Sunday, 22 May 2011


For reasons which will become apparent all too soon, I have, unexpectedly, found myself with a bit of time on my hands. It is a double edged sword. I am now available at all hours to pour oil over troubled waters. This has meant that I have been more visible to my family and able to be there for various crises, which, when you have a large brood, happens daily to one or another of them.
Hubby as loyal subject and employee of her Majesty and acutely aware that his wife is now once again ensconced in the home can not, I guess it is fair to say, be called upon to talk to primary school teachers at 8.30 in the morning to discuss that bloody legendary King, Arthur and why it is that I have found my best Sabatier knives plunged into bits of rock and earth in the garden as my youngest decides she wants to re-enact ‘The Sword in Stone’. This will account for the dog’s mortified expression and reluctance to play as he is made to wear a wizard’s hat and draped in a towel “for a cloak, because he is Merlin”. Neither does Hubby need to have tricky conversations with Heads of sixth forms, who call in grave voices to let you know that ‘A’ level course work, “despite promises”, has yet to be handed in. It is my place to apologise and to placate them and to renew promises that essays will be handed in poste haste and beg them not to let whatever child it might be, fail. I am acutely aware of the nightmare it is for teachers at this time of year having to spend more than half their time chasing their students to make sure they hand in outstanding work before the deadlines set by the exam boards. Simultaneously attempting to quell my fury at errant teenagers, who have been very opportunity to be far better organised, I replace the receiver and, using my best text language, communicate to the teenager in question, my wrath.
Anyway, having dealt with the above and driven back and fore to Bristol Airport to retrieve my eldest daughter, I awoke on Tuesday morning feeling rather blue. Recent events have made it hard to feel motivated to do anything other than the usual domestic drudgery and because of it, the Black Dog has returned to plague me with his persistent barking. Luckily I can read the signs these days and for now he is metaphorically chained up in the garden, where although he can get on my nerves, he is at least far enough away to do too much damage.
I was washing up a few dishes and staring aimlessly out of the kitchen window, when the door-bell rang. Wiping my hands on a tea towel, I went to answer it. It was Mags, smiling, very hard.
“Do that much longer and you’ll get rictus”, I said.
“I was just trying to jolly you along”, she replied still beaming and thrusting a present into my hand.
“What’s this?” I asked, squeezing it.
“A bloody football”, she replied, “What on earth do you think it is?”
“A book?”
“Bravo. Well, open it then”, she said urging me along by undoing a square of wrapping paper.
It was a copy of Ruth Saberton’s new novel, ‘Ellie Andrews Gets Second Thoughts’.
“It only came out today”, continued Mags, “and I thought, seeing as you knew her, you’d like to read it. I ordered it from Amazon”. Dearest Mags, she was trying very hard to be bubbly and elicit some enthusiasm from me.
“Thank-you”, I said, “That was really thoughtful. I’ll read it soon” and I put the book on the sofa beside me.
“You will not read it soon, you will read it now. Take some time out, go for a drive somewhere, pull over and relish every sentence”.
“Ok, I will”. Mags wasn’t convinced that I would, and neither, believe me, was I.
“C’mon Alice, you must pull yourself out of this. Things will be sorted out, you’ll see. In the meantime, you have got to stick your chin out, throw your shoulders back, whistle a happy tune and just get on with it”. I smiled, you had to admire her tenacity.
“That’s more like it”, she said, giving me a hug, “Now, the sun is shining and you have petrol in your tank. Here are your sunglasses, car keys, your handbag and ‘Ellie Andrews’. Go and find sanctuary somewhere and not too far away”. I was ushered through the door before I could, with Garbo-esque style utter, “I vant to be alone”.
The next minute I was sitting in my car and the engine was running. Where to go? Fifteen minutes later and I was in the lounge of The Cawsand Bay Hotel. The manager Dan is new, but our friendship is old and he was very attentive, making sure that I had everything I needed.
“Coffee”, he said, putting a steaming cup next to me on a squishy sofa overlooking the bay. I sighed and pulled out my new book from my bag. An hour later I lifted my head. The sun was dancing on the little waves that were gently flopping onto the sand, the Ferry had arrived and instead of tourists tripping off it, fishermen with lobster pots jumped onto the sand. It was an idyllic scene and the book was everything you need when trying to escape your own mind. It is very funny and I found myself laughing out loud. Dear old Ruth, if her characters are anything to go by, she’s had as many scrapes as I have.
After another hour of idling the day away drinking coffee, reading chicklit and watching the sea, I felt renewed and as buoyed as the little red balls out in the bay.
There was no need to write an SOS in the sand after all. Mags, Ruth and Dan had saved my soul.


Alice Band said...

Has everybody abandoned me? It's very lonely.

DL said...

Hi AB,

So sorry for my recent silence. I've now just un-abandoned you and caught up with several weeks' worth all at once.

Mags is right. Keep smiling through it all, and you'll be the winner in the end.

S says Hi

Best wishes,
D. x