Slow Lane Life II

How we moved to the West Country and learned to slow down even more


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Nothing to see here

I haven’t been away; I’ve been skiving. But I have had almost nothing to report.

We are just hanging about waiting for all sorts of things, foremost amongst them being the arrival of the blessed grandson – due date now moved by 4 days to September 15th. This is the longest pregnancy in history, I reckon. The latest scan even gave his weight – 2.7kg (just under 6 lbs for oldies like me who have never really grasped the metric system) and pronounced him healthy. He is now pointing downwards, just as he should be; what a relief – unlike his father, he is less likely to be born bottom first. His parents tell me that the scan images were amazingly detailed, and that he resembles his mother. We shall see…. (I predict that by the time he is six months, he will, like many babies, look just like Winston Churchill for a while).

I’m off to visit at the end of the month, my arrival at Paddington coinciding with one of the Tube strike days, bearing all sorts of gifts from some of you and from other friends, and perhaps, if I ever finish it, and it passes muster, a little pram quilt made by Grandma. This quilt will in no way compete with the beautiful heirloom-to-be made by Anne, of course; it’s more like a padded hanky, decidedly free-hand in style and stitchery, but at least no one will mourn when it is drooled or posseted upon.

Friends are coming to stay next month. This is incentive enough for me to paint the spare rooms’ window frames (inside only) as I have promised I would do for about three years now. The Gardener used to promise to paint the outsides, but I have quietly ceased to mention them, conceding defeat in the face of his masterly inactivity and my own failure to set a good example.

PS Perhaps I should tell you….

The one thing I had wanted to write about for weeks, and found too upsetting to relate, was the diagnosis of a certain little boy as having Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Some of you will remember from my old blog the lovely Charlotte, fashion student, animal lover, and the untidiest girl in the world, who lodged with me for a while, and her Handsome Young Policemen boyfriend? After I moved, they were living in a little cottage together, and later got married. They then had a beautiful and adored baby, Rex, and all seemed well with their world, surrounded by their animals and loving, supportive families.

Just after the baby’s first birthday, I learned that the developmental delay that had worried them, and after intensive tests had been carried out on Rex (or Rexy as Charlotte calls him) was in fact Type II SMA, an incurable genetic condition with a prognosis that offers little in the way of hope. Devastatingly painful news for young parents to be given, and heralding a life that could not be imagined in those early days of infancy, a life of doctors and therapists, special equipment, parents adapting and learning new ways of caring for a baby whose needs are so profound, and always, always, the worrying, watching and waiting.

Charlotte is blogging about it here; her writing (and language!) is frank and open, coming straight from the heart (and I can hear her Durham accent so clearly throughout!) and has taught me and her other friends so much about what she and her husband face every day, with devotion, courage and humour as well as grief, rage and bewilderment. I think about her and her little family every day, and am humbled by what they deal with. Do look; it can be heartbreaking to read, but also inspiring, with lovely photos of an exceptionally cute little boy who seems to have the same reserves of strength and courage as his parents.


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Sugary

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Clearly, Twinkies are the stuff of myth and legend. Judging by your comments, some of you have Pronounced Views on them, so this post is just for you. I haven’t come across them, and judging by what I’ve read so far, I’ve been spared missed a unique experience.

There’s some riveting stuff online about Twinkies – click HERE for some wonderful and unexpected detail, and more sugar than you can contemplate.

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Speaking of sugar, and wilfully ignoring the latest media reports about how much less of it we should be eating, I seem suddenly to be using a lot of it. I blame the ice cream weather. If you haven’t made Delia’s rhubarb crumble ice cream, oh my, you really should. So easy, tastes superb, and is the loveliest rhubarb-pink colour, nothing like that shown in the recipe, HERE.

Walking the dog tonight, I passed a little table outside someone’s house, laden with gooseberries at £1 per punnet. So I came home, looked up the recipe for Delia’s gooseberry and elderflower ice cream, grabbed some money and went back for them.

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And that’s just about enough sugar for this summer, Delia!


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Toothsome

I’m trying to get back into regular blogging, as I  miss it, and you, but have little to blog about at present. But here goes, a blog about not very much, just to keep my hand in.

I’m sitting – full of painkillers and self-pity – carefully propped up on on of the new sofas (an impulsive moment after a long slow traffic-clogged drive into South Wales a while ago to look at sofas in the manufacturer’s showroom – let’s have two! And what’s more, let’s have a 3-seater and a 2-seater! Thankfully, we liked them very much when they were made and delivered six weeks later). My back has Gone again.

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It could so easily have Gone before or during the wedding, as stress definitely features in its onset, but I don’t think it dared. Instead, it drove me to a very early night yesterday, leaving The Gardener to put the house and its creatures to bed several hours later. And to forget my nightly routine, which is why five cat feeding dishes remained to be washed up this morning before the yowling, screeching, faces-in-the-cat-food-sachet-as-it-is-being-opened breakfast ritual of torment could be enacted. I start every day with this nerve-shredding scenario, and a millisecond’s delay is to be avoided at all costs.

Anyway. I’m sitting reading blogs and emails on aforementioned sofa, recovering from the Budget speech, when The Gardener rings. He is in Bridgwater. (Yes, that’s Bridgwater without an ‘e’. In Somerset.) A strange little town, Bridgy, no longer noted for its radical politics; it was once described to us by a local as having been so devastated, male population-wise, by the Civil War, its aftermath and the excessive zeal of (Hanging) Judge Jeffreys, that its gene pool shrank catastrophically, never to recover, making Bridgwater a rather unusual place, with very unhealthy-looking people. It also holds an astonishingly large carnival every November, a proper light-bulb extravaganza. We’ve never been, chiefly because it always seems to be vile weather on Carnival night, and I hate going out on winter nights.

