I’ve just spent a happy morning in front of the fire chatting, eating chocolate and watching compilations of Christmas songs on TV. I am a simple man and this is all I need. This expanded to a happy afternoon doing the same.
I just spent five minutes trying to delete a surplus full stop from that sentence. One of my resolutions for next year is to keep my computer screen cleaner, as it turned out to be a small mark on the screen that lined up perfectly. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, but it always fools me.
As I said, I am a simple man.
I have my wife by my side, my firstborn nearby and the spare child checked in by some mysterious process which allowed his face to appear on a computer screen and tell me I was looking older. He is looking uglier and tubbier than last time I saw him. It is good to have all this modern technology to hurl abuse at family members who are thousands of miles away, though I’m not sure that when I first came across a “video phone” in a science fiction story that I would ever use one for this purpose.
After that I rang my sister using 19th century technology and delayed her until she had to go, because her oven was emitting smoke. Her cooker has either elected a new pope or burned her Christmas dinner. I fear it is the latter.
I’m now going to stalk a few of my regular blogging companions and see how their day is going. After that it is turkey and more TV. I also intend drinking some of the tea I have been sent as presents and rounding the day off with biscuits.
This post started life as an attempt at a longer haibun. If you read modern haibun they are very often just a few lines of prose followed by a haiku. It’s not how they used to be, when they were often used for travelogues. Indeed, only about fifteen years ago, haibun, as a form, was originally explained to me as an essay with two or three haiku.
I wrote one. Fourteen years later I wrote another one. It doesn’t do to rush these things.
Recently I felt like having a go at something a bit longer, and thought I might try an autobiography. It earned two rejections, one in its original form and one in a cut down version. To be honest I wasn’t keen on cutting it down, but if an editor suggests trimming the prose I’m going to trim.
The altered version didn’t meet with approval, so I added “loss of integrity” to the sting of double rejection.
I decided that I would use it as a blog post. I have removed the haiku as I can use them later if they are unpublished (and because I struggle to write acceptable haiku). Apart from that, I have just about left it alone – I say “just about” because who can resist the temptation to tinker?
When I posted it, I added the news about my father, which was new since I “finished” the original. Later, I realised I had put in nothing about my mother, so I’m back again (on 6th July) to add more. A poem is never actually finished, you just get to a point where you give up and let it go. I don’t often go back to them, but this one, being an autobiography, just keeps on going. I’m hoping there will be a lot more to add before I consider it finished.
Sisters Don’t Chase Sticks
I am sitting in the garden with a cup of tea, contemplating the neglected door of our coal shed, which now serves as a utility room. A thought enters my freewheeling mind. Could I write my autobiography in haibun form?
Year One – I remember nothing.
Year Two – same again.
This is not, I feel, a promising start.
Year Three – I acquire a dog and a baby sister. I prefer the dog as it is better at fetching sticks. In this golden age there are butterflies the size of my hand and only two sorts of weather – sunshine or snowball time. It is only with hindsight that I recognise it as a golden age.
Year Four – we move into town, the dog is hit by a car and my parents tell me they have arranged for him to live somewhere safe in the country. I start school – they teach me to read and insist I have a nap every afternoon.
Show me the boy, as they say, and I will show you the man – the reading habit is still with me and I still like a nap in the afternoon, despite complaints from my employer.
Year Five – I go fishing for sticklebacks in the canal. Nobody would let a five-year-old fish in a canal on his own these days. We have destroyed childhood as it used to be. It is, however, possible that we have prevented a few drownings and relieved the pressure on the stickleback population.
Some dogs, according to Disney, make their way back home from hundreds of miles away. Mine doesn’t. In fact, when we visit my uncle, where the dog is now living, he pretends not to know me. I like to think this was because of the head injury, but it might just be that he doesn’t like me.
Eventually I give up trying to teach my sister to fetch sticks and lose my interest in sticklebacks.
At the age of 11 I hit my academic peak, coming top of the class, and am given a book as a prize. I opt for a book on birds, an interest which is still with me.
The dog successfully avoids cars for another eighteen years and dies of old age.
Nothing much of note happens for the rest of my life. I find that sisters do have some redeeming features and are, in the end, better than dogs. I accumulate a wife, a family, and arthritis, which I have inherited from my mother. From my father I have inherited a tendency to offer unwanted advice to other road users.
My parents, after sixty years of marriage, get a telegram from the Queen and we have a party. Gradually, my mother fades away.
And so, fifty years after hitting my academic peak I am sitting in the garden thinking of writing an autobiography in haibun form.
I leave this haibun to mature. Six months later the world changes and I spend a my life in lockdown.
My father dies, and we are not allowed to sing at his funeral.
