Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for the ‘Dear Diary’ Category

Dear Diary…

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

The continuing saga of my incredibly exciting diary.

Monday:  The heatwave continues here in Somerset.  We continue to say things to each other and anyone we meet such as: ‘My goodness!  It’s like being Abroad, isn’t it?’ And:  ‘Well, isn’t it hard now to imagine all that snow we had a few months ago?’  I continue to assert that I Like Hot Weather.

I attend the gym for Monday evening torture which is Spin (static cycling, bearing as much resemblance to real cycling as Donald Trump does to a President.    Or a human being.  More on D Trump later).  This is followed by an hour of Body Pump.  Despite the air conditioning am instantly transformed into my alter-ego, Sweat Woman, whose superpower appears to be making lakes of salty water out of very little effort.  I literally only have to lift a hand-weight off its cradle and walk across the studio with it in order to erupt into a human fountain of most unattractive sweat.  Interested in discovery, made for the one thousandth time, that I sweat most profusely from my inner-elbows and the back of my head. Would dearly like to ask other participants about their hot-spots but fear this may be misinterpreted.  Observe that 90% of participants are not even glowing.

Turn thoughts to dinner but am distracted by the pain in my back caused by the new gym top I have bought and am wearing for the first time.  It has a solid front section but the back is what they call ‘crochet’ – in fact a series of knots, making the back totally see-through and rather pretty.  Model was shown wearing improbably tiny crop-top bra thing under this but I, of course, wear a full singlet.  On lying down on my bench in order to participate in chest track, I am completely overcome by the sharp pain each knot causes me to experience, worsened by the addition of a few extra kilograms of weights. Thus spend entire track wriggling about on my bench as I try to ease the growing discomfort.  In the end I sit up and pull the back up to my neck, causing Lily to roll eyes almost totally round and out of her head in manner of horror film effect.

Leave modestly air conditioned gym and almost faint from heatwave that hits me as I stagger to my non-air conditioned car.

Tuesday:  Am dressed in shorts and tee-shirt for gardening in Continuing Heat Wave when Very Exciting Parcel arrives.  A favourite website of mine has been having a sale; and a coat which I desired most fervently last winter had been reduced – so I ordered it.  Courier has no sooner swung out of the garden, when I rip the parcel open and try on the coat.  It is a knee-length Parka style padded coat – very padded, like a duvet.  It also has – and this is the best bit – a HUGE hood that is fully (fake) fur lined and also has a great big Hollywood style (fake) fur trim all round.  I zip the coat up to my neck and with bare legs and flip flops, pirouette around the garden in manner of Judy Garland, skating in Meet Me In St Louis.   This admittedly very warm modelling assignment is interrupted by sudden entrance into garden of Post Man.  Current Post Man is almost entirely silent at best of times but with 2 years of nurture I have coaxed Silent Post Man from furtive head-down nods to occasional monosyllabic exchange of ‘right?’ Which is returned with a grudging ‘arr’.  As SPM swiftly takes in the scene and wordlessly extends post to me on the path, I realise that all this work has been undone in one unfortunate encounter.

Wednesday:  I set off to travel to Scotland.  I am going there with a colleague to do some work.  In the face of prolonged and energetic resistance from me, Colleague has insisted that we will ‘let the train take the strain’ as it is put to me, instantly recalling highly misleading 1980s British Rail media ads.  Tell Colleague that, as a very experienced train traveller, I know this is huge mistake; reinforce this with true anecdotes about how, when a complex train journey Goes Wrong, it always has the capacity to transform itself into a gigantic clusterfuck.  Urge colleague, whose idea of Public Transport is limited to Business Class air travel and fond memories of the old red London buses when he was small and more – um – tolerant, that he will not like it and may not like the inevitable interaction with other people.  I do not prevail.  So, I set off to drive to the Midlands, meet Colleague, and set off on a 3-train, 2-taxi journey to the west coast of Scotland.

