“It’s my mum’s anniversary today,” Violet yells above the playground buzz.
“That’s lovely, Violet.”
“She’s been married eight years. I wasn’t even born then!” There’s a gasp of amazement from the giggle of girls around her, which swiftly moves into a conversation about frocks worn at various parents’ weddings.
Jan 1st Had party at home. Went to Grandad’s.
Jan 2nd LittleSis lost piece of spirograph. No. 42 ring. Made bed. Payed Coal Bill. Went to Town.
Jan 3rd Found ring 42. Lost magnet pencil of International Spy.
London at the height of the Swinging Sixties. Still whistling World Cup Willie, we hunker down for the winter before the Summer of Love. It’s all there in the heady entries of my 1967 Letts School-girls Diary; unearthed this morning from the loft as we haul up yet more of YoungLochinvar’s goods and chattels.
It’s a quarter to three. There’s no-one in the place except ActorLaddie and me. And Willow. ActorLaddie is curled up peacefully; dreaming, I expect, of livery companies. Don’t ask. Really, don’t ask. Willow, at a guess, is investigating the strange oval shape which has recently appeared on the lawn. I am lying on my back, hoping for a car to drive past and counting my blessings. One – ActorLaddie.
The truth is, my anonymous blog is mostly onymous. My family, colleagues and other mates know my secret identity: largely because I’ve told them. In general, I’m pretty rubbish at keeping secrets. No strength of character. Expose me to a child learning the violin and in no time at all, I’ll tell you where the priests are hiding.
Bro-in-Law is a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity.
Case in point. Narrow tow path; big bouncy dog. LegoBoy’s bike, lying on canal bed. LegoBoy safe, having splashed his way to the side but the bike has seen better days.
“Well,” says Bro-in-Law, “if we leave it there, it will be a disaster. If we rescue it, it will be an adventure.” So he strips down to his Prince Harry’s, sploshes into the canal and rescues the bike. Tidy.
Sunday evening, autumn, 1966. Muddy paws stretched out, Sheina basks in front of the glowing coals, whimpering through memories of an afternoon chasing squirrels in the woods. LittleSis gurgles, propped up on cushions between Ma and Pa. LittleBro and Action Man are busy conquering the Universe with a fresh haul of conkers. And the Andy Williams Show is just coming to an end. The Cookie Monster has gone back to its lair. Andy turns to us and starts crooning:
“May each day in your week be a good one…”
The horror, the horror! My spirits plummet with the reminder that tomorrow is Monday. My throat is already tightening with stress. It’s all very well for him, I think bitterly, talking of each day being a good one. He is not going to have to face Miss Offord’s sewing lesson tomorrow afternoon.
“I’ll get it.” ActorLaddie dons dressing gown and slippers and shimmers off in search of the phone. Bally handset’s gone missing again. Has anyone ever thought of attaching it to the base by an extendable cord? Could be a winner, I think. Must mention it to ActorLaddie when he comes back. Show him that it’s not just fish-eaters who have brains.
LittleSis and Bro-in-law had just moved into their new house when the phone went.
“I know you’re in,” said Ma. “I can see you moving.”
In case you’re thinking that I’m from a long line of mystics (I knew you were), perhaps I should explain that LittleSis’s new house backed onto Ma and Pa’s place. Ma could walk down her garden, across the alley, into LittleSis’s garden straight to the back door. She often did, in fact. As Bro-in-law said, having seen the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding “That is so my life.” We’re not actually Greek. But we do Family.
“So where is the audiology department, Ma?” I ask, turning the car into the hospital driveway. Answer comes there none so I try again – at volume. “Where am I going, Ma?” By now I’m shouting. “Where’s audiology?” Still no reponse. I seem to have slipped into an episode of Fawlty Towers. I start to laugh and Ma frowns.
“What’s funny? Why are you laughing?”
I approve of 2013.
In our neck of the woods, at least, 2012 lacked a certain something. It started with Pa’s eye exploding, followed in the spring by GrannieBorders being whipped into hospital with weeping legs.
She’s quite a lass is GrannieBorders. Paralysed with polio in Coronation year, she brought up ActorLaddie and his older but irritatingly hairier brother from her wheelchair, while GrandadBorders worked as the most civil of servants. Family legend has it that she once burnt out the engine of her disability trike seeing how fast she could drive it to Worthing.