When my brother was little he would get really, really excited about the coming of a big event, such as Christmas or his birthday. He would struggle to sleep for a few nights and on the day itself, he would be bouncing round like a demented Tigger. Then for a few days afterwards there would be no coping with him. He would be moody, sulky and generally depressed. My Mum would describe this and would say
“He’s having an anticlimax he is.” Although we were never sure if that was quite the right word, everyone got what she meant and the phrase has now passed into Hargreaves Towers’ vocab.
I think we are all having an anticlimax here at the moment. Birthdays done for a while, exams mostly over, back from lovely break, financial detox (caused by lovely break) in place. Just basically having to knuckle down to work and everyday life.
Facebook doesn’t help here of course. Every time you go on you are greeted by fifty people shouting “Had FABULOUS day at spa/Glastonbury/with 50 of my closest friends/at Take That concert etc. which can make a coffee at lunch with a chum seem a bit inadequate. (I think I may be the only woman in the country who is over 21 and didn’t want to see Take That. I don’t dislike them or anything, just don’t er, care. Does that make me a bad person?) Apparently, this is a recognised phenomenon. Because so many people only post on Facebook when they are doing something interesting and, for obvious reasons, don’t tend to put much on there about clipping their toenails or arguing with the dog, it can give the impression that everyone else but you is living the life of a modern day Marie Antoinette (Before all the guillotine type nastiness obviously.) This has led to depressions and all that sort of stuff  because you think that all the good stuff seems to be happening just round the corner and you never seem to experience it. (I found Paris a bit like that.) Can’t say it has had that effect on me particularly because well, it’s only Facebook. I love it but its not real life.
Anyway blah days. Love them or loathe them, we all have to knuckle down sometimes and get on with it. There are compensations to blah days. It is quite nice to have the ironing up to date (well at least to the point where I can put the lid on the ironing box) and getting to the bottom of your in-tray can sometimes mean that you find the file with the urgent stuff that you lost a month ago. (I’m not talking about me there or anything) And loads of spare time can mean more time for the 30 Rock box set.

Read a bit of Spurgeon this week (as you do) really good stuff on the effectiveness of a two word prayer. “Help Lord”. I am sometimes a bit hesitant about petitionary prayer – treating God as my personal slot machine but Spurgeon pointed out that asking God for stuff is a form of worship. It acknowledges his position as God. Which is brilliantly simple when you think about it which is probably what Spurgeon did. That is probably why he was a great theologian and I am not.

Wish I could say I was above all this but cannot wait. Fruit of Womb 2 slums it and always sees this with me on our own first so we can dissect and discuss. We are seriously considering going for late night first showing with all the strange people who dress as goblins. Well, it is the last one…

And she’s back in the room. With one bound I have returneth from the wild country known as Cornwall, where all the rumours of men running round with burning barrels on their backs – just for kicks – appear to be true. Anyway, please notice above the photo is the view from our hotel room balcony no less. Vair, vair lovely as the young people say.

We have mooched for England. A wander here, a nosey there, a stuffing your face with fish suppers everywhere. And we hoovered up culture like a culture hoovering-up thing. The Tate. The Hepworth. Now I love my kids as you know but the oh the joy of wandering through these places without stage whispers behind me of  “Is this the last room or what?” or ” Did you notice if there was a cafe?”. Twas lovely.

Now, me and Modern Art. I have absolutely no idea what is going on. I find a lot of it very puzzling indeed and, to be totally honest, I do sometimes suspect that a lot of it is gold plated do-dahs. However, it is true that if I take my time and have a think about what I am seeing, I feel that I do learn things sometimes. I have even had quite emotional reactions to paintings such as a Rothiko and a Matisse. No idea why. Sometimes I just like the colours.

So to the Tate Modern in St Ives. Much as I love it, I do want to put in a slight complaint. Every time I have been, the people on the till who are there to sell you your entrance ticket seem totally baffled by the fact that people want to come up to them and purchase a ticket to see the pretty pictures. They are completely overwhelmed by a queue of two. Initially, this was quite charming but its wearing a bit thin now. 

Hargreaves.. Two combined tickets – Adults please

Tatey Chap..Er. Two?

Hargreaves..Yes Adults, please.

Tatey Chap.. Two adults? Er together?

Hargreaves..Yep. Two adults. Combined tickets please.

Tatey Chap..So that’s two adults, combined tickets?

Hargreaves..Er yes (still)

You’re lucky we’re not still standing there. Anyway one of the best rooms was the entry area which was filled with balloons. Like this.

This  was good  on its own but, even better, you could go into to the room! You had to read some health and safety stuff before you went in. (A few dipped out at this point. especially the Americans who seemed to actually believe English Health and Safety warnings) But it was genuinely unsettling. When you moved right in and couldn’t see the floor or the sky you kind of panicked a bit. No, it wasn’t just me and I didn’t cry or anything. Head of House took some photos of me but the balloons made my hair stand on end  and to be quite frank I spend enough time humiliating myself for your entertainment so they won’t be posted here.