Journey begins well, with train being on time.  We even have some friendly interaction with an American family who are from Chicago and are, completely inexplicably, including Llandudno in North Wales in their itinerary.  The family consists of fairly elderly grandparents and two really cheerful teenage girls. They have (perfectly rational) fear and mistrust of the railways in the UK but we reassure them that they are on the Right Platform, as they must change at Crew.  As they prepare to board the train, with their giant set of luggage, I feel utmost pity for them.  At least all they will see of Crew will be the sullen railway station (Brief Encounter it is not) but really, Llandudno?  I ask them why? Why Llandudno? Their reasons – family related – seem to me to be too flimsy to support this diversion from London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Edinburgh, Dublin and Paris.  My reservations – and Colleague’s utter silence on topic of Llandudno – penetrate their awareness. They ask us if we know Llandudno well.  Colleague, who confines personal travel to Global Exotic Locations, has naturally never been there and thus does not break monastic stance, but I again most naturally, have.  Is it lovely?  I murmur ‘…Well…The Great Orm…?’ and have vivid flashback of last trip to Llandudno, conducted entirely in thin but penetrating drizzle of the kind that North Wales does so well in August…Realise that they now think The Great Orm is a huge native bird.  Happily we part to find our booked seats.

Can see that Colleague thinks all my warnings were mere female hysteria and baseless.  He thinks this as he has booked us First Class seats.  If I travelled First Class, which I never do, maybe I too would be more enthusiastic about trains.  We are plied with free things, mainly water for me, and we arrive in Glasgow almost on time after 4.5 hours. I have knitted most of a mitten and listened to a very good portion of current audio-book.  Glasgow, like the rest of the UK, is glorying in Continuing Heat Wave.  It turns out that the railways station is basically a giant greenhouse and Colleague seeks non-existent shade or preferably air-conditioned lounge.  Continuing Heat Wave has had a very unfortunate impact on Scottish railway network, it being even more unaccustomed to  warm weather than we are in Somerset.  The rails have all buckled and made the points stop working.  This is, at least, the gist, as far as I can tell from the hilarious interaction that I witness (from a safe distance) between Colleague who could easily have been the first Radio Announcer for the BBC, and Glaswegian station man.  At length he establishes that the trains are shagged. I begin my ‘told you so’ comments with a murmured pianissimo introduction which will escalate to fortissimo crescendo by following day.

Encourage Colleague to sprint for train to Ayr.  Ignore his complaint that ‘it is a stopper’ and urge him to join me as it is the only train that appears to be leaving for The West.  I am getting on anyway.  First Class options have, of course, no further place this being A Stopper.  Wrestle with conflicting emotions.  On one hand, am delighted that this late train with no air conditioning and which will stop at eleventy-nine places, is also populated with 100s of hot commuters and also vast extended family (3 adult woman, at least 8 children and infants), all in full voice, thus proving me Right.  On the other hand, I am also having to endure the journey.  The heat has understandably taxed the patience of all the children and their carers.  A chorus of alternate shrieks and screams clearly tests patience of Colleague to the very limits of its endurance.  Insert head-phones and close eyes.  Navigate Colleague through final and lengthy stage of train journey for the day as we gaily board the train to Girvan.  I consume improbably huge quantity of cold sausage and chopped up raw veggies, which is my favourite train picnic.  I do this despite knowing I will (if we ever arrive) be given excellent dinner by Client in a few short hours, but neither this knowledge, or the frank displeasure of Colleague, or the open staring of fellow travellers can divert me from eating in manner of starving prisoner, just released.

Query with Colleague which manner of onward transportation he has arranged from Girvan station to hotel, this journey being All His Doing.  He is confident of cab rank.  I am confident, as veteran of many rural stations all over the UK, that this will not exist.  Wonder, as we emerge from hot train onto bloody boiling station at Girvan, to learn that there is no cab rank, if ‘Me Being Right’ will ever lose its shine.  Answer:  no, never.   Summon taxi via Google and iPhone in which neither Tom (of Tom’s Taxis; I personally think the plural is probably anticipatory, but do not say so to Tom) or I really understand each other but he does understand Trump Turnberry Hotel and Girvan Railway Station, and I understand Five Minutes, aye?  I await taxi in shade across the road as Colleague rattles locked front door of apparently abandoned railway station.

Arrive, 2 hours late, at Trump Turnberry Hotel.  Beauty of the west coast of Scotland – or at least, this bit of it, is undeniable.  I have now been travelling for 11 hours.  A flight, plus drive to airport and from airport to hotel would have been more like 4.5.  I am, as ever, Right.  This is of no comfort as it does nothing to ease my fatigue.  Spend very enjoyable and informative evening, and all of following morning with Client which is holding meetings at the hotel.

