Plan A; bacon sandwich
after discovering no bread in bread bin and leaving bacon in grill too long….
Plan B; carb-free breakfast 😃
Plan A; bacon sandwich
after discovering no bread in bread bin and leaving bacon in grill too long….
Plan B; carb-free breakfast 😃
Stepping across the dew-covered grass, no sign of life from the cottage, Rachel carried the gardening tools towards the borders she had planned to turn over that week. On previous visits, tinkling tunes had flowed out through the ever open stable-door as Bill gave children their lessons, bored parents waiting in cars on the drive, not enough time to drive home and back.
The breeze she had felt at home, only four miles away, had dropped and the air hung still amongst the tree branches, which reached towards the ground and split into ever smaller twigs like fingers with many knuckles pointing out away from the property. She let her tools fall in a clattering jumble on the grass. No birds sang and in fact no birds were visible she noticed, there was usually an abundance of songbirds here as Bill kept his feeders full for them.
The back door was closed but Rachel knocked to announce her arrival. No-one came to answer. She peered in through the window, and her heart lurched. The kitchen furniture all draped in sheets, no vase of freshly cut flowers on the table. Bill always placed flowers on the table as his weekly memory gift to Rose. Rachel had thought it sweet he still did this as Rose had been dead three years.
She moved around the exterior to what she knew to be the music room. Again, she lent in close and as her eyes became accustomed to the darkness within she felt a sharp pain at her ankle. Snatching her face away from the shock of the empty room through the glass, she saw brambles encasing her legs and pulled her feet out carefully. Her boot had a red smear and on closer inspection a robin lay motionless in the undergrowth, a trickle of blood escaping silently from its beak.
‘Oh God, that’s horrible’ Rachel muttered to herself and hastily reversed onto the grass. What the hell was happening here? Where was the piano?And where was Bill?
Rachel stooped to collect her tools and their long handles now lay parallel where she was sure she had let them drop. She grabbed them and made her way back towards the car before something to the right caught her eye.
Bill’s bench with Rose’s name etched on the back was no longer under the vines. Instead was a sight that took her breath away…
A weekly challenge set by Cee … one of her fabulous joining-in blogs. Great opportunities to interpret the themes however we wish. This week – seating.
These were marble steps in Milan, each one nearly 2′ high, so not steps for walking up! Perfect for perching on.
For more information about how to partake, check out Cee here.
I’m sure many of my followers already follow this pair of amazing bloggers who regularly share their wisdom. Today is no exception. Friendships are very important when they are true and special.
I am writing staff performance reviews at present where I assess whether or not the members of the team I manage have met their objectives for the previous year. Thankfully as I am such a fantastic manager and they are such a fantastic team I can hand on heart write that they all have. No need for bribes, inducements or back handers. It’s the truth!
One of the key performance areas are strong communication skills; with other members of the team, the wider organisation and external stakeholders. This relates to both verbal and written communications. Active listening skills are always essential as effective communication is a two way street. Ha! You would almost think I was copying this out of a leadership manual. Which of course I’m not.
Solid communication skills also form the base of any successful relationship. Let me give you an example. Fionnuala shouts at me when…
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I had everything crossed; fingers, toes, the works. But not my wires.
Lessons learned from experts in psychology and the verbal tools I’d been shown across months of study and placed in my toolbag of armoury came together in my first major test since they signed me off and wished me well (translate into hugged me, told me they were always at the end of a phone and would I be popping back to the coffee mornings to help new members at the start of their own journey? Too bloody right – it would be an honour).
Had I listened?
Had any of it truly sunk in?
Would I be able to respond differently to the age old vulgarities which escape through my mother’s lips, alongside wild statements about subjects she knows nothing about and her mood so often close to explosion that she walks around with the blue touch paper permanently lit.
I packed simply for our overnight London stay, my toolbag of armoury needing no physical space so is readily transportable.
