It being our wedding anniversary – since you ask, thirty five years – well, quite: not even time off for good behaviour – anyway, in view of the day, we’d decided to use the voucher for afternoon tea given to me on my last birthday by our lovely friends, the Vestibules.
We’d booked to have the tea in one of the London hotels with a view to then doing something afterwards; a play or whatever. The hotel was on the edge of Hyde Park and the menu outside promised tea with sandwiches, cakes and ‘warm home-made scones’.
“One Roast-Chicken-Dinner-For-One,” says Mrs Jones.
“One Roast Chicken-Dinner-For-One,” says Clark-from-Sainsbury’s-telephone-ordering-service.
“Eight bananas,” says Mrs Jones. “As green as possible.”
Elizabeth popped up in my dreams last night; just as Hale and Hearty, Stuff and Nonsense as she was the week I started teaching in the adjoining classroom at Thrush Woods. Middle Infants – me, and she had Tops. We bonded a couple of days into my first week, when a passing ‘what are you doing with your lot this afternoon?’ revealed a shared love of Schools’ Television.
“The thing is, before I retired, I used to rush around on a Sunday trying to get everything done. But I’m finding now that I say ‘I’ll do this, that and the other tomorrow’ and do something else instead. Then whatever it was never gets done. Do you find that?”
It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that babies are a lot more fun when you’ve had a night’s sleep.
I’m yawning here just at the thought of those hours spent rocking the buggy, singing “my old man’s a dustman” to the tune of “girl from Ipanema.” Driving round the block in the early hours, hoping in vain that there won’t be cries as soon as the engine’s turned off. Arriving at work on autopilot only to discover that not only is YoungLochinvar still in his child seat (forgotten to drop him off at Ma’s) but also that, in the early morning rush, I’ve failed to shut the front door (concerned neighbour, police visit). How does anyone survive early parenthood? Nightmare.
“It’s Mrs Jellywoman, isn’t it?”
I am at the gym (thanks for all the helpful hints – so far, so good), face to face with a jolly woman, probably in her mid-sixties. Though she might be ninety-eight but really, really benefiting from regular work-outs. She does look familiar but I can’t quite place her. I’m vaguely thinking Jacob’s nan; Jacob, whose suggestion for a word containing the ‘ee’ sound was “weed – like what you smoke.” Maybe, maybe not…
I wasn’t put to the piano as a child. Refused the offer of lessons, apparently: as good a reason as any to invent time travel. But I’d really like to be able to play and, to quote Bro-In-Law – a man of infinite resource and sagacity – when someone asked him why he’d just taken up learning Gypsy Jazz Guitar, “I decided not to wait until I was younger.”
I did sort of start learning about twenty years ago but, what with teaching full-time and having two children, practice never seemed to reach the top of the To-Do list. So the enterprise was shelved, pending retirement. Which is Now.
We are discussing a comprehension paper on ‘Discoveries’, Class Six and I. One of the Gentleman Scientists discussed (and they are all gentleman, alas) was Alexander Graham Bell. I happen to know everything about the telephone, having read a couple of paragraphs on the subject once in a Bill Bryson book. So I share with the class my favourite fact, namely that, until Alexander’s friend Mr Watson invented the telephone bell some years later, the only way to know if someone was telephoning you was to pick up the receiver and check if they were on the other end.
One of the lassies frowns and raises her hand. “Even if it didn’t ring, you’d know someone was calling because the phone would vibrate,” she suggests. There is general agreement, swiftly followed by mild astonishment when I explained that the original phone neither rung nor vibrated. I didn’t break it to them that it didn’t take photos either: humankind cannot bear very much reality.
Concert tickets bought on a whim – cheapest available – from a street vendor dressed in C18th garb (think Amadeus) – are never going to be the best seats in the house. Before setting off in our glad rags, however, I do check online to discover with some relief that the opera house does indeed exist, that we have paid the going price and, moreover, the concert is almost a sell- out. Continue reading →
For about two hours today I really, really wanted to come home.
We’ve stayed in six different places so far on our tour: all booked through AirBnB (which should really be called just AirB, as there’s no breakfast involved, but I guess it doesn’t roll off the tongue so well.) There’s been a complete range, from the young couple in Cologne who sleep on their sofa so they can put up guests in their bedroom to the Salzberg apartment we left this morning, where we basically had our own Alpine cottage.
Without exception, we’ve been made to feel very welcome. When the owner lives in the rest of the house, they’ve greeted us warmly, chatted about the city and their jobs, recommended places to go and restaurants and then left us alone unless we asked for help. In the couple of cases where the owners have not been at home, they’ve arranged for some one to let us in and there have been notes waiting for us. We’ve been left maps, guide-books, useful information. In the case of our lovely Alpine cottage, Beate had also left two small bottles of prosecco in the fridge and chocolates on our pillows! Every new place has felt like a treat.
Vienna is by far the biggest place on our Grand Tour and perhaps people are by nature not so friendly. We have an apartment booked for three nights. The owner had sent a message to say she’d be at work when we arrived and she’d arranged for someone to let us in and give us the key. She gave us directions from the station and we found the place easily enough: no tethered goats or triumphal arches to confuse us.
The apartment is in a functional gated block. We rang the intercom and Aforesaid Friend came down to let us in. Perhaps he’s always a low-key kind of cove; perhaps he was having a bad day. We trailed behind him to the flat – well, basically a bedsit room. He vaguely showed us around then, as he left, said that if any of the neighbours spoke to us, not to mention AirBnB.
So, either the owner is not supposed to sublet, or there have been issues in the past with tenants or – well, who knows? But the effect was to make us feel unwanted, uneasy, uncomfortable. There are no welcoming notes, helpful hints or personal touches. Perhaps we’ve just been spoilt up to now.
The apartment is clean enough but felt musty and stale. And then I really, really wanted to go home. Who needs Vienna? It means nothing to me.
Anyway, we walked around the neighbourhood a while, bought some flowers and a scented candle to make the room feel more cheerful.
We discovered a wool shop and a book shop: not that I need either but good to know they are there in an emergency. And there are some rather dashing buildings round the corner.
We came back to the room, had a cup of tea and watched Bake Off. All well and tomorrow we explore Vienna. Now going to practise some waltzes.