Take many photos of the Trump Hotel and also interrogate staff about POTUS and his role at this hotel.  Corporate memo has clearly been received and understood by all staff, who think Donald is A Good Thing for the hotel and that his son is Lovely.  The building is lovely, the location is unbelievably beautiful, despite being marred by Golf Course, but the addition of Trump Trademark giant fountains where water erupts from all the usual and also some very unexpected orifices or outlets, and a lot of gold decor does strike an odd note.  However, it is the nicest hotel room I have ever stayed in, and it is a bazillion (Trump terminology) times nicer than the last hotel I stayed in, chosen by Colleague. Also, the food was absolutely delicious, though I was unable to do proper justice to Posh Dinner being still very full of cold sausage and veggies, horsed down on last leg of travel.

Thursday:  after very productive meeting with Client, we depart and anticipate enjoying all the delights of the previous day, only backwards and with no cold sausages.  I intervene and get rid of the Girvan to Ayr bit by insisting on taxi.  Continuing Heat Wave has continued to modify the railway tracks and though our train is not cancelled, the previous one and several others are, thus making our train Very Busy.  Hilariously, the train operator, quite rightly in my view, suspends the classification of the train (i.e., anyone can sit anywhere) so the anticipated benefits of First Class are somewhat diluted.  Train is tortuously slow.  We arrive in Birmingham about 1.5 hours late.  I drive home, in state of relieved bliss, but am so ravenously hungry, I almost give in to overpowering desire to order and eat 3 Burger King Whoppers (or whatever).  Do not do so as believe this is favoured dinner of POTUS.  And look what that did for him.

Friday:  lie down a lot.  Doze at times and wonder if past 22 + hours spent driving, on trains and in taxis, with just a few hours in a Trump hotel in between, was just a dream.  Discovery of last cold sausage in lower regions of handbag indicates that it was real.  Discard sausage but regret that I did not find it the evening before on drive home.

 

Musings: My Diary (if I wrote one) from a week or so ago…

Monday, June 11th, 2018

Monday:  exciting news today is that it is time to take Rupert for a check up at the vets.  This means, as I have a special needs dog in the form of Arthur, who cannot be left alone unless Rupert is also there, that we all have to go.  I have decided today is the day to have The Talk with the vet.  Roo is fine, he is really well actually so it is a good day to talk to LV (lovely vet) about The End Game Plan.  Rehearse calm conversation about how I would like this to go.  Naturally, having completely composed myself on the drive in, I instantly dissolve into tears before I have even one full sentence out of my mouth.  Distressing interlude begins for all of us as Arthur begins to whine, Roo begins to yip and LV goes out to get tissues for me.  LV fills in gap in my conversation – me being reduced now to wet sniffs and gulps instead of words – with a cheerful discourse on Losing A Much Loved Pet.  Decide to abandon The Talk until another time.  Arthur wees on the floor. Know how he feels…

Tuesday:  appointment book reveals that I have an appointment at the dental hygienist.  My old hygienist has left and so I have a new one.  Becoming less afraid of dentist was really only achieved by previous hygienist being angelically nice to me and I have had a good 2 years.  Tell literally everyone I meet today that I am Very Nervous.  Receptionist glances at colleague, decides I am probably harmless and indicates a chair in the waiting area as far from her as is possible.  I sit and read about spiral knitting.