The first major breakthrough was that she respected our non-smoking preference whilst inside the car. She actually said “Of course dear – that goes without saying!” as if I was being silly to even bring it up yet I had done so on the back of the previous trip, during which she had lowered the passenger window in an almost panic-state during what had become a slighter deeper than normal deep conversation, brought on by her peculiar need to talk deeply about everything. Mind you, it had been 18 minutes since her previous cigarette. “I’ll just hold this outside.” and while doing 50mph up the A1 past Huntingdon, I was speechless and watched in my perifery the swirl of cigarette smoke leaving the tip to reclaim solace through that inch of access back in to the car’s cockpit. And hey – guess what? In order to take a drag, where is Mother’s mouth? On her face… where is her face? Inside the bloody car 😤 … so it didn’t ‘go without saying’ did it!
(Before we go any further, may I take this opportunity to point out I do not negatively judge anyone for smoking if they choose to do so and enjoy it. That’s their prerogative and I respect others’ choices. What I do have a problem with is her antagonistic approach to smoking outside when visiting our home (with our asthmatic son) because she is disgusted that anyone who is a non-smoker should tell her “how to live her life” . So she will stand in open doorways, or outside an open window, pretending to smoke ‘outside’ when clearly the smoke billows straight back inside on a breeze. She relayed a huge argument she’d had with a couple a few years ago and whom they no longer see, who’d been life long ex-service friends, who had decided to give up smoking. My parents had gone to stay with them and had not been made aware of this couples’ new way of life (presumably because they didn’t see the difference as a problem). I guess the issue was mentioned, starting a deep discussion about smoking and how the guests had been ‘banished’ to “outside, no less. I can’t understand it – they were always such fun” .
So I drove and promised I would stop every so often for comfort breaks; in my case that meant what you just pictured followed possibly by a chai tea latte or cappuccino. In her case that meant teetering off to find an area of grass in which to smoke two cigarettes (because she can’t abide sharing normal smoking allocated areas with ‘common’ people) and continue her verbal assault on my father, who was not there to defend himself and probably wouldn’t have tried had he been. He’d have turned his hearing aid off and furtively studied the depth of tyre tread on the DB5 on the flatbed trailer behind a truck, perhaps returning from some classic car rally or event.
That evening I heated up another lasagne from that COOK shop and my daughter joined us at the Airbnb apartment for dinner. Her Oscar-winning performance of delighted granddaughter in the presence of her (mostly for 19 years disinterested) granny was something to behold. I listened to her animated explanation of Section 20s needing to be added to contracts where tenants share a block, from the kitchen area where I was bent double, head in the oven attempting to work out whether I’d had the fan oven on for the previous half hour or was it just the grill as the knob illustrations had long since been rubbed away.
The Airbnb was seriously cute; a ground floor garden flat with access to a private patio (I’d searched for one specially 😇) which showed clear evidence of previous smokers, stubs on the concrete 👌🏼, meant she could, having negotiated the exit, puff away to her heart’s content and I should hopefully maintain my usual 5/5 ‘guest star rating’.
Daughter departed to prepare for an early meeting the next day and I drove mother and I down to Little Venice, an area I’d not visited before but been meaning to .. and it was stunning! (Derrick, you were right!)
We sat outside the cutest Italian restaurant, so she could relax while the small glass of Merlot turned her dried lips black, the blue touch paper fizzing away in the background, and admired the Edwardian architecture of a large London pub opposite.
When the friendly waitress came outside to ask if we would like top-ups, mother enquired if she could buy the ashtray. The wicker chair refused to absorb my embarrassed being and instead I adopted small apologetic smile as the waitress faultered and asked her to repeat the question before concluding she would “ask my boss”.
So beautiful was this area that I suggested with calm and kindness across my face yesterday morning that “I would like to go back and see the barges in the daylight, if that is agreeable?” … (this was me practising my self esteem as she had hinted the evening before we should go reminiscing half hour the other way to an area we lived when I was 13-15). Mother does spend a lot of her day living in the past, recalling “the good times” …
… yet I recall a small private girls school and silently enduring some atrocious bullying from a particularly unsavoury character who ultimately got expelled – but not before she’d repeatedly bruised the top of my skull on a school trip with her elasticated purse belt with it’s 3 metal connectors at either end. She was sat in the seats behind me ‘entertaining her entourage’ … I did nothing 😡 (show me that cow now.)
Little Venice is like the cutest oasis amongst the red buses and black cab-filled roads of W2. The Pièce de Résistance simply has to be an amazing cafe built across this tiny section of the Grand Union canal, Cafe Laville.