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Be that as it may, that’s where he is, ringing me to ask “do we need anything?” – that’s shorthand for “shall I go supermarket shopping and see if I can find something interesting for dinner?” The fridge heaves with dull wholesome chocolate- and sugar-free nutrient-rich ingredients to support our current weight-conscious sensible eating plan; there is no pudding.

“Something nice?” I say. “Something sweet. Something little. Not enough to pile our weight back on; just a toothsome morsel.”

A toothsome morsel! This causes consternation. The Gardener is an obedient shopper, his own natural indecision forcing him to bring a range of items home instead of one, when he has been left to use his own initiative, and he wants to be told in detail what to get. I don’t know what I fancy, and am happy to be surprised by his idea of what constitutes toothsome, or, indeed, a morsel. He strains to guess at what might be acceptable, something that won’t bring derision, as my discovery of a packet of Party Rings in his car once did. “What? Sweet what? It’s Bridgwater, remember; I’m not going to find handmade chocolates here, you know! Could it be cake?”

But my back hurts; I am not inclined to bail him out. So he must choose. And as it’s Bridgwater, this could end interestingly. But it probably won’t be Party Rings for pudding.

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The other bits

For those who asked, or wondered, here are the bits and pieces relating to the wedding or to what comes next. Most importantly, the Lovely Baby (as Anne calls him) is due on September 19th. If he is anything like his father, he will be very late, giving his mother the longest twelve days of her life, then arrive complaining of being very tired and sleep for three weeks.

The wedding was just lovely. The previous day and the morning of the wedding were not quite so lovely, and involved a lots of last-minute running about, frayed nerves and volatile emotions, deliveries of cake and decorations, creating buffet food for the planned picnic in the park later on (“there’s no more room in this blasted fridge!”), and the future mother in law, realising with some despair that not only was she not going to have time to visit the hairdresser as planned for a wash and dry, but that she would not have time to do it herself. Or find her lipstick. The lipstick that might have distracted from her lack of jewellery, that was sitting on the dressing table back home….. In years to come, when the wedding photos are resurrected, there may be murmurings of how very old and worn the mother in law looked on the big day, and they would be entirely accurate.

The bride’s stepfather, who happened to be over from Mexico staying with his old professor, was there, a charming man in a floppy green bow tie, who made the most beautiful speeches, quoted poetry, said exactly the right things at the right time, and cheerfully trotted off to the corner shop for the forgotten odds and ends.

We took some photos before setting off. Not very smiley photos, admittedly, but we did our best. No hats, no ties, what a relief. The bride wore red shoes.

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The bride had curled her hair a little, and found it to be a total waste of effort in the heat and humidity. The Gardener took the groom to the post office to send off the last-minute work orders that had been stressing him the previous evening, made sure he had some breakfast while they were out, and generally ran last-minute errands and kept matters as calm as possible. That man…. everyone should have a Gardener when times are fraught.

Once we were all in the taxis and meeting up with friends for lunch at the gallery opposite Southwark Registry Office, we all became very smiley indeed, and started to feel decidedly happy.

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After lunch (the bride tucked in: “The Baby is hungry!”), she and the groom moved to another table to rehearse their wedding promises, and then we trooped cheerfully across the road for the ceremony, grateful for air conditioning at last.

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And it turned into the event it really was intended to be all along, small and intimate, relaxed and calm, just 12 of us there, old friends including the bride’s super-glamorous friend from their infant school days, who had flown in from Rome that day for the occasion. Her poor mother, not long home after spending sad days recently, attending her dying mother in Holland, could not come, choosing sensibly to travel from Mexico when the baby is born; my heart went out to her having to make the decision not to come, but everyone understood her reasons.

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There were tears, of course, and not just from the bride.

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As the groom’s mother, I kept being congratulated, and for the life of me can’t think why. Maybe for surviving the previous 24 hours and still being able to smile, without whining once about having to clip my hair back with a very unclassy hair clamp and having not a hint of eye shadow or lipstick to relieve the tired eye-baggy look. Everyone became somewhat dishevelled with the heat; one friend arrived unaware of the black marks all up her arm from the builders’ debris in her house, another had to keep checking that her outfit remained modestly in place with the safety pin she had to use, everyone’s faces gleamed and glistened, and our hair misbehaved terribly. And nobody minded in the least.

The Gardener took many photos and made sure the absent mother of the bride received them very quickly, which she did, with great joy; she is already planning a massive celebration in Mexico City for next February, and we know already that it will not resemble in any way a small gathering of twelve close friends….

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The cake had to be a Victoria sponge. The bride had insisted on it, and nothing else would do. The future mother in law refused to make it, saying that it would be three days old by the time it was eaten, and anyway, bringing it from Somerset on the train, Tube and another train was not going to help freshen it up any. So the groom ordered one to be made by the artisan bakery next to his old workshop, and his talented friend made the Day of the Dead cake pops with which to decorate it. Please note the bride and groom pops.

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After the wedding cake and champagne, everyone trooped off to the park, bearing all that was needed for a picnic; this would be followed by a gathering of many more friends later for beer and pizza in the pub, where the rest of the wedding cake would most certainly be demolished. The Gardener and I had already whispered that we would not be able to stay for this, as we had to cross London in rush hour for our train home.

And so we did, in boiling heat, to reach Paddington station where the temperature was around 95 degrees at 6 pm, and where many trains were delayed or cancelled because of railway tracks buckling in the heat. But we did get home eventually, too tired to think straight. The happy couple went off for a bucket-and-spade holiday at Rye /Camber Sands, and will soon be home to pick up where they left off, working flat out, waiting for the Lovely Baby to change their lives forever, and – hopefully – to feel that their wedding, haphazard and changeably planned as it was, had been a great success, and an auspicious start to their new family life.

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