Sleeve monogram M, No 3

One quirk of going to a Cathedral School – well, very particularly, going to St Paul’s Cathedral School – is that when the choristers have to be on hand to celebrate the Queen’ s Platinum Jubilee, the school’s half term becomes seriously out of kilter with everyone else’s.  It won’t happen again in even the grandchildren’s living memory, so we just embraced it and got on with enjoying it, especially as a few weeks ago Daughter No 1 asked “what about having them this half term?”. Having good warning, we went into preparation overdrive, doing a bigger than usual shop and  freezing what I thought were large numbers of sausages, homemade shepherd’s pie, a big pot of bolognaise sauce and a couple of tubs of good quality ice cream from the delicatessen round the corner. The cupboard was filled with fresh supplies of tomato ketchup, jars of pesto sauce, baked beans, pasta, peanut butter and cocoa. We remembered to order blue top milk from our doorstep milkman as well as our usual red top and that led us on to more greek yoghurt and a bigger lump of cheese. Fruit and vegetables we’d get on a daily basis. Out of  the garage came the Playmobil pirate ship and multiple Sylvanian Family boxes, out of which appeared a narrow boat, a gipsy caravan and a village store along with  assorted little animals; there’s a surrey with the fringe on top too, somewhere even deeper in the garage but not finding it straightaway, I gave up on that.

Black T shirt with embroidered and appliquéd
M (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

As it was, the smallest person (from now on I shall refer to her as the 5 year old as she no longer looks particularly small) didn’t pay too much attention to the Sylvanians, being heavily into Polly Pocket (my own children’s 30 year old Polly Pocket sets lie secreted within some unlabelled box in the garage and there they remained). When she wasn’t bothered with Polly Pocket, she cast sideways glances at her brother’s enjoyment of the pirate ship and we had some dicey moments.  (From now on I shall call her brother the 8 year old.) Serendipitously, yesterday, in the local Red Cross Charity shop a small Playmobil pirate ship confronted me, silently beckoning me to buy it. I bought it and now on her next visit the 5 year old can play with her own pirate ship, complete with full complement of pirates, parrot and treasure chests. (I shall be perfectly happy if the gold coins have been lost. They can be imaginative about those.)

As it happened, last week David had 3 art appreciation classes. The children enjoy art galleries so we took them along to the first two of these (the third uses the same pictures as the second, although it’s fascinating how different the sessions turn out to be.) Both children are good walkers (learnt while staying with other grandparents in the Lake District), so a bit over a mile downhill in sunny, pleasant Cheltenham, after a good lunch of sausage sandwiches, was no hardship. Happily they both seemed to enjoy looking at the projected paintings and adding comments. The 8 year old understood pretty quickly that nobody else was putting their hand up when they wanted to speak while the 5 year old seemed happy to keep hers up most of the time even if she rarely got asked what she wanted to say – more waving than drowning. Coffee (well apple juice) and cakes in Waterstone’s cafe followed and for grandparents the unwritten holiday rule of permitting cake eating was joyous. Home and by 5pm the five year old was soundly asleep; the rest of us ate. At 7 pm attempts at waking her having failed again, we set off to bed. Half way up stairs I had to put her down and from there on we could only  manage a sort of sleep crawl up to the bed – which once achieved,  saw her turn over, curl up and continue with sleep. And there she stayed until 5 am the next morning, a full 12 hours. As I had been expecting to have to crawl into bed with her at 1pm when I thought she might be missing her mummy and daddy, 5 am seemed fine, so we went down to the sitting room and our day began watching episodes of Peter Rabbit.

Black T shirt with embroidered and appliquéd
M (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

On the next day – which was my birthday – the 5 year old and I had a slight contretemps about her not wearing a lycra and tulle ballet dress into town which I thought she’d find hot and sweaty. This was ratcheted up by my trying to clean her teeth with the WRONG toothpaste. Small meltdown ensued. I retreated to the kitchen, and waved off David and her brother telling them they might – or might not – see us  later.  A short while later a vision of loveliness and calm self control sedately descended the stairs in a more suitable dress. “I’m sorry granny to get cross on your birthday. I’ve cleaned my teeth. I just can’t do up my zip. Will you do it for me, please?”. In response, I made my own apologies and complimented her on her obliging reasonable and very grown up behaviour. This time she fell asleep on my knee early into the art appreciation session and slept deeply until the end. Just as people were gathering up their belongings to head home, she woke up and sat bolt upright –  in good time for our coffee and cake ritual! Glad to be home once more the children made a den in the only available corner in our tiny sitting room, watched a bit of Queen’s Club tennis, had a proper meal, threw a ball around and then bath, story and bedtime. (The correct toothpaste was rescued from behind a bedside cupboard.) Once more we had a good night.And so the week went on in an amicable and relaxed and utterly uncomplicated way.  One of the tiny Polly Pocket figures (all of 1cm tall) got lost for ever down a gap in the wooden decking outside which threatened to be traumatic but the 5 year old surprised us by taking it calmly and even philosophically.

We are already planning what we might do next time they come.


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Sleeve monogram M, No 2

Deeply embedded in the late C18th/early C19th, I feel utterly at ease with wearing this sort of monogram on my sleeve  although the sudden rush of ever so slightly warmer weather means for the first time this year I’ve abandoned long sleeves. Never mind, I don’t see myself departing from my new  historical home any time soon – Lord Northwick is still going to be with me when Autumn comes.

Navy T shirt with embroidered and appliquéd
M (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

While my days are filled scouring David’s research papers and websites for mentions of the elusive lord, my evening reading has been devoted to getting a bigger picture of the period. At the moment I’ve turned up a gem in Susan Sontag’s The Volcano Lover, a novel trying to understand perhaps the most famous ménage à trois of all time : Sir William Hamilton (diplomat, collector, dilettanti, volcano lover), his second wife Emma Hamilton (originally poor but beautiful; later not so beautiful and poor again) and Horatio Nelson (hero and I’m afraid indubitably, war criminal). I know Lord Northwick was frequently no more than a place setting away from the historical figures in the book and that he paced the same decks they did at the same time. In one way it’s frustrating that I  find no mention of the man I’m trying so hard to find more about. On the other hand, reading the book has been an exhilarating visit – a sort of package holiday –  touching the edges of somewhere I want to know more about.  More ‘War and Peace’ than Bridgerton (not that I’ve seen it), I really rather loved the ‘The Volcano Lover’.

Navy T shirt with embroidered and appliquéd
M (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

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