.. in which we could have sat overlooking the water, watching as bargemen expertly handled their moving homes. Alas, I made do with this photo while our takeaway coffees were being made. We instead sat outside near the entrance, at one of a handful of tables on the pavement next to the A5.
I am definitely going back there, whether it’s with my daughter, Man of the Woods or Daniel Craig if I remember to send an email. It’s truly stunning.
It was such a delight to arrive back home. MoW welcomed me home and listened to some funny tales .. and laughed at the fact the Airbnb had displayed a Japanese hat (which I found to be a very happy coincidence)
By the way .. that first day I was absent from you? The one I called my DayBreak? It was brilliant. I avoided all 4 apps, as planned and felt free to type away and managed over 1,400 words 👌🏼 … not quite the 2,000 I wanted but I was very pleased. I didhalf hour ironing too! 😂
Just finished ‘after you’ by JoJo Moyes (I did sit on the tractor for half hour first 👌🏼)
407 pages of humour, heart-strings and every day life for Lou Clark … learning to live a life after Will 💔
JoJo has captured the essence of family relationships with such delightful accuracy you find yourself living with and loving these people. I mean, they’re real right? Not just characters on a page.
And now she’s on a flight to New York, having left her new soulmate behind at the airport. Shit, why has the kitchen roll run out just when you need a piece? 😭😭😭
I would start the 3rd part as I have it – ‘still me’ – but I can’t. Not yet. I need to give Lou the seven hours it takes to fly to New York, to grieve a little and perhaps partake in an in-flight vodka and coke.
What have I missed the last two days?
God, I’ve got so much to tell you. But I’m exhausted. I never knew that making a permanent effort not to respond to pretty much 80% of what mother talks about could be so tiring! It was like I had my counsellors words next to me at all times, like my little genie of the lamp 👌🏼💫
Tomorrow I promise, we’ll do tea and biscuits. Have you a favourite? Custard creams? Bourbons? Pink Wafers?
We haven’t cooked together for ages have we?
This huge cauliflower was from a resident in the village who grows them and sells them in one of those cute wooden huts at the end of their drive; 70p each!
I always support local businesses where I can. Don’t you just love the greenery a cauliflower delivers? No need for a whole second/third veg.
So I’ve had an idea. I’m going to ban myself from ALL social media tomorrow!! (Bet you fail) Seriously, although I’m breaking out in a cold sweat just picturing not touching any of my four main apps (FB, Twitter, Insta and WordPress – you note, all blue and white logos and they’re my two favourite colours together, but that’s irrelevant).
Steamed. Let’s make a cheese sauce ….
I feel it might give me the headspace required to sit at laptop instead (in those spare hours between horse rug tasks…. and Man of the Woods conversations … and meal/snack times). Days are ticking by. Tick tock.
We know I can produce words (total blog post wordcount for 2018 is now up to 62,000) but I need need them to be going on the WIP. Or it will all have been a big joke.
I’m over half way through ‘after you’ by JoJo Moyes and absolutely loving it. She must be around 30 now, (Lou the main character), and dealing with life after Will Traynor.
The minute I read the first page, I was reminded that humour can very happily nestle among serious wording (but JoJo has the skill down to a fine art. Ok, I’m working on it 🙄).
So here’s my goal.
2,000 words tomorrow minimum. Now I’ve shared this with you, I’m pretty sure I’ll achieve it.
I am worried about one thing.
Tuesday I am driving mother to London to stay the night in an Airbnb. I’ve been hinting I would take her to see the area where her granddaughter now lives and works but have managed to put it off so far 🙈.
I anticipate we will get on fine for the first …. (stop pursing your lips and sucking in)…. mile and a half?
The second she mentions dad being boring or an old groutch I have two choices;
The habit of a lifetime and say very little; perhaps a mild nod so as not to rock the boat of her mood within a confined space,
Or tell her straight, calmly, that I would rather not discuss my father thank you, that their relationship is their business and I refuse to ‘take sides’….
Both options will result in discomfort… I’ll try and let you know how I get on. (It will be a miracle if we arrive in London still talking).
(Miss you already 😳)