I arrived home from work yesterday to find a parcel from you. It's so unusual to receive either parcels (unless they are from Amazon), or indeed a letter - with a hand written address - that I got most excited. Nowadays it seems that Christmas is the only time that a real honest to goodness handwritten envelope drops through the letter box. I used to write letters all the time. To pen pals, friends and family. Fan letters to favourite bands or film stars. Letters to newspapers for writing and poetry competitions. I never did win any of them, by the way. Emails, texts and pure laziness have put a stop to it all. Perhaps I should take up the tradition once more?
Of course I recognised your handwriting; so elegant and loopy. Written in ink, which makes me yearn for my old Parker ink pen that my Dad bought for me at age 11. It was silver, and I used to use blue/black Quink ink. I remember the pleasure to be had from squeezing the ink from the bottle into the cartridge. The pen was a gift, and we went together to the stationers in East Street to buy it. I thought that it was very fancy indeed.
There don't seem to be these kinds of shops around now. Is that the same where you live. We have a national chain that supplies fountain pens, stationary, paper and the like, and I can remember as a teenager wandering around its' aisles looking at erasers, memo pads and pencil cases. I don't think that I can remember the last time I actually entered a shop that smelt of paper. A warm, dusty kind of smell, that had aisles full of the most appealing stuff to touch. A bit like the smell I imagine 84 Charing Cross Road to have.
I watched the film staring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins over the Christmas period. I had never seen it before, and was absolutely charmed by it. I have to tell you that I devoured the book in one sitting. I went to bed early last night, and couldn't stop turning the pages. I would have loved to have met Helene. It's a rather romantic notion of mine, the idea of writing for a living surrounded by books and paper and gin and cigarettes. I'm so pleased that she found great success with her book; she struggled and suffered for her art. And her love of books is something that resonates with me. Although I wonder what she would feel about books available on a Kindle. She'd loathe it I'm sure.
Her passion for non fiction, and her desire for obscure titles reminds me of scouring the charity shops looking for just the right book. I have found many 'forgotten' favourites that way. Last year I picked up an Adrian Mole book that had gone missing from my book shelves. It was as well thumbed as the one I had lost, and I was so pleased about that. I imagined the previous owner enjoying and chuckling at the same bits of the book as myself. Just last week I bought a collection of Philip Larkin poetry from our doctor's surgery charitable stand. I have wanted to red more of his verse for the longest time, and there it was waiting for me.
I still cherish the very first letter that I received from you. It was such a surprise! That someone would take the time to write after having read this blog. And the fact that it arrived with a partial address, and a description of the boys and Honey to guide the postman to the right door! It was so generous of you to feed my ego that way. Honestly I bounced about the house for the rest of the weekend. You have thought of Olly too, with your postcards and letters to him. We have written to each other about our families and the day to day business of our lives.
Which leads me on to that very topic........
Yesterday morning there were Black Caps in the garden. A new visitor, they were feeding on the fat balls that my Mum diligently looks after. She is also taking care of all the laundry and ironing while she's staying. She doesn't need too, but she wants too. She likes to be busy, and I guess it makes her feel as if she contributing while she stays. It shouldn't be for much longer. Her new apartment is having the shower room revamped, and once that's done she's off. I know that she's really looking forward to having her own front door. I know that Olly will be sad to see her go. If he had his way, she'd stay forever
I forgot how easy going my Mum is. She's a trifle deaf in one ear, which the boys delight in. She is always producing treats for them, which no amount of stern looks from me can dissuade. She loves her pensioners bus pass, and has all the bus times tables committed to memory. I think she's off to Camborne tomorrow; they have good charity shops, and she's after some books to read. She's also on the look out for a glass butter dish. She'll find one; she has the charity shop eye.
Alfie's mock GCSE examinations began today. I drove him to school. He was beside himself. It may be something to do with the fact that he's done very little revision over Christmas. I was torn between feeling cross and feeling sorry for him. He has not enjoyed secondary school at all. He has been very difficult to be around as a teenager. In fact he has been absolutely vile at times. But I love him, of course. And I see so much of me in him, that it hurts to see. Self-conscious, gauche, shy, awkward, wanting to fit in yet dying to stand out. He's no idea what he wants to do at college really. He's scared of the future. He has been nigh on impossible to guide and help. His manner is so stubborn and defensive. But all you want to do is help. As a parent, your hope is that your children walk a generally easy path through life, all the while knowing that it's virtually impossible to do so.
Sam is still at home. He returns to Uni next weekend. I'm driving him. I have high hopes that we'll spend the weekend in Liverpool absorbing the culture, but I think I'm kidding myself. I'll probably cut a lone figure on the ferry across the Mersey on Saturday next. He lives on Penny Lane, but had no idea of it's significance until I played him the song. He's in the middle of thrashing out his dissertation, several essays and revising for an exam. And eating me out of house and home, and wandering the halls at four in the morning.
Olly has been off school poorly today. Two days into the new term, and another virus has struck. This one combines the joys of a sore throat and headache with a nasty temperature that spikes during the day. He's been flat out on the sofa, and asked to go to bed at six thirty this evening. He did have a lovely weekend up until that point. Out for a birthday play date with his best friend on Saturday, and a trip to Porthcurno via the scenic route on Sunday.
We got Betty out of the garage, and took her for a run along the coastal road to Land's End. She only broke down once, and that was because her fuel gauge doesn't work, and Marc hadn't taken into account the miles we'd already done in her. Luckily we had some spare fuel. You should always have spare of everything when you own an old VW camper. Luckily I always have hot chocolate, tea bags, long life milk, bottled water and a packet of biscuits stashed away. So we made a brew while waiting for her to be topped up. It was all very amicable.
Marc is currently restoring a VW soft top Beetle. She's even older that Betty, and he's named her Rizzo. I've only seen photos of her, cause she's in a garage just outside Cardiff. Marc attends to her during the evenings he is away (he currently works just outside Newport). I have her hub caps, wing mirrors and lights under my bed. I'm not at all pleased about this arrangement, but it would seem that my bedroom has become a depository of stuff. My dreams of having a feminine retreat from this male centric household is looking less likely than every before. I've demanded a summer house. Well, wouldn't you?
We have had really varied weather; one day bright sunshine, the next low cloud and poor light levels. It makes for interesting decisions clothes wise. It also makes for some stunning atmospheric views. I am one the few people I know that enjoys this time of year. A pared back earth reveals form and texture that I don't generally notice. Sparse vegetation helps me to see beyond to the shape of a tree of the pattern in a rock. It's a sculptural time, and also one of expectation. The buds of early Spring are already pushing up, and there are daffodils in my sister in laws garden.
This week I hope to get out into the garden for a little while. I have a pond to clear (the high winds have bought down so many palm leaves that it's buried in them), some bulbs to plant that should have been planted last Autumn, and a bit of faffing too. If I want that summer house, I need to think about moving shrubs and plants around. And Shipshape has entered its' quiet period. There's not many visitors around during January or February, so I'm trying to use my time wisely. There may be painting in my future too. Lots of doors and walls and skirting boards.
I write this post as a tribute to you, dear Rose. I hope that this finds you and your family happy and well.
With much love,