A day at the Castle

Last minute, we decided to go away for a few days. Our kind neighbour agreed to pop in to feed the cats, we each threw a few things into a bag, and we got up very early to drive down to the South coast.

We were headed for Poole, and it was raining and raining and raining. A perk of an old job still gives us the privilege of going to visit a castle on an island, just across the harbour. So at 10am* we were huddled under umbrellas, with hoods up, waiting for the castle’s boat. Luckily the boat had an inside area, but we were still soaked through by the time we arrived. Our socks were soggy and our raincoats wet.

 

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I don’t know anything about the castle’s history and I’ve never been bothered to find out. I’ve only been there on holiday – I’ve never wanted to do research. What I can tell you is that it’s like being in a novel. It’s not public, so it feels like you’re in an old fashioned private club (which essentially you are, I suppose). It’s all very grand, and yet ultimately cosy and comfortable and welcoming. The sort of place you can sink into a huge sofa and read the papers and pretend you’re in 1920 and there’ll be cocktails before dinner.* It’s not real life, and it appeals to my romantic whimsy.

 

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I longed to have a little friend to play on this with.

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Mr M looking like the cat who got the cream πŸ™‚

 

Below stairs, my favourite part, there are lots of fascinating little rooms – the boiler room, the games room, the room with the piles of deckchairs and garden games… and best of all, the drying room. A dark, walk-in cupboard, with a huge radiator and pipes, and racks for wet coats and boots and sailing gear.

We took off all our wet stuff and hung it up, and went round the castle in our stockinged feet all day, as though we lived there.

In the back of this drying room cupboard was hanging a giantsize black wetsuit. It didn’t have a giant in it, but it had rubber feet attached, and the feet had solid soles, so it sort of stood on the floor in a most unnerving fashion, even though it was hanging on a coat hanger.

My children thought it was the freakiest thing they’d ever seen, and it was so funny hearing their tales of all three of them squeezing in to the drying room, giggling, and then barrelling out along the stone floored corridor in panic when the automatic light went out. All day long, they took great delight in scaring each other silly about the wetsuit in the drying room. I must admit, when I went in there alone to get my coat, I had to hold it together, one eye on the ‘giant’, in case he came to rubbery life.

It was quite possibly the most fun you can have in a drying room.*

We had a delicious lunch, and a walk round the island (in the pouring rain), we played cards and games and had some tea and cake at 4 ‘o’ clock. Then we got the last boat back to the mainland (still raining), and walked 20 minutes (still raining) to our hotel. We hung up all our wet stuff (again), and Alex went out in the car for crisps and wine and Coke, and then we all crammed into our little room, drinking from plastic cups and trying not to get crisps in the bed.*

It was so hot in that hotel, and we didn’t sleep much. Or maybe that was too many crisps at bedtime!

And I had wetsuit related nightmares, and woke up in a tangle of sheets, trying to fight off a giant man with rubber arms and legs. πŸ™‚

That was Day 1 of our few days away. More tomorrow!

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*Getting there for 10am was no mean feat!
*We’ve stayed over before. There are rules: in the evenings, one must dress for dinner, and there *are* cocktails in the bar beforehand, and coffee served in the drawing room afterwards. It’s wonderful.
*But not quite πŸ˜‰
*Kids! PLEASE don’t get crisps in my bed.

Brownsea Castle – do the research here, if you like, and fill me in.

 

But how?

Climbing and treetop adventures yesterday, and today, ice skating!

I haven’t skated for quite a few years, and was last onto the ice, because I was slow at lacing my boots. So, stepping onto the ice, I was on my own. Mr M is a natural – he can skate backwards. He’s so cool at it.

There I was, watching him whizzing round, and watching the kids, who were wobbling about like newly born horses, and I was clinging onto the edge for dear life, laughing. A man in front of me pitched backwards and almost took us both over. I was as nervous as him, and we hobbled along the rail together for a little while, telling each other how funny this was, and how we’d have to get better at it or it would be a long two hours.

I stopped to wonder how on earth this was possible. How do you do this? I wondered. I know I’ve done it before. I can remember sailing along in the middle of the ice, loving it. But how?

Mr M came to fetch me, took my hand and helped me round for a few turns. But still I was thinking – but how? How do I get that confidence for myself, that ease?

I remembered something I’ve learnt in yoga – finding the balance between strength and softness –Β Sthira sukham asanam.Β As I understand it,* this talks about living and moving in the perfect space of just enough tension and just enough sweetness.

I decided to apply it to ice skating. Which muscles would I tense, I thought, to make this happen? OK, core muscles ON. What would I relax to make this happen? OK, mind OFF, fear OFF, tense shoulders OFF. Is that how? Will it work? I pushed off, getting further and further from the rail with every round. Oh… maybe… oh… yes!

 

It worked! Be free. Try it. It means you will be able to ice skate! I was so delighted.

I skated with abandon (maybe not elegance, but you can’t have everything) for the rest of the morning.

I did wipe out right at the end,* and slid across the ice in dramatic style. When I scrambled to my feet, that man from the beginning saluted me, chuckling. Cheeky man! I didn’t care though, and waved back. I wish I could go back tomorrow for another go.*

 

*Do correct me if I’m wrong. I’m not a yoga expert!
*Literally in the last minute, as I skated to the edge πŸ™‚
*But it is doubtful whether I’ll be able to even walk tomorrow, never mind skate.

 

Not my idea

We went to the forest to swing about on the high ropes adventure course in the treetops.

Can you guess, it wasn’t my idea. (!)

We’ve been once before, and the kids love it. They’re old enough for the proper course, and it definitely has an edge of danger. You’re on your own up there. Sure, Bear Grylls would eat it for breakfast*, but it’ll do for me. There were quite enough moments when I was pretty scared. You’re very high up, and you get up there by a rope ladder. And the trees move about in the wind in a way you don’t realise when you’re on the ground. And the platforms you stand on are VERY SMALL bits of wood, perched on the tree trunk.

And there’s only one way down.

I don’t mind you laughing at me (everyone else did!), so here’s a little video. Possibly grainy, but you’ll get the idea. This wasn’t the highest stage but it was a good one!

 

What you can’t see is HOW TERRIFYING IT WAS. And the way the rope had a lot of slack as you jumped off into the abyss. There was a l-o-n-g moment of freefall!

We had fun, and then, because it’s England, we had a picnic in the drizzle.

πŸ™‚

*Bear, if you are reading this, get me on your survival show. I dare you!
*If you subscribe by email, you won’t be able to see the video in your inbox. Just hop on over to my actual blog πŸ™‚

Want to see my fridge?

illustration of fridge door

 

Not something you get asked every day.

I don’t know why not, because if you think about it, a fridge door is so interesting. I always look at people’s fridges when I go to visit. You can find out a lot about a person from kistch magnets and shopping lists.

And that’s why if I have to go to a party where I don’t know anyone (please don’t make me, though I’m very good at it when I get there)*, I head straight for the kitchen.

Because if you’re stuck for something to say, you can always look at the fridge.

πŸ™‚

 

*And I *do* want to wear that gorgeous outfit again.

PS: Next week I’m away from my desk, mostly – entertaining the kids with a week of fun stuff. I’ll be answering emails, but if I’m working on things for you, I’m up to date so will be mostly eating cake. I’m sure writing a blog post or two will feature. See you soon. Trudi xx

PPS: This is a picture of my actual fridge. Don’t say I don’t spoil you.

On my desk today

mother and child photo

On my desk today, a gorgeous picture. Treasure.

In the 90s, you had to go to a photo booth in the shopping centre to get a selfie with your baby. You had to pick a time when the baby was awake, happy and not likely to cry, leave the pram outside, wind up the seat to the right height, squash in together, pull the curtain.

Feed in the coins. Hope the flash didn’t blind the child, try to smile. Stand for five minutes with the baby on your hip, waiting for the photo to print out.

I only did it once.

This is the result. It’s too precious for words!

And, this photo, years later, on my paint splattered desk, at the end of a day going to see about lovely new work, and writing and painting?

All the dreams I ever had, come true.

It’s amazing, and I’m grateful.

 

Losing you

I thought to write a blog post about young Felix turning 18, and starting off on holiday today with the boys – his first time abroad under his own steam. He’s paid his own way, organised the route, and saved up enough cash from babysitting jobs to have a healthy fund for beer.

They leave on an early flight tomorrow. I feel bereft. I know it’s just a holiday, but it feels like a milestone to me.

He’s a sensible chap, though he is very sociable and likes to have a good time,* so at this point, my Mother’s instinct has to shift focus from imagining all the high jinks thatΒ will could happen beyond my watchful eye.

I decided to get out the photo albums, and have a reminisce (or perhaps a little weep) at him as a baby.**

It’s a sort of loss, looking back.

Can I even remember it? How did I do it? What was life like with a baby? The physical memories of being around babies are largely gone, though I held a friend’s child recently and cried a little into her soft, downy hair, because the jolt of remembering was so strong.

And then I gave her back, ’cause she was drooling on my new top.

Look at his sweet face, and his cheeky grin! Look at his chubby fists and that one of him age 1, with a bucket on his head. How we laughed. Oh, and look at this one where he’s six weeks old, and weighs the same as Grandpa’s veg patch marrow. I’m holding the baby, and grinning, and Grandpa’s tenderly cradling the marrow. Too funny.

Ah, and look! Learning to walk, while we were in Bremen. So sweet.

Look at our lovely little house! It’s cute, toys everywhere, and a giant pram in the living room. Look at our tiny bedroom, painted in that weird misjudged green that was like being under the sea. That room was so small you had to turn sideways to get round the end of the bed. Look at how small the clothes are, hanging from the washing line – teeny baby clothes and bibs, strung up like bunting at a party.

And, is that really me, that girl who looks fifteen, in the baggy 90s fashion? Look at my hair! So dark, no grey at all. Look at my skin! I was like Snow White. Look at me with childbearing curves! Wow. Did I even know how good I looked? (Answer: categorically, no).

I don’t recognise my own self in those photos.

And you know why else?

Because I’m much more myself these days. More expressive. Less timid. More kickass. More take no nonsense. More confident. Free.

Maybe looking back is a gain, after all. Some things are best left behind.

Have a great time Felix!

xx

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We took him out last night to celebrate his birthday before he left. Here he is, with some Mum person, who’s had a cocktail.

 

*And quite right too!
**And, yes, I was also looking for a funny photo to embarrass him with on Facebook. I did find one. Be afraid, Felix πŸ™‚

Past caring

life drawing woman illustration

Drawn from life. A good way to escape.

 

I finally made it home with the heavy rucksack, in the 31 degree heat (it’s back!), after a convoluted logistical procedure*, swopping bags and waving daughter off on a school adventure weekend.

My t shirt was drenched in sweat. I held my wrists under the cold kitchen tap. Eldest son came in and started to tell me his social arrangements for the next 48 hours. It was a never-ending list of parties (pirate themed – rum will surely be involved), lunches, parks, girlfriends, packing for holidays, last minute get togethers, 18th birthday celebrations and flights to France.

My brain was starting to melt with all the information. I need a spreadsheet to retain all this stuff. I’ve had enough today of running this whole show solo. And it’s so hot, and teenagers are nocturnal, and I haven’t slept, not properly, for about two weeks.

All that OK? eldest son asked.

Yeah, I murmured, not really listening, moving to fridge, opening it.

Next son came in, same thing – his plan was days at the open air pool, hanging out on the South Bank**, fixing Meghan’s bike for her, the downhill mountain bike world cup on TV and some riding in the forest.

The fridge was cold, and nice. I reached in and held a bottle of wine cool against my cheek.

Did you get all that, Mummy?

Yeah, of course, sounds good, glancing at the clock – 4.30pm – what the heck, taking down a glass, pouring. It would be nice to be the one doing all the stuff, not just facilitating it. No cares in the world! No responsibilities! Yes, how nice it would be. And my purse has become a teenager’s ATM since the end of exams (a double dose of GCSEs and A levels – it’s been fairly hard work round here for months).***

What’s for tea?

I don’t know, just drag something out of the fridge, I said, drifting barefooted into the parched garden, glass – and bottle – in hand.

It’s Friday. I’m past caring.****

 

*Which would, of course, been easier if I could have driven it!
**What lucky kids they are. London is their playground.
***Though to be fair to them, they do a lot of paid babysitting jobs too.
****Cheers!


 

I know this picture doesn’t really match. You know what, I’m past caring! I did it on Monday at life drawing. It’s a bit like this other one, actually, which incidentally I also posted on a very hot day.Β Stay with me. I’m usually cooler than this πŸ™‚

 

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