Friday, 30 September 2016

7 Quick Takes 40: All That Glitters is Not Silver...

1. Many, many moons ago, for some inexplicable reason, my eldest daughter loved to swing brooms around. One day she swung it in the direction of an antique family vase, and the inevitable happened. The delicate, etched glass was broken beyond repair. We would have consigned the whole vase to the dustbin, except that the base was a heavy lump of silver. So, with a vague idea that we would detach and sell it, we packed the broken vase into an old shoebox, put it into the sideboard cupboard, and... promptly forgot about it.
Fast forward fifteen or so years, and behold, we have a baby with an infallible radar for broken glass. Having mastered the art of opening the kitchen cupboards, he turned his talents to cupboards with latches. Again, in one of those twenty-second lapses of supervision, he got into the sideboard. Faced with china galore, which obviously wasn't antique, he went for the box because something we were hiding from him must be worth investigating. Thankfully, my radar for toddler trouble is getting rehoned, because I rescued him and the vase in time. My husband finally decided to do something about it, and set to work detaching the lump of silver, which turned out to be:

A lump of plaster encased in silver about as thick as tin foil. So, maybe a dollar's worth in there. And we still haven't thrown that away. But I suppose it says something about greed, or thriftiness. Or laziness...

2. Although David Bowie was a fixture of my childhood, I found the hysterical reactions to his death this January rather incomprehensible. Yet this weekend, when I learned that Terry Jones of Monty Python fame has a rare form of dementia that is robbing him of speech, I was terribly upset. Monty Python's Flying Circus is almost completely responsible for my warped sense of humour; I went to Cambridge, the Pythons' stomping ground; the house I shared with friends there was affectionately dubbed "Castle Anthrax". That someone whose life has been words should be bereft of them seems a cruel irony.
And then, reading on, I also learned about his private life, which is, shall we say, much, much less than admirable, and I had the strange experience of being devastated and disappointed all at the the same time.
Another clear moral: Don't make an idol of anyone. Even Eric Idle.

3. Behold the instruction manual that came with my husband's newly purchased, refurbished strimmer:

Six hundred and fifty pages in twenty-six languages, intended for the EU market. Which can only lead to the reflection that Brexit may have its upside ;)

4. Why is it, that, after more than twenty years of being married to a mathematician, my recurring anxiety dream is still being back at school and not being prepared for my maths class?
I think my husband would say this, too, has a moral: it's my subconscious telling me to give him more attention.

5. My original thoughts for  #5 went: Attention Mother Nature: September in the northern hemisphere is meant to be the "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness", NOT the mid-nineties (high thirties). Yes, I complain too much. I have an extreme intolerance to heat. Ten minutes in the sun and I am red and perspiring. Half an hour and I have to lie down :( WHY am I still in Mississippi? Perhaps I am really dead and this is actually Purgatory. And so on, until I am curled up in a ball of sweaty hysteria...

6. Then, a few days after venting, I woke up to fifty degrees. Which was a physical relief, but brought about the usual shoe problem. When the girls were younger, every year, as it got to the turn of the season, I would think, "I must buy them new summer/winter formal shoes." And then, bang, the weather always turned on a Sunday morning and they had no suitable shoes for church. This past year, I've been collecting good pairs of baby shoes from thrift stores and clothes swaps so I'd be prepared. And... they're all too big or too small.

7. The main reason we needed shoes was because FINALLY, at sixteen months, the baby has decided that walking is worthwhile. My first reaction was, "He looks like a drunken Charlie Chaplin." My second was, "And his sisters won't have a clue what I mean by that."

Moral: I'm old, no moral.

For more quick takes with fewer fake morals, hop on over to This Ain't the Lyceum.

Friday, 16 September 2016

7 Quick Takes 39: Geriatric mother ventures forth

... in oh so many ways. With mixed results.

1. I read on the internet - so it must be true - that introverts, even if they try the extrovert thing for a while - tend to revert more strongly to their natural ways later in life. I choose to believe this, because it justifies my opinion that, at my age, I'm finally entitled to be myself, not the (sociable) person the world demands.


On the other hand, I've got a baby who might actually grow up and want to interact with the world, so even though I'd like to hide in a cave nurturing my inner chinchilla, I have been girding my loins, gritting my teeth, and trying to get out.

2. Step one on coming home was picking up our morning walks. Not because I am agoraphobic, but because it's so d*** hot. When I left England, I was wearing a coat - a coat! bliss! - in the evening. I get back here and the radio weather man is cheerfully saying, "A lovely day ahead, with a high of 93." And I'm thinking, There's an oxymoron in there. So, armed with water, sunglasses, and hats, I venture out every day - before 9am, or it's too hot. Even so, I usually return with sweat tricking down my face. The plus is that I usually only have to communicate with horses and dogs, and I have pretty good social skills where animals are concerned.

3. Step two is trying to hang laundry with the baby, who is fifteen months old and still doesn't want to walk. In England, this was easy: I plonked him down on the tiny lawn in my parents' fenced garden, and about the worst he did was try to feed a snail to one of their tortoises. Here, we have over an acre of unfenced yard, not to mention fire ants, velvet ants (aka wingless wasps), ticks, red wasps, black wasps, mosquitoes... well, let's just stop before I get to the spiders. So putting him on the grass is a crap shoot that might end in a trip to the emergency room and being arrested for child endangerment.