Steve (new hygienist) has 2 or 3 goes at alerting me to my appointment and eventually the old man sitting next to me digs me sharply in the arm and demands to know if I am Alison.  I admit it, and then Steve gently leads me into the office.  S asks if there have been any changes since my last appointment.  I tell him I have become, once again, overcome with Dentist Nerves. As angelically nice woman has left.  Steve listens, and then asks me if any dental or medical changes have occurred.  I tell him I have given up drinking fizzy water to which I believe I had become addicted.  Steve agrees that this is Wise and pops out for a moment.  Nurse enters.  I tell her I am Very Nervous and that I wish my other hygienist had not left.  Steve comes back in.  Nurse tells him that I am Very Nervous.  Steve nods, maybe a little wearily, and then coats the entire interior of my mouth with a thick gel or paste, rubbing it firmly into my gums especially.  This is a first and I try (but fail) to say so, my mouth being full of his hand and also a lot of paste.  Instead I gag on his finger but happily am not actually sick, I just urge a lot and my eyes completely fill with tears.  I decide to close my eyes and think of a Fairisle chart.  Procedure is totally painless.  Am unsure if this is the paste, or the skill of the hygienist.  Am blissfully grateful and happy!  Thank S and nurse in manner of Academy Award winner, and float into reception to make next appointment.  Rave to receptionist about how Great S is.  Skip back to car, bestowing smiles and cheerful mini-waves to all I pass.  Achieve car, and look in mirror.  Startled and disappointed to see that tiny coat of mascara I applied earlier is now all over cheeks and temples, in improbably huge dried-up rivers of coal-like stains, probably due to the gagging.  Drive home in dark glasses.

Thursday:  finally complete The Allotment at Home Project.  Last delivery of gravel has been dumped, the last lining is down.  Gravel Man and I say farewell, for ever…Immediately begin agony of indecision re old allotment.  Now is the moment to go one last time, empty the shed and never go back.  Instead of following this plan – which has been widely shared and agreed with many interested parties – I sow seeds for things I have no room for, here. Also, pot on squash and spinach.  Reflect that I could just keep it for another year.  Rule – which is flagrantly dismissed by several plot holders, I note – that 75% of the plot must be under productive cultivation is a problem as I am now only growing garlic, rhubarb and raspberries.  Wonder if planting a few stands of beans and half a dozen mystery squash will suffice. Family express strongly held view that I have got an allotment here now and I cannot reasonably keep the other. Continue to sow beans…

Friday:  attend the gym for usual classes.  I am very early so I decide to cast on a Moebius.  This witchcraft further sets me aside from the demographic and I regret getting out knitting  – or at least think in future I will knit only ‘normal’ things in gym foyer.  Put knitting away and instead attend to some admin on my phone. Lovely Retailer (LR) with whom I have worked for many years, is retiring and I have been asked to offer some autumn teaching dates for the New Lovely Retailer (NLR) who has bought the shop. LR asks for Brioche. Having sworn never to teach this wretched subject again, and indeed, having firmly refused several times in last year, I inexplicably give in and say Yes.  But only In The Round.  Instantly regret this but have sent email so too late.  Spend entirety of classes thinking about Bloody Brioche.  Find, part way through Spin, that I am standing up and have been for ages whist rest of class is toiling in seated climb.  This lapse due to finding that, mentally at least, I have no idea how to knit Brioche any more.  Entire knowledge of it has fled.   Assume this is self defence.  Hope it will somehow, magically, be restored once I try and do it.

Try to wrench mind away from BB in the torture that is BLT class.  In the end, compromise thus:  I make a bargain with myself (or the devil, unclear on this matter) that IF I can hold the pose we have been contorted into – which in my opinion leaves me with one hand too few on the floor, but anyway – for the duration of the 10,000 leg raises, on each side, without putting my hand down or stopping, Bloody Brioche will be unparalleled success.  I do hold the pose but sadly catch glimpse of self in mirror and am horrified to observe demented expression and mad hair.  That’s Brioche for you.  Do come.

Go home and eat chips.

Saturday:  receive text from Lily who is euphoric about the completion date on the house she and Jack are buying in Bridgwater. And this has just been confirmed.  Text back with equally euphoric reply.  Which is entirely false as this news, looming as it has been for so long, is in fact most unwelcome.  Try to tell myself this is Good (I know), and Normal (yes, yes), and that others Have It Far Worse (yes, I suppose so but do not care in the least and if we were all honest, we’d say the same). Yet, day clouded with terrible self-pity about this year being the first for 29 years when I will not have 1 or 2 children living at home. Am disappointed that I am not, after all, that paragon of motherhood who wishes nothing more than for her off-spring to leave; mainly because it is Good and Normal, and also because she is about to join the local symphony orchestra on a good-will tour of Middle East, so timing could not be better.  No.  I am not that woman.  I don’t even really like going to Taunton.  Decide to keep allotment.  That evening, try to think about Blessings.  For example, M and I will have so much more quality time.  Glance at M, asleep behind the Telegraph which he believes confers properties of invisibility.  Cast on Bloody Brioche.