So we had a great time all in all, thanks for asking. There have been some rumblings at Hargreaves Towers as we announced when we got home, that we had overspent and whole family was now to be subject to an economy drive ’till pay day. It’s not just about you sprogs you know.

Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” Mark 6:30

Just struck by how lovely this is. There’s so much to do and I can feel guilty if I ever stop. This seems so simple and non pressured. Just stopping for a while. Everything will still be there when you come back. My theory, for what its worth, is that if Jesus said something, then there is a strong truth in it. Is it blasphemy to say that this is such a good example of the gentle wisdom of Jesus? (When I say gentle, I don’t mean soppy or anything – don’t send the Christian Police round) It’s just that not every profound truth is accompanied by a flaming sword and an accompaniment of apocalyptic horses – doesn’t make it any less important.

Another Bank Holiday. Head of House was working and everyone else – friends and offspring alike either revising for, sitting or recovering from exams so no one was playing out. So I retired to the kitchen for the afternoon to make meatballs for tea and experiment with new recipe for strawberry cake. (Very nice, thanks for asking. The fruit made it a bit moist for my personal taste but, like most things in life, it was much improved by the addition of good ice cream)
I usually listen to 5 Live when I am in the kitchen but as all the news is about Cheryl Cole and I am a bit off football after all the shenanigans with Percy Pigs (I’m still not sure what the policy is on naming him in print – can’t be too careful I suppose) I turned to Radio 2. Where-Oh Joy it was the French and Saunders Radio Show. There then followed a lovely two hours full of gentle humour and silliness. I especially loved the riff about what happens when you get into a bath that’s too hot but you put up with it because you think it will cool down in a minute and then you notice that your legs are bright red and that your pulse is racing and you feel a bit faint. Why do we do that? Anyway, I spent a lovely productive afternoon and didn’t miss 5 Live at all. Maybe Bryan Goggs (again, careful not to use the real name) should play away more often. Not that I approve or anything.
We have started to book tickets for summer holiday in London. If everything takes as long as deciding what theatre to see, we will proabably miss the whole thing. Watch and wonder as our suggestions are dismissed by the offspring – without any alternative suggestions.
Parents. What about Les Miserables?
Sprogs. It’s like an opera isn’t it? Can’t cope with two hours of watching “the poor” squawking and moaning.
Parents. The Betrayal – Harold Pinter?
Sprogs. Too depressing. People trying to slit their wrists with the ice cream spoons at half time.
Parents. Legally Blond?
Sprogs. Musical theatre is just weird. People talking then bursting into song for no reason.
And so it went on… until
Parents. Warhorse?
Sprogs. Any singing?
Parents. Don’t think so.
Sprogs. Any scenes that will make us squirm because we are sat with our parents.
Parents. Probably not – it’s taken from a children’s book.
Sprogs. Doesn’t look like a lot of laughs but It’s about the best I suppose.

You’re welcome I’m sure. We also booked tickets for tour of Houses of Parliament. Fortunately, this is during the summer recess which has reduced the chances of Eldest Fruit of Womb doorstepping Nick Clegg and asking him how he sleeps at night.
It’s all very hard work arranging some time to rest. Especially when teenagers are involved. Listen. I’m sloping off now. I have a couple of days in St Ives with Head of House to celebrate staggering to 50. Just a couple of thoughts. Thanks so much for all the comments on Facebook etc. Good to know you like the stuff. Comments should be working on blog now as well.
Also. I have to tell you that sometimes, I really struggle with this Devon accent. This morning I was certain that someone announced from the front of church that Jesus Christ was sent as an Italian sacrifice for all. That can’t be right can it?
Lastly, a famous video clip just to remind you that however you feel you have things organised and under control – your lovely offspring are always capable of frightening the living daylights out of you.

Well, here it comes. 50 next month. I know, I know, who would have thought it? So I thought of sharing a few things with you about all that I have learned over the past half century. Things that may enrich and inform you and that you can take with you into your lives. Then I thought, Nah, who wants to listen to all that and anyway, what do I know? So I’ll just tell you a few things I have discovered to be inescapably true about getting older.

