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Spring follows summer in my life
I hate winter! You need to know that fact. I’ve never liked winter, ever. Even as a child I hated being cold, dreaded the chilblains and the ice on the inside of bedroom windows. I’ve always assumed I have SAD, (Seasonally something or other), but I’ve never had a formal diagnosis. I just get more and more miserable and grumpy the longer autumn drags on into winter. So, after Christmas, for the last couple of years I have rented out my flat and flown away to the warm air, where I can write in comfort, and wander about in t-shirt and shorts. Family come out for a few days and that’s wonderful.
Now I’m back in a cold and gloomy UK after two months in the Canaries. Yes, I know, I’m garnering a great deal of sympathy - not. After walking amongst roses and bougainvilleas for weeks, it’s been like stepping back in time. The crocuses and daffodils are just coming out here in the park and if I don enough layers, I can walk round to see them, but mentally, I’m done with spring bulbs.
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Although I was pleased to see family again, I couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for being back, and settled into grumbling about just about everything, wrapped up in layers of fleece and a twosie, (like a onesie, but you don’t have to strip off to pee). I gave myself three days to sulk, indulge in self-pity, to tell everyone and anyone that I didn’t want to be here, to be a spoiled brat, and make myself thoroughly obnoxious. After that I would give myself a talking to, and return to the human race.
I’m a grandmother, but not a real one. The grandsons live in different parts of the UK so I don’t really have any regular responsibilities. I might have done if our family all lived in the same town but we don’t – there is a split between Essex and Liverpool so where would I live if I was to play a larger part in my daughters’ and their sons lives? I love them dearly and would love it if we could all be in one place, but that’s not the nuclear family way.
When I worked, I put up with the weather. We went on two weeks hols after Christmas and always at Easter, but work was uppermost in my mind. Then came the pandemic and I lost my clients; they had more to worry about than new systems and so they fell away. By the time lockdown ended I had decided that I was happier writing, always a first love anyway. However, writing at home with no money coming in through the winter didn’t suit me at all, until it dawned on me that I didn’t have to sit in dreary rooms worrying about the heating bills. I’m not wealthy, fortunately I don’t need to be. By letting my own flat I can rent a flat in the Canaries for January and February. It’s cheaper to live there and hooray, even if it’s not warm, warm, we can live in shorts and T-shirt, and the sun shines most days. Time on the beach is a bonus, as are times when family come over for a few days. I love it!
Let’s go back to my initial premise - I hate winter! Can’t help it. Don’t do cold, can’t get any pleasure from ice, snow, fog, rain. Just want to be warm, comfortably warm, without being bundled up in layers of clothes. I resent coming back to the UK even for a month, but my husband likes to be home in Liverpool – he misses it. I can’t get over how much we spend on food here. In Las Palmas we would go out for a morning coffee – 3 euros for two, some places 2.70! No problem with salad stuffs or fruit and vegetables. Plentiful and cheap.
So I came back pissed off and thought I would allow myself three days to sulk and be shitty to all I met. Refuse to cooperate or cook, complain loudly in every food shop ‘HOW MUCH?’ However the first day back, as I shivered and tried to acclimatise, my younger daughter cooked us a roast dinner, a real treat because we had no oven for two months. Against all my worst intentions my mood was lifted! Then on Wednesday I picked up my 11-year-old grandson and took him to school as his mum had gone to a conference. He chatted about his life, his basketball, football and the school he’d been accepted into in September, and I realised, somewhat ruefully, that he has so much going on in his life, his happiness doesn’t rely on whether I’m here or not. I’m an added extra in a sense, a nice to have, but not essential to his wellbeing. He is perfectly content with his parents and friends.
After school I took him back to my husband’s flat, where he demolished crumpets and snacks both savoury and sweet, and played FIFA until it was time to take him to basketball training. We sat in a freezing sports hall while watching the minutes tick down on the huge d
igital clock on the wall. The boys and girls were all shapes and sizes, very enthusiastic despite a lack of skill and the baskets being at full height. He was very good – he listened to the coach and did what was asked of him, while most of the younger ones were frenetically bouncing the ball all over the hall and ignoring instructions.
When we got back, he requested pizza so that was easy. He turned on the tele and watched the Grimsby - Southampton football match, keeping up a very knowledgeable, though biased commentary. His dad is a Grimsby supporter and so he felt obliged to shout them on and complain about Southampton’s tactics. He was enjoying the pizza, but at the penultimate slice, he said he had a loose tooth. I gave him the usual grandmotherly advice,
“Just eat on the other side, Love.”