 

 

Dear Diary

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Do you keep a diary? I mean a record of your days, rather than an appointment book?

I don’t, but I have tried to in the past, with very limited success.  Like (I think) all school girls, I used to start a diary every January and confide my thoughts to it.  These usually seemed to consist of lists of food I had eaten.  The agony of ‘crushes’ on boys sometimes got a mention, along the lines of:  ‘AB at rehearsals today.  He didn’t speak to me, as usual.’  And:  ‘Have just heard that AB is going out with Janet P!!!!  How can he???  Went to the pictures with Ann.  Ate a whole family sized bag of Revels.  Why coffee Revels??? Ate them anyway.’

One entry reads: ‘Had my hair permed today!!! It’s not what I expected.  Is in fact ginger frizz now. I look even more awful than usual and obviously cannot go to school.  Wonder if Mum will let me stay at home until it is grown out???  Had beans and Angel Delight for tea. Watched Doctor Who.’  And later:  ‘Mum says I need to sleep in rollers to get the perm to be curly not frizzy.  This is absolute TORTURE, even the foam ones.  Very disappointed.  Look nothing like Frida in Abba!!  Went round Ann’s and we had fish and chips from the shop.’  Then:  ‘It is the school disco tonight and Mum says I am not allowed to wear makeup but I am taking eye-shadow and lipstick anyway!!’  Later:  ‘School disco was V V V GOOD!!! Had a slow dance with MB at the end!!!  Linda G went round the back of the pavilion with a boy from the 5th year!!! Had a drink of pineapple juice and a bag of crisps.  AB not there.’

I never kept a diary going for more than a few weeks.  My life was so tedious, even to me, I couldn’t face recording it for long. I am glad I did some entries though and I have kept them, along with my school reports and some hideously cringe-worthy poems I wrote as a teenager.

If I was to keep a diary now, I have a feeling it would once again degenerate into a series of lists.  Lists of tasks to do/completed; lists of meals, seeds sown, knitting projects…but if we wrote truthfully in our diaries, what would we say?  I am afraid mine would be along these lines:

Monday: Up V V early to drive to Manchester.  Would be very sorry indeed to recount my feelings about this.  Manchester, from where I have been absent for at least 13 happy years, is the place of my birth and early childhood.  I then had an enforced reunion with the city and especially its neighbour, Stockport, when my parents inexplicably moved back up there.  This baffling decision led ultimately to years of hospital visits as Mum became very unwell and infirm…client v nice.  Odd canteen/cafe arrangement for staff, where I note they serve giant Yorkshire puddings, filled with mashed potatoes.  I had the cauliflower soup, served in a tall polystyrene cup.  Luckily I had a stash of emergency cold sausages and some carrot sticks.  Consumed this secretively as was overcome with shame – why?

Wednesday:  Unpacked a Christmas gift – a day-light, anti-sad lamp.  I asked for this.  I am hoping that it will alleviate customary profound January – March melancholy.  I have it beside me now, as I type, bathing the left side of my head and shoulders with dazzling white light.  Can this really work, I ask myself?  Answer comes there none but so far I feel the same.  Along with this, I am also taking turmeric tablets plus black pepper as said to convey almost magical properties of healing/illness prevention for almost all known conditions.  Am I, as I strongly suspect, a shallow fool, easily lured into false beliefs?  I will let you know, dear diary.

Friday:  The highlight of my day is the menu planning, shopping list activity that I do every week.  In this, I compile 2 lists.  One is the week ahead in menu form.  This is only for evening meals as even I cannot plan every breakfast and lunch.  It is annotated with notes about who I am expecting to be at home, and any other activities that might impact the list.  These are exclusively gym classes as am now v painfully aware that I have absolutely no social life and furthermore, actively do not want one.  The other list is for Things To Buy This Week.  I have audited the freezer and this informs me that I (still) urgently need to prepare a meal of soya-protein sausages (Q:  why did I buy them?  A:  none supplied), plus frozen soya beans and other home-grown beans from the allotment.  This seems too focused on soya and also beans.  I write it down for Tuesday anyway, fully aware that come Tuesday I will be frantically substituting something nicer.  Or that if I do serve it, there will be silent rebuke from the family as they balefully shove different incarnations of soya about their plates.  Cheer myself up by brief audit of cleaning cupboard and toiletries cupboard. Note that my hoarding is now becoming critical.  No-one, not even a professional cleaner which I certainly am not, needs 24 sponge scourers.