I wrote this post last night after returning from Julia’s birthday meal At 11.30 I thought I posted it with time to spare but as I sat down to write now, just over 12 hours later, it seems I merely saved it as a draft. I was tired. All the conviviality was too much for me. I’m getting old. Apply whichever excuse seems most likely.
Whatever the reason, I failed to post it. This means that “today” means “yesterday”.
We had a busy day in the shop today, as if to compensate for a serious lack of customers during the week. This was helped by a cessation of rain. It has been a cold, wet week.
Several customers who have been absent for a week or two put in an appearance, and another one returned after an absence of two years.
At the end of the day, as we turned the final key in the lock, I realised I’d left the camera in the back room again. As I had to cut my hair, trim my beard, wash, change and pick Number One Son up and get to the restaurant for 7.00 I decided just to go home. I have other cameras for the weekend and the photos on the card will have to wait.
We had a good meal, caught up with family gossip and launched Julia into her sixty first year in grand style. Judging from the presents her family think she’s an alcoholic with dry skin and a lack of shopping bags.
I think this may be what happens as women reach a certain age. Maybe a lady reader could enlighten me on the etiquette of buying skin care products for the more mature woman.
If I bought Julia body lotion would I be seen as thoughtful, or would it look like I was hinting she had the skin of a wrinkly lizard?
We are home now and I’m writing this sitting in front of the fire. We have just eaten a couple of chocolates and all is well, though when we turn 70 we will have to tone things down. A week of celebrations is a bit much for us now.
The picture is a phoenix rising from the flames, though you may remember it from this post.
Sorry, I started the day on Wednesday with a McDonald’s breakfast, had a pub lunch and ended up with a steak in the evening. In the gaps we collected two different prescriptions from two pharmacies, visited the jeweller, saw family, shopped, went home to change and saw family again in the world’s least efficient restaurant.
By the time we got home at eleven I was stuffed full and ready for bed, so sorry there was no post.
It’s very difficult to view Wednesday as a day off when you have this sort of social life to cram in.
It’s always nice seeing family though, and it was good to see the great nephew has a mini rugby ball. He’s not showing much talent for the game, but he’s only 18 months old so there’s time yet. I’ve reached 61 without showing much talent for the game. Or for any game.
I really need to get some work done but when I’m not out gallivanting I’m sleeping fitfully, which makes me slow-witted and grumpy.
The end picture is a rather nice enamelled double florincoin brooch. It’s a very interesting coin. I particularly like the bit about it still being legal tender because they forgot to demonetise it when we went decimal. You can, theoretically, spend it as a 20p coin, though the silver value is more like £4.
!887 Victorian double florin
Next day I wrote this post, fell asleep at the keyboard and forgot to publish.These summer nights are playing havoc with my sleep.
Yesterday was reasonably busy, but today really took off. The owner was away this morning and in three hours we packed the parcels, served six customers and bought two lots of coins in. Both of them contained lots of low value coins, though one also contained an 18th century Norwich token and the other had a respectable looking George III sixpence and a Victorian half farthing in it.
I’ve been writing up an interesting piece for eBay. It’s something and nothing but it’s also personally associated with a 20th Century icon.
I have a report to write on yesterday’s Afternoon Tea and a brief biography of Private Dunkerley, the man commemorated on the memorial plaque I pictured yesterday.
Both things will take some concentration to do properly and, to be honest, after a day of high temperature and poor ventilation I’m not feeling up to the job. Tomorrow will be soon enough.
Meanwhile, here is Julia at the specially painted post box in the Market Square. It celebrates England winning the Cricket World Cup.
I’m guessing they won’t win it again in my lifetime.
She was in cheerful mood after eating an Afternoon Tea in the company of her brother and sister-in-law.
Tomorrow we are lunching with both brother and sisters-in-law, plus niece and great-nephew. It’s an important time in the child’s development as his father is a great football fan and we are just waiting for the right time for granddad and the wicked uncles to nip that nonsense in the bud and get him playing with a rugby ball.
I’m going to have to keep an eye on Julia as seeing so much family at one time could lead to all sorts of jovial consequences. I have to be constantly on my guard against outbreaks of cheerfulness, as you never know what it can lead to.
Sorry, I decided it didn’t matter if I missed a day posting and, six days later I’m only just getting back to blogging.
I have plenty of things to write about, but no enthusiasm for the work.
However, I will give it a go, as scones have recently reappeared in my life. On that subject, I may dispense with Roman numbering after the next one. That’s what they did with Spitfires in WW2. They got to Mk XIX and the next one was the Mk 20.
I suppose it’s all part of the dumbing down of the world. First we stop using Latin numerals, then, under pressure from Microsoft, we adopt American spelling.
We’re on the verge of electing a buffoon, and have a fine choice, with both Johnson and Farage, so we’re following America in so many ways.
I’m going to fail to post before midnight, but I’m not rushing. It’s a bit late to worry about my posting record.
On Wednesday we went to meet Julia’s brother and sister-in-law who were visiting family in Radcliffe-on-Trent, a large village just outside Nottingham (which I thought was a town, until I checked when adding the link). The Atrium is a converted bank, and is very pleasant, though the name had led me into expecting more glass and plants.
The staff were efficient, cheerful, and very patient, which was good as they had a lot of kids running about. One of the kids was my great nephew, who is just over a year old now. He’s not quite walking but he’s on the verge, and manages to get about well enough.
The scones were large, and light in texture, though a bit sweet and slightly deficient in fruit. It doesn’t make them bad scones, but it does stop me talking of them in glowing terms. I’d happily go back for scones if I was in Radcliffe-on-Trent again, but I wouldn’t necessarily drive all the way from Nottingham for them. Julia had Bakewell Tart. It was a bit lurid compared to last week’s Bakewell Pudding.
Still having difficulty posting using the ancient netbook, so I’ll call a halt there. It’s amazing really, a few years ago I thought this machine was brilliant, but after using a laptop for the last three years it’s like torture.
This is Number Two in the series about Scone Consumption.
Julia’s brother and sister-in-law were up visiting their grandson. That’s my great-nephew. Obviously it’s a bit too soon to make a judgement but he’s shaping up nicely – decent chunky build and a tendency to eat anything left in range. I’m sixty years older than he is but we clearly share the same attitude to food.
I limited myself to a scone and jam, as we met in John Lewis. It’s convenient, but there is a tendency to need a mortgage if you get too adventurous with the menu. Plus I really don’t need the fat or the calories.
I used to shop there regularly but they aren’t really my sort of shop these days. Too old-fashioned, too drab, wrong size profile and, let’s face it, too expensive. I once asked a question about the lack of large sizes via one of their employees and the General Manager’s (uncensored) reply was that they didn’t cater for freaks.
What with that and the store detective following me round one day and muttering “watch this one” to a member of the management team, I decided not to bother shopping there again. I’ve not missed it.
However, back to scones and jam. The scones were OK, though nothing special. The jam was OK too, made in Tiptree in Essex – well known for its jam, though still mass produced. Ditto for the coffee. I had an Americano, which is what used to be called “a coffee” in the days before coffee became pretentious. I checked it up on Wiki and they, being Wiki, have quite a bit on the subject. I’d have been happy with a nice instant coffee.
I’ve provided a link to Tiptree as I like Tiptree. I haven’t provided links to John Lewis or Americano as I don’t want to encourage them.
That’s about it – not much about scones but some days are like that.
The day is drawing to a close. Number One Son has texted to say he has landed and is now in a taxi heading “home”. Julia has trouble accepting this as a description, as she still thinks his home is Nottingham rather than Valetta. If someone offered me a job in Malta I know what I’d very quickly be calling “home”.
We had a meal on the way to the airport, which will form the first part of my 100 Food Reviews in 365 days. Tootlepedal suggested visiting cafes in order to indulge my talents for sarcasm and vitriol over the next year, and apart from being a family meal it will double up as the first review in the series. The company was fine, the server was excellent but the food is going to provide me with plenty of material for indulging my grumpy old man persona.
I’ll be reviewing it soon. But if you want to buy it and read it before reading the review you’ll be safe in doing that, though I will warn you that it it finishes too soon as I would have been happy with reading it for another two or three days.
That, I think, is it for today. Back to work tomorrow.
We were pottering along through the Norfolk countryside when we found this tower.
Fortunately there was a notice to give us a clue.
All Saints Church Tower, Panxworth, Norfolk
It seems that it fell into disrepair, was rebuilt in the 19th Century and again fell into disrepair, being pulled down in 1969. It was reputedly used by Satanists, struck by lightening (which may or may not be connected) and restored again.
It’s an interesting place, and well-looked after, but there isn’t much to keep you, not even an information board. Fortunately there is plenty about it on the internet.
Interestingly, some of the gravestones show the same names as the war memorial. The continuity of the countryside is an amazing thing.
Last night I asked Julia what time her brother was arriving.
“Oh, it won’t be too early.”
That alerted me to the fact that she hadn’t actually fixed a time, but, confident that she knew what she was doing I slept the sleep of a man with a clear conscience. I even managed to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep…
You’ve guessed the rest haven’t you?
Fortunately we were planning an informal day, as you don’t get much more informal than meeting your guests whilst wearing a nightshirt.
It’s been a good day, featuring wide-ranging conversations on a number of subjects that indicate we’re getting older, and we’ve found time to fit in a certain amount of cold meat, cheese, snacks, nuts and dates.
My waistband is no longer as slack as it once was.