made me happy or I wouldn't do so much of it for nothing (like blogging) and I'm always happy writing articles for newspapers, despite the fact that it pays so badly, and I was never happier than when I was writing a novel last year...

Ah yes! When writing the novel whole mornings, afternoons, evening slipped away unnoticed beneath my tapping finger tips and that's it, isn't it? Finding that time has passed without realising it, whole chunks of time, that's the hallmark of satisfying work. It means you're so absorbed, you are completely 'taken out of yourself'. No bad thing in my book.

Anyway, being asked to make a short three-minute film by a friend who runs a small production company recently, that was a whole different animal. 
Here was a task requiring a range of skills from coming up with a concept, researching and writing and interviewing, choosing music and over-seeing the edit and design and execution, most of it from home and all of it for money. Why, forget writing for newspapers! I thought, this is the Holy Grail! Needless to say, I loved every minute of that work, even if it was about a rather unglamorous subject.

Now that it's finished I fear there won't be any more like it for some time, or even ever. 
Was that my last blossom, I'm wondering? I hope not, but just in case it was I have attached a Vimeo link to the film at the top of the blog on the right, so you can watch it if you want...

P.S. And with regard to the kitchen, I saw a guy last week who did a lovely design and the structural surveyor came round on Saturday to go through ALL the (yawn) details about load bearing, steels and bricks (when all I could think about was wallpaper) and we have asked three builders to provide a detailed breakdown of costs.  So, it's onwards and upwards, dear reader.

See you next week...



Friday, 12 April 2013

A wet sock.

So, I'm sorting through my huge brown handbag in the kitchen when we get back from the Isle of Wight, as you do, (Orla Kiely handbag by the way, bought it when I got some filming work last year, excuse was: need a bag big enough for a clipboard)...

And I have my arm knee-deep in Cafe Nero napkins (napkins or serviettes? which one is naff? I think it's serviettes) from when I took a massive handful of them at the ferry port because we all had hot chocolates in the car while we were waiting (and you know what happens with boys and hot chocolates in the car, don't you?)...

And all the pens and anti-bacterial gel in there (never can be too careful) and loose change and an old lip stick and 'feminine requisites' (okay, well, I'm just telling it like it really is) and I find this nasty blue plastic bag down at the bottom... 

What the hell is this nasty blue plastic bag doing down here at the bottom of my lovely big Orla Kiely bag? I think, (because I really can't remember anything nowadays)...

And so I open the nasty blue plastic bag and there inside it is a soaking wet sock. A small one. 

Ah yes!

All of a sudden I am transported, like Joanna Lumley in that old Nescafe ad when she takes that piece of straw from her jumper and remembers how it got there (roll in hay with sexy man), remember? Or was it Mellow Birds? Anyway, finding nasty wet sock in the bottom of my handbag has exactly the same effect on me: it makes me remember. Not a roll in the hay though, sadly, more a child in a puddle...

We were having a lovely walk, from the Botanical Gardens in Ventnor along the coastal path to the town, lots of up and then down, which I like to do all in one go without stopping - up, up, up the slope or the steps or whatever until you feel the burn in your bum and your chest starts to constrict and it hurts so much and you're in pain but yes! yes! yes! it's doing you good, you know it is, and you must be burning fat and you think you're going to die and then... oh thank God for that you've made it all the way to the top! Where there's another massive set of steps...

And the boys were running ahead, well, two of them were because Eldest had stayed behind that time, back at the cool pad we had rented, the one with the WiFi and the Sky Box and the table football and his laptop, in order to 'revise'...

And we had to keep stopping and waiting for the boys as they took detours up a slope or to roll down a grassy knoll, or, at this particular point for a dainty navigation across some stepping stones on a pond that ran into a stream that ran into the sea...

And it was all so pretty and fresh and sea-sidey-get-away-from-it-all-idyllic really and then Middle One put his massive size 10 wellies, which go very high up his leg, into the pond and Youngest started to copy, to do the same as his brother, except his wellies are not high at all because they are tiny size 1's and so Husband and I both shouted in unison: "No!" but it was too late and we watched, helpless, as the welly momentarily disappeared and lots and lots and lots of freezing cold water gushed in all over the top...

So, I pulled sloshing welly off the boy, tipped out the bath full of water in there, took the spare socks out of rucksack (oh yes! I am THAT sort of mother), used a plastic bag we happened to have with us as a sort of long sock up his leg to keep the sodden trousers away from his skin, put the fresh socks on his feet, used another nasty blue plastic bag I found in the rucksack to put the wet sock in and then, later, put the nasty blue plastic bag with the wet sock in my Orla Kiely handbag when I got back to the car. And then forgot all about it for three days... 

Voila! Blue plastic bag with wet sock explained.

Apart from that it was a really wonderful little family break. We went back to a very special place we used to stay when the boys were little: a nature reserve. They ran ahead down the path just like they used to when they were small...

Later, I lay in bed that night and just before dropping off to sleep, going over the day's events in my head, as you do, I remembered exactly what they had looked like when they ran down that very same path all those years ago... Remembered it perfectly... In every detail... Until it hurt...

So, that memory of the boys on the path, that memory of the walk to Ventnor jogged by the sock, even those Cafe Nero napkins, they are all things we collect along the way, aren't they? Some we manage to hold on to forever, like my little boys running ahead on that path, which I will always have, and some we lose, like those napkins and that sock, which I just threw away.

The boys on the Isle of Wight - quite  a few years ago.



Thursday, 4 April 2013

A brief interlude.

There will now be a brief interlude while we go away on holiday to the sunny Isle of Wight (ha!) for four nights. 

It's our first family hols since Crete in August last year. Looking forward to walking on the beach, reading my book, playing board games in front of a roaring log fire and nodding off after drinking lots of prosecco.

Keep watching coz if I get the energy I might blog from there - if not see you next week.