  1. After the menopause, for all but the most genetically stick thin, it really is an uphill battle. I walk approximately 3 miles a day what with getting to and from work, walking dogs and getting youngest Fruit of Womb to bus stop (now eldest has selfishly left school). I think twice before every cake I eat, even if I do usually eat it anyway but I know that for the rest of my life I will be fighting so that when I turn sideways and look at myself in the mirror my belly doesn’t come out any further than my bust.
  2. It’s not the wrinkles that bother me, it’s the general facial flabbiness. My skin isn’t bad but there seems to be a lot more of it under the chin area. Also, holding back the grey hair seems to mean getting the dye out more often. My friend is a year older than me, naturally grey and she looks fantastic. So does that french woman who wants to run the world’s finances. Am definitely thinking of giving it a go. (Going grey naturally – not running for head of the IMF)
  3. It’s not so much that I don’t want to go out. Really I still do. But I find that when I am home, I really like it and, whats more, when I was snuggled up on the sofa, I found my self thinking how nice it would be to have a blanket. No truly, I did. And I don’t care.
  4. I am subject to strange crushes. I find the strangest chaps attractive, Steve Martin, Kevin Spacey,  etc. Its like obviously the Cloonster is attractive, but its more an appreciation than all out fancying. Have checked this out with equally aged Head of House and it is not just female phenomenon. Germaine Greer being his unusual crush of choice. Of course this could have something to do with next point.
  5. I can’t see! No really. It’s all a blur. The optician assures me that its just natural degeneration but, if I forget my glasses, I either have to peg to Primark to get a £2 pair or borrow the engineer’s spare pair which is an interesting look.
  6. I hate 99% of everything on the telly. What is going on? I don’t get X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent etc. Since when did laughing at people who are borderline mentally ill become a national pastime? And, I’d rather scoop my own eyes out with a spoon that watch another episode of Sweet 16 blah blah.
  7. Like they all said they would, simple pleasures have become more important. I like a nice view, a comfy bench, not being cold, cake, a glass of red wine (two glasses and next morning, I will feel like my brain is trying to make a break for it through my skull) a chat and a really good laugh.

Despite all this whingeing, and to be honest, I have cut it short – for instance, if they ever make being tired an Olympic sport. No, no more I promise. As I was saying, despite all this, I am still very grateful. In spite of the ravages of age, I have been able to be here to help bring up our sprogs and that is the main thing, especially when, a long time ago, a doctor told us that that was unlikely. And, even now, there is so much more to do. Not just offspring parenting but lots of other stuff too. All I have to do is raise the energy to do it.

Well its part two of gratitude and this was the only sequel title I could think of. So having decided that gratitude is a good thing, then what?
Like most things that are good for you (Healthy eating, exercise, loving relationships, watching Doctor Who) it doesn’t just happen. A certain amount of  organisation, discipline and just basically getting off your backside is necessary. Thought I might suggest some practical helps, whether you asked for it or not but when has that ever stopped me?
When my friend Emma ran a pre school at the church I worked in she would say to the children that a verb is a DOING word. (Quite loudly actually) and gratitude is a DOING word in much the same way.
1. I would always recommend a journal. If you are an international technical expert with decently plucked eyebrows and a designer handbag you might want to use your mobile. But for me, by the time I have worked out how to actually put the info into the phone, I have usually forgotten the thought. I personally prefer a notebook. It doesn’t have to be lovely, although that helps some people. The advantage that paper has is that there’s something about writing that holds a memory the way nothing else can. I also stick bit and pieces in there – yep with glue. Then write a list. Prayers, thoughts and against that, all the things you are grateful for now. Go back to the list, see what was answered, say thanks.
2. Say thanks to other people. Slam them an email, go up to them after church or whenever, give them a call or send them a card. Cards are good. People get them in the post along with all the dross. They keep them in their undies draw and come across them when they need encouragement. I find that I have to say to my kids “This is a pen and when you drag it across a piece of paper, it makes a mark. We call this writing.” Email is better than nothing and sometimes its the only contact you may have but more personal things are better still.
3. It’s not all about you. Don’t just say thanks to people who do nice stuff for you. In your church, people are working like Trojans to keep the place on track. Think about noticing that. If a shop assistant is nice to you. Be nice back.  Local charity workers in Plymouth with lots of volunteers would love a thank you just sometimes instead of loads of moaning all the flippin’ time…(slightly personal that, sorry) – you get the idea.
Last week, I had to say thank you to someone who had given me some advice I didn’t like. Didn’t do it straight away. Not because I was sulking (for a change) but just because I had other stuff on. However, once the dust had settled – I went back and said thanks. Consider thanking people who were right  – even if its retrospectively.
Its now up to you to get DOING.
Very nice meal out thank you. Lovely table and view over the Hoe. Very nice food. Unfortunately we manged to time the trip out so we found ourselves smack in the middle of quiz night but I knew the answer to at least five of the questions in the sport round so win-win, I think you’ll find.
Sorry for the length of this post but just wanted to talk a bit about the footballer/super injunction thing. The footballer’s name is out there now,  I guess we all thought he was one of the good guys but there you go. All I’ll say is that when he says – “You can’t reveal this because it will hurt my wife, humiliate my children and destroy my credibility.” Whatever happened to “I can’t sleep with this person because it will hurt my wife, humiliate my children and destroy my credibility.” Call me old fashioned if you feel you must.