Still, maybe that's just my being paranoid. So, I took him out and sat him down next to the laundry basket to "play quietly". Except that it took him about twenty seconds to notice that he was free and shoot off towards the pond. He did pause to turn and wave good bye, though. I dragged him back, and another twenty seconds later, he made for the swing set in the other direction. Not as bad as potential drowning. Then I remembered the poison ivy in his path... Thank you, guardian angel, for stepping in there. Sorry about your rash.

4. Step three - actually leaving our property to an actual mother-baby event. I picked story time at the library because there wouldn't be pressure to talk to other people, and anyway, the people who go must presumably like books. Alcuin sort of enjoyed it, while being overwhelmed at the same time. And I even exchanged a few words.

5. Step three and a half - going back to story time. Alcuin knew what was what and plonked himself down in the middle of the rug to wait for the songs and stories. But he soon got bored and raced off around the library with the aid of a purloined kick step stool. In the meantime, I started to figure out this conversation thing: you were meant to open by saying something about how the other mother's baby was cute, then ask how old he was, then what your plans to pay for college were something about yourself.

So, I managed to chat with a young mother next to me. It was all superficial, but at least it was a conversation. Then it came:
Her: "You seem familiar to me."
Me (resigned smile): "I probably taught you."
And I did. When she was in seventh grade. Which, considering it's been over ten years since I taught grade school is... well, a long time.
The bright spot - she told me her mother got pregnant the same time that she did - and then her sister - and then, in her words, "It was a disaster." I can empathise with that.

6. Church - a relaxing end to the week with people who are like family. Doesn't happen. The only thing Alcuin is religious about is his morning nap, which is currently about 11-1. Disrupt it at your peril. It's sermons in stones for us most weeks. Except that's dangerous around here (see #3 above).

7. Going out On My Own. To Something New. I got free membership to our Homestead Education Center for buying an advance copy of the manager's book, but I hadn't yet managed to make it to any event. So I looked at their calendar and made myself pick something: girls' night in. Free, and had to be fun, right? In case you think I'm a really sad and lonely person, I did invite two people to come along, but they couldn't make it. The introvert me said: cancel! cancel! The stupid radical me said: go. Only three things could happen:
A. I'll have a good time. There's bound to be other people there I know well.
B. I'll have a good time, but the baby will have a meltdown without me, and I'll have to come home.
C. Everyone else will come in a group with their buddies and it'll be really awkward.

What happened? C :(  Not even one person I was acquainted with, and I got tongue-tied and couldn't think of good conversation openers to butt in on others' cosy chats. I politely exited after the presentation. Next time, I will listen to my wise, introvert self and stay in my shell.

No! Not that one!

For more quick takes, several of which are probably by other introverts hiding behind a computer screen, hop on over to This Ain't the Lyceum.

Friday, 2 September 2016

7 Quick Takes 38: UK: The pint-size edition

1. Five weeks in England with no obligations. Time to take lots of artsy photos and write witty blog posts, right? Apparently not. So here is a random, whirlwind tour...

2. Our elder daughter flew in from Boston to meet us at the airport. For the first time, we have a child of legal drinking age (at least in the UK), which led to my initial idea for an easy blog post: Seven photos of big sister drinking with her baby brother. However, we only made it to five because she was with us for less than two weeks. We must be slowing down in middle age.

3. The educational benefits of taking your children to the pub are myriad. Those of drinking age learn to drink responsibly within the family. You can brush up on their sharing skills if you failed at this when they were five by getting them to buy rounds. This will also teach them the value of budgeting because pints in pubs are very expensive.

Younger children learn the creative value of being bored, sitting around with a soft drink and a packet of crisps if they're lucky, while their parents and older siblings mellow out. At least they have beer gardens. Back in the day, we were left in the car, and back back in the day, children would be left outside in the street. With an arrowroot biscuit, as my father would add. Don't ask me, I've never seen one, let alone eaten one.

4. So... this photo says: "Hey, people in this country think I'm an actual adult!"

This one says: "Three days of dealing with the baby's jet lag. I deserve this drink."

The knee belongs to the bored non-drinker.

5. At the Bankes Arms - named for the Bankes family who owned Corfe Castle until Cromwell demolished it, so this was also a local history tour. Sort of. We took the bus to Studland, then went to the pub for fortification before tackling the two-hour clifftop walk back to Swanage. Not such a good idea for those with small bladders, but I'm not naming and shaming anyone here.

Why we really went:

Aside: While we were drinking, a young child at the table behind us started yelling "Trump! Trump! Trump!" For a few seconds, I thought he was very excited - and informed - about the American election. Then I realised he was playing cards.

6. Pub signs are an obvious opportunity for preschool reading and comprehension: The Red Lion, The Black Swan, and, incorporating basic maths, The Square and Compass. But while I'm here, I have to confess that every time we drive past the Cock and Bottle, I think of a sperm bank. Apologies for putting that into your head.

7. Ah, England in August. One day it's this:

The next it's:

... and I love it.

For blog posts possibly less obsessed with pubs, hop on over to This Ain't the Lyceum.