Saturday:  Customary silent struggle with Self precedes attendance at the gym for 2 morning classes.  I go, but am angry (unreasonably and pointlessly) with Self for going but also know that feeling of disappointment in Self if I shirk it will be far worse. Wish I had not worn patterned leggings when I accidentally see myself in the partially steamed-up mirror and am painfully reminded of the widening effect of geometric stripes.  Note that I am, again, clearly the 2nd oldest person there.  Am not proud of feeling of satisfaction when far younger, fitter and definitely more attractive class-mate gets cramp in the brutal Leg Session of BLT.  Spend entirety of second class thinking about food.  Decide definitely on a salad for lunch, enlivened by maybe some tuna. In the end, go to Asda and buy a tiger loaf with which to consume c1/2 lb of salted butter. Pop salad back in ‘fridge…

Sunday:  Watch Netlix for far too long.  Worry (but not enough to stop) that I am becoming addicted to programmes made by The Hallmark Channel.  Definite softening of brain function appears to be side effect.  Do not care.  Have finally and absolutely abandoned any pretext of intellectual capacity, preferring instead programmes about Canadian Mountie and school ma’am sweetheart.

Monday:  Am dismayed by appointment in diary, in my own hand-writing, committing me to a social engagement this evening that is not a gym class.  Recall, yet again, that writing in dates when still weeks away confers a feeling that it will never happen, despite absolute certainty that I understand the concept of time.  This will require me to get dressed in something other than pyjamas or gym clothes and actually leave the house.  After dark.  In January.  Toy with brief and wild fantasy in which I go to Devon or somewhere not that far away, for a few weeks, starting today.  But then cannot bear scenario which flashes through imagination in which the dogs pine away and die while I selfishly bury myself in countryside escape.  So do go out with group of acquaintances.  Spend evening in freezing corner of pub which is also so dimly lit I cannot really see and has such a low ceiling that conversation mainly eludes me, noise buffeting off the ceiling in booms.  Am introduced to nice looking woman who I am told knits and crochets; mutual acquaintance tells nice woman that I am a knitting designer and teacher which naturally instantly causes NW to never speak to me again all night. Come home and sit by open oven door for half an hour.  Decide once and for all that I will never go out again, except with family or to gym.

Tuesday:  Go to village meeting this evening in village hall.  In most un-motherly way, also force Lily to come with me.  This is a crazy departure for me as I have only been in the village hall about 4 times, usually when bullied into something by Hilda.  This meeting is about the imminent closure of the village Post Office which I very much regret.  I attempt to get into the hall, but am brought to a sudden halt by vision of about 6 or 7 elderly people, wearing what I think are pyjamas or very baggy tracksuits, occupying entirety of hall, slowly moving arms and legs in manner observed on a programme once about old people in Japan.  Naturally I assume I am asleep and dreaming, OR that I have the wrong day, but a man walks past and I realise the meeting must be in Another Room, Round the Back.  We stumble round hall path in inky darkness and shove sticky door open hard, into elderly lady, and surge into a tiny room, packed with about 60 villagers only 2 of whom I recognise.  Think that old Tai Chi people could have easily fitted in here and decline invitation to sit down so close to someone I might as well have sat on their lap.  Realise at once that I am not in agreement with the main suggestion that we all BUY the existing PO and run it as a community venture but feel I cannot just walk out not least as exit now barred by further late-comers.  Spend very uncomfortable and hot hour standing up, and imagining the viral soup which is brewing in the now fetid, slightly damp atmosphere.  Sprint home, drenched in icy sweat. Agree with Lily that we will Not Join Committee as we have no idea how to raise money to buy and then run a PO.  Not to mention slender time resources. Break soya-based meal news to family who become mutinous. I hastily substitute frankfurters but remain firm on question of soya beans. Not a success…

So you see, the passage of time has really not enlivened my life enough to make it worthy of record.  If anything I think the school disco days were rather more fun.  I’ll spare you any further insights – unless something really exciting happens such as turning out the apple store…