“I can’t. It's kind of twisted and stopping me biting down”, he said rummaging around his mouth with his tongue. I’m thinking does this have to be in my sulking time?
“Oh it’s out!“ he says, “and it’s bleeding”.
I rush off and retrieve tissues from the bedroom and for the next few minutes he presses them into his gum and then hands me the soggy and bloodied remains for disposal. After about 10 minutes it stops bleeding and the 11 year old who doesn’t believe in Father Christmas wants to know if the tooth fairy will know he’s with us. What’s the going rate for tooth fairies? I haven’t a clue and when I check on our English money I’ve only got a tenner and he’s not having that even though it’s a back tooth. Luckily Mike has a fiver, but how to get it to him secretly and retrieve the tooth? I saw where he put it - right under the pillow, and it will be awkward to get to in the dark. The match finishes to his satisfaction and he goes to bed.
About 2 am I open his door quietly but he’s restless so I shut it again and think. At 6 am I daren’t open his door because he’s an early riser. I slip a fiver under the door and Mike and I concoct a story that the tooth fairy didn’t know what room he was in. As I reach his bedroom door to get him up for school, I ask if the tooth fairy came. He’s very matter of fact about it and waves the fiver at me.
I say, “she wasn’t sure where you were but she says you should take the tooth home”,
He looks for it but can’t find it so he says
“it’s not here, the tooth fairy must’ve taken it.”
Grandmother dumbfounded. I can’t argue and say it must be there, so I shrug and abandon all attempts to lie about the tooth fairy’s overnight shenanigans.
It’s World Book day and he’s elected to go in a football strip as a literary footballer - Jamie Johnson. He tells me that all the boys are going as footballers. Gone are the days when his mum sat up all night making a costume more imaginative than a footballer needs. He decides to walk to school, picking up his mate on the way. I watch him go, staggering under the weight of an unnecessarily large schoolbag, bursting with football card albums. I hope I’ve given him enough food for lunch – he’s nearly as tall as me now and he’s got bigger feet! I find the tooth which had chattered down the bed a bit and text his mum to see if she’s keeping them. She says she’s got enough to make a string of beads so chuck it. I do, albeit reluctantly and guiltily.
So all in all I haven’t had time to sulk and behave like a spoilt brat, which is irritating, but I’ll make sure I do next year.
🌺 🌺 🌺 🌺 🌺
The Marriage Portrait - Maggie O’Farrell. A beautiful story, beautifully told. I listened rather than read, the unabridged version brought to life by Genevieve Gaunt. It was unputdownable in an earbuds sort of a way. If I have a slight criticism, it’s that some of her descriptions were over-egged, but it didn’t spoil it for me.
Another Audible offering was Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes. I love a bit of Jojo Moyes and hate walking, so listening to this while walking causes me to walk further because I forget I don’t like walking. The reading and a large cast of characters was shared by Stan Pretty (disconcertingly, sounding like Hugh Bonneville at times,) and Nicolette Mc Kenzie, who both did it proud. The ending was predictable but I enjoyed the journey.
I also had some light reading last month, partly because I so enjoyed my Audible books, I didn’t want to read anything as absorbing, which probably sounds daft. Firstly if you like police procedurals, try Gwyn GB’s Harrison Lane crime thriller series which is a bit different in that it has a Ritualistic Behavioural Crime unit and its boss at its centre. Gwyn also has a shorter series with a woman detective at its heart. All her books can be found on her website.
I also enjoyed The Couple at No. 9 by Claire Douglas. The story unwound nicely and I didn’t sus the twist until quite late on.
The News Quiz Fridays 6:30 R4 never fails to make me laugh, but I feel they struggle sometimes to exceed the ridiculousness of the real state of the world. Thursday evenings are a treat at the moment because Meet David Sedaris is back on R4 @ 6:30. One of my favourite humourists, I could listen to his stories for hours.
After Happy Valley, every other drama programme struggles to make an impression on me. It was the pinnacle of TV drama for me, but if you were a fan you’ll have read all the reviews so I can’t add anything you don’t already know about it, save to say it was a masterclass in scriptwriting and acting.
🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸
That’s all for this month folks. As I write this it’s snowing and I am trying not to wish myself back to the Canaries. Me and My twosie are going nowhere until the weather improves … except that I’m off to see the Essex contingent tomorrow for the weekend. Hope they’ve got hot toddies and hot water bottles ready for me
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