Friday, November 28, 2008

A new day

Grieving is different, this time around. Some days I wake up gloomy and continue like that till teatime, with occasional half hour interludes of laughter. Some days I wake up happy. Some days I think I'm fine and then fall into the depths again.

Right now I'm sitting in bed with my brand new laptop and feeling great. Our wonderful IT man delivered it yesterday. He was amused that I gave a delighted yelp when I saw it, not because of its blah blah processor or its billions of GB of Ram but because it is SILVER.

He then spent the afternoon setting it up and drinking tea and eating parkin. I was pleased he liked parkin, because Dave has made another batch, and neither he nor I can afford to keep eating it. Thinking about my mother such a lot has made us remember Dave's Mum and the sure fire way to bring her back into the house is to bake some parkin. Maybe we should offer signed copies of Zuzu's Petals with a free piece of parkin in a packet.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I woke up at five this morning feeling sorry for myself. My mother is dead, and I don't want my mother to be dead. I don't want to drive up to her house on Saturday knowing she won't be there to welcome me. I don't want to empty her cupboards.

I felt like having a tantrum, and then I started surfing. I looked at a couple of blogs, and then I checked my Firefox Bookmarks and looked one up I haven't been to recently. I read a few quotes and it made me feel more positive. Rock on, Henry David Thoreau. (Click here if you want to be inspired.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Past it

Have you heard that trailer on Radio 4 for a brand new comedy programme?

"Now available - new improved high speed Stannah Stairlift - gets you upstairs before you've forgotten what you went for!"


We went to see Ralph McTell last night at the Buxton Opera House. We booked back in April. It's a thing unheard of in this house to book something so far ahead, and as the day got closer we worried that we would forget to go and we'd wake up this morning and remember where we should have been last night. This is despite the fact that it was inscribed in both our diaries in red felt tip and the tickets were clipped to the kitchen calendar. At the weekend we asked the Californian wing of the family to give us a reminder call. We also printed out large notices and pinned them all round the house.

Thankfully the ruses worked and we got to Buxton. The audience were terrifyingly geriatric: did we look as ropey and as past it as most of them? Surely not...

As someone not a million miles away from me said "People throw knickers at Tom Jones, but at Ralph McTell they throw anti-macassars."

Ralph McTell was great - as always - but even his fingers weren't so nifty on the fretboard, and even he couldn't reach the high notes any more. OK, we're older than we were when we first saw him in 1969, but does that mean he has to be older, too?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Is Zuzu's Petals chick-lit?

Here is the opinion of Peter Robins of The Daily Telegraph. Click here to read it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Being bereaved is like being a walking wound. Every part of you is tender. You can't settle to anything because nothing feels comfortable. Sometimes you forget you're a wound and you become absorbed by something outside yourself - like cutting back the autumn garden, sweeping up the leaves, watching three hundred crows wheeling over the field at the back of the house.

Sometimes you go to a familiar place and chat to a friend and forget you're a wound, and you laugh out loud at a shared joke and you think to yourself "I can do this. I can live wthout my mother and still be happy." And then you leave your friend and walk down the street and you're a wound again. I will know I am healed, I suppose, when all the happy interludes join up and there are no aching times in between. And it is getting better every day.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Parkin (see page 48 of Zuzu's Petals)

Dave made parkin this week. Parkin is delicious at every stage of making. Sadly, by the time I came down to the kitchen and realised what was going on, the parkin was already in the oven and he had licked the bowl. This is what remains after family ravaging. It's just like the parkin his mother used to make, complete with the top "that looks like an acned face that's been lightly Ronsealed."


8ozs medium oatmeal

8ozs self raising flour

8ozs butter or margarine

8ozs golden syrup

8ozs soft brown sugar

2 teaspoons ginger

2 eggs

one quarter of a pint of milk

Line and grease a rectangular baking tin, about 12 inches by 8 inches.

Beat the milk and the eggs together.

Melt sugar, syrup, and butter in a saucepan.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl.

Now pour the melted stuff into the bowl and mix, and then add the eggs and milk and mix.

Bake in a moderate oven (160C) for an hour and a quarter.

I showed Dave the photo and he said "What a shame it doesn't show my stained glass." So below is a picture of the kitchen that does show the lovely glass.

My mother always said...

that children should face their mothers when they are riding in push-chairs. See this report. Somewhere she will be saying "I could have told them that - why did they bother to pay for research?"

What worries me more is the number of people pushing buggies who ignore their child completely because they are texting or talking on their mobile phones.

OK. Early morning rant is over now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The face of grief

People I don't know are being especially kind to me. On Monday I went to the photo shop to get a print of a photo of my mother, and the girl in there, who is usually briskness personified - but not unpleasantly so - was patient and kind.

Today I went to see a cabinet maker who was exactly like a grey-haired Chippy Minton in Trumpton, and he too seemed to sense I needed gentle handling. When I got home I asked Dave if there was something about my face at the moment that makes me look sad.

Dave - who has been kindness, softness, patience and love, all rolled up in a parcel - said "Yes."

"What does it look like, then?" I said.

"It looks like a pumpkin the day after Hallowe'en."


"All right, it looks like something that NASA would orbit, looking for water."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


We got the obituary down to 500 words and could cut it no further. But the editor liked it, so maybe he'll keep his red pen in his pocket. He even said of my mother "She was quite a lady."

Yes, she was. She was quite a lady.

When the obituary is published I will post a link.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How many words do you need?

Yesterday morning, Dave and I attempted to write my mother's obituary. It was 720 words long and our best first attempt to capture my mother's life in words. I emailed it to my brothers and sisters for comments. Suggested additions flew in through cyberspace throughout the day - all good, all valid. We were up to 757 words, but more were required.

Hmm, I thought, I'd better email the family journalist and find out how many words he wants. The answer was 400.

How can we do it? How can you give thanks for someone's life in a memorial service of 45 minutes? How can you tell the world how wonderful your mother was in 400 words? Do I feel another book coming on?

My mother is 6th from the left. She was 85 at the time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


There are so many things I can't tell you on this blog. For example, the week before I went to stay in San Francisco, I was frantically finishing a patchwork quilt which I'd promised to my Californian family. (They read my blog and I didn't want them to know.) This is the quilt. I managed to finish it in time and take it over, but I didn't have time to embroider my name and the date on the back for posterity. A forensics expert would know I made it, though. There's no sweat or tears on the fabric but there are pinpricks of blood when my fingers wore through after a day of handsewing, right at the end.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Virol, anyone?

It's been an emotionally draining week, and my big sister has just walked in the room and said that what we all need is some strengthening medicine. I used to have malt extract when I was little - the same stuff that Kanga gave to Roo in Winnie the Pooh. The brand name was Virol. Can you still get it?