Tuesday 23 August 2011

Another World

15st 10lb, 8.0 units. Walking round like a zombie all day after The Boy started throwing up in the early hours, even though I responded in my usual, selfless, hands-on way by retreating to the spare bed well out of earshot in the annexe above our garage. The fact that he has slept for around 12 hours per night for months now has clearly lulled us into a false sense of security. This morning Mrs H was even moved to question the wisdom of putting herself through all this again by having another baby. Perhaps rather late in the day to begin thinking about that, I reflected.

The Boy was deemed unfit to go to nursery so I was commissioned to stay at home and play with him while Mrs H went to the dentist to have a tooth filled. It was all going quite well, with some gentle puzzle-solving and book-reading (I doing the reading, he listening – he’s not that much of a prodigy), until he decided to hurl himself head-first over my prone body on his nursery floor. He enjoyed it so much that he decided to do it again, this time while holding one of his books, which promptly clocked him in the eye and left a nasty red mark on his cheek and forehead. He didn’t cry much. In fact, I have to admit that he seems considerably more stoical at 26 months than I am at 57 years.

After Mrs H returned, jaw numbed, we drove him to his grandparents’ and went to our respective desks, where we each pretended to do some work. We were glad to get away again shortly after 5. Unfortunately The Boy wasn’t glad to see us, and responded to the idea that he might like to go home by grabbing his mother’s spectacles and chucking them onto his grandparents’ stone-flagged patio, where one of the lenses shattered rather impressively. He agreed, during the subsequent discussion, that this was a very naughty thing to do. I don’t remember ever attempting anything quite so heinous in my own early childhood, but feel sure that some form of physical chastisement would have followed if I had. But then they also regularly gave me addictively orange-flavoured Junior Aspirin, so I suppose I just have to accept that it was Another World and they did things very differently there.

Monday 22 August 2011

Having a baby at 98

No idea, 8.5 units. Reasons for wishing that I could afford to send my son to an English public school (number one in an occasional series): so that he could acquire that irritatingly undeserved self-confidence and air of entitlement that is endemic in their products. My time at Cambridge, and the earlier part of my career in the City, were blighted by a mistaken sense of my inferiority because I did not have this advantage. How a regime of cold baths, starvation, corporal punishment and systematic buggery (thinking of English public schools as they were in my day, rather than how they might be now, Mrs H, just in case you were thinking of lifting your veto on a boarding education) should breed such self-assurance I have absolutely no idea. Maybe it just failed to knock it out of people in whom it had been bred for generations.

 A promiscuous homosexual with a cane

Anyway, I was reminded of all this by eating breakfast in a reasonably posh hotel in Lewes for the last two days, and hearing the 60-something products of assorted public schools braying their weird and wonderful commands at breakfast. Nothing so simple as ordering things that were on the menu, like common Mrs H and I did. No, they needed very specific things, prepared in very specific ways. Rashers of bacon with all the fat cut off. Pots of boiling water with a tea bag brought separately in a dish. Lea & Perrins Worcester sauce (God forbid that they should be offered a generic substitute). My favourite was the 80-something mother of one of the group, encountered this morning, whose volume control had long since dropped off and who delivered her pernickety requests and eccentric opinions in a foghorn voice that could probably have been heard at Glyndebourne, even against competition from the London Symphony Orchestra.

Mind you, it was hard to disagree too strongly with her verdict that Glyndebourne’s Rinaldo was a “silly” production.

After breakfast we drove back to Chester in time for a little light shopping and a visit to a private clinic for a nuchal translucency scan, one of those jobs that gives you a vague idea of whether your offspring is at high risk of coming into the world with one of a small range of unpleasant genetic conditions. When The Boy was in the womb, such things were not available on the NHS in this part of the world and we had no choice but to pay for it (apart from the choice of not having it done at all). Now the test is available on the NHS – but they only provide one chance, so if your foetus is an awkward little sod like ours is (where could it have got that from?) and resolutely refuses to move into a position where the necessary measurements can be taken, you are back to the position as before. So I paid up, the offspring decided to co-operate, and we came away with some more blurry black-and-white images and the assurance that the risk of the abnormalities in question is as low as is statistically possible. Which, given that its parents have a combined age of 98, is terrifically cheering and reassuring.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Whatever happened to Farmer Palmer's llamas?

No idea (of my weight this morning, that is), 6.0 units. For many years one of the incidental pleasures of going to the opera at Glyndebourne has been driving through the pretty village of Glynde and admiring the fields full of alpacas between there and the opera house. I know that they were alpacas, because there was a hanging sign at Glyndebourne Farm proclaiming them to be just that. But in the interests of euphony, I preferred to believe that they were llamas, owned by the legendary Farmer Palmer (“Git orff my laaaaand”) created by Viz comic.

“Would you like to see Farmer Palmer’s llama farm?” I would say to guests as I drove them to the opera, and they always went down well – rather better, in fact, than some of the more avant garde productions at the opera house.

I am sure they were there when we last passed this way. And I have a strong idea that I also spotted a camel lurking in a field by the farmhouse. Maybe that was the Trojan horse that caused the whole thing to unravel. [Pub quiz question: how many other English verbs can you create by sticking “un” in front of the name of an opera composer?]

Because we drove that way this afternoon and there were no alpacas to be seen. The hanging sign was gone, too. I felt sad, even though I am equally sure that I resented the animals as an alien intrusion when they first appeared, muttering about what was wrong with traditional South Downs sheep. I just don’t like change, that’s the top and bottom of it. Unless it is being handed to me by a shopkeeper after a purchase.

On that basis this afternoon’s performance was a top choice: Britten’s Turn of the Screw, in a production that I first saw in 2007. I know this because it says so in my diary. Moreover, one of the guests who accepted my invitation to come along today also saw it with me then, and can vouch for the fact that I was there. Which is handy, because I only booked it this time because I had completely forgotten ever having seen it before. No recