Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Turning Point

'You changed the course of my life,' I said to her as we stood talking in the Marquee beside the white-covered trestle tables, laden with food and drink. She looked shocked. I suppose it is strange to think that a casual decision, taken one busy working day, can shape someone else's life.

I was a fresh pretty young girl, newly arrived in London from Yorkshire when she took a chance on me, offered me a job working for a large international company without checking my shorthand and typing, which weren't all they could have been.

Not that I had thought of her at all, these 30 years or so since that day, but seeing her there now brought it home to me that it was that decision that had changed my world, brought me a marriage that lasted 18 years, our three amazing sons, life-longs friends and the invitation to this party in a Sussex orchard on a fine June day.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Flotsam and Jetsam

How did we come to find each other, all these years on, washed up outside a bistro on the beach in Brighton?

We watched the sunlight glinting and sparkling off the cold, greeny-blue water as a small sailing boat drifted by on the horizon and people swam in the chilly waves, shrieking with the seagulls as we drank a glass of wine and wove our stories; how we came to be here, what had shaped us and brought us to this moment.

Then he headed off to Heathrow, to Hong Kong and, finally, Melbourne, back to his other life.


And I headed back to mine.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Scottish Reels

It was quite simply one of the best parties I had ever been to. The Scottish reels were an inspired choice and the perfect antidote for inhibitions as we all made mistakes and fell over our feet or span into someone else. For a while, we all became children again, laughing and giggling and talking to complete strangers.

I took the floor with a friend but we were immediately whisked away from each other by the dance and I found myself stopping with the music in front of a tall, slim man wearing a pink shirt. I have a weakness for a man in a pink shirt. We chatted for a few minutes and discovered we had friends in common before the music started up again and we whirled away from each other, in opposite directions.

It was much later when I was taking time out at the bar, chatting to people I hadn't seen for a while, that I saw him come across the room towards me. He joined the group and someone introduced us properly, then the group gradually dispersed as people rejoined the dance floor or saw other friends and we were left temporarily alone. We talked for a while and I wondered if he would ever ask me to dance. I was itching to get back on the floor. At last he did and we danced the night away, leaving the party in the small hours.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Serenade

'I used to sing,' he said, as we walked along the road from the lovely country pub garden to the car park, 'folk songs, in the 60's and 70's. I used to sing in pubs and clubs in the North of England when I was a student.'

He had phoned me earlier that day and suggested we go and see a film in the small, intimate cinema in a nearby village. He calls from time to time. Afterwards, we didn't want to end the evening just yet, so ambled along to a nearby pub, sat in the almost deserted, lantern-lit garden, chatting and watching the evening fade gently into night.

'Sing to me,' I asked, smiling. 'Sing something for me now!' 
'What, here?' he said, surprised. We were walking back to the car park, past an abandoned, boarded-up church and I took his hand and drew him into the quiet calm of the overgrown, neglected churchyard.

And he did. He sang for me. Five verses of a sea shanty, a tale of love and loss, in a fine baritone voice, under the new, crescent moon.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Eight Interesting Things

Eight interesting things? Well, most of them are already in my blog or will be - now I shall have no secrets left.

The oldest house I have ever lived in was built in the 1380s. It was very, very difficult to clean. There was a mouse nesting in an ancient sofa in my bedroom when we moved in and it would scuttle about the room at night, but refused to be caught, although we trapped it in the end. The bedroom floor sloped dramatically so you had to get your sea legs upstairs, and the bed had to be propped up at the head to even things out. The house overlooked the marsh and was very atmospheric.

I have moved house more times than I care to remember and now have it down to a fine art. Removal men congratulate me on the quality and efficiency of my packing.

When I turned 50 (am I prepared to admit that?) I decided to grow my hair again, get my ears pierced and buy a bikini. Now I need to lose a few pounds so I can wear the bikini in public and I have a serious earring habit.

Neither of my parents were born in this country, but I consider myself to be quintessentially English. My mother was born on a Prairie Farm in Saskatuan and my father's family came over from Ireland during the troubles in the 1920s, following death threats which they took very seriously indeed.

I have never learned to ride a bike, nor a horse, nor have I ever sailed, but I am hoping to try sailing this summer. I think I will probably give the other two a miss now.

I have used up at least four of my nine lives, but am enjoying the five I have left.

I can speak to babies and small children in French, having worked as an au pair in Brussels when I was very young. I developed a strong attachment to Belgian chocolate while I was there. It was the only thing that kept me sane.

I once drove straight on to the roundabout on the A2, near Blackheath and stopped there. It was entirely my ex-husband's fault. He was supposed to be teaching me to drive and I hadn't done roundabouts yet. I was still on traffic lights. Lots of people were very surprised to see us sitting there as I waited for instructions on how to come off roundabouts and rejoin the busy weekend traffic on the A2.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

The Orchard

Summer's here!

The hammock went up in the orchard today, strung between two ancient plum trees, threaded through with the tiny pink scented roses that flower for only two weeks each year, echoing the delicate pink and white blossom that studded the trees earlier in the spring, promising a heavy crop of pears, apples and plums when summer slips away.

The mown grass is a vivid green after the recent heavy rains, and delicious dark pink dog roses glow in the hawthorn hedge. A faded, weather-beaten wooden table and chairs invite me to take time out and let my cares melt away.

I thought of going somewhere else today, but what could be better than this?

Friday, 1 June 2007

The Curse of the Pink Bag

I've just realised, I've done it again.

I went out in my lunch break a couple of weeks ago and, browsing around one of the lovely local accessories shops which thrive in this prosperous small town, I spotted an outrageous hot pink handbag, perfect for summer, I thought, and particularly perfect for Speech Day, a very smart affair held in the local church, with drinks afterwards on the lawn, followed by a barbecue lunch

I had my outfit planned weeks in advance; a black wrap dress with a cream pattern traced delicately over it, a boxy black linen jacket, black high heeled shoes and pale pink jewellery. The bag would certainly finish things off with a flourish. We single mums have to keep our ends up in coupledom.

I'm sorry to say that I didn't go. I found out a couple of days before that my son's year, being on study leave, were not expected to attend. I suppose I could have gone on my own, but that seemed a bit sad. And I had had an exhausting few weeks and was at a pretty low ebb.

Still, I'm sure it will come in useful for something else. The drinks party I'm going to on Sunday, perhaps? I really must stop buying pink bags. The buying of one seems to spell social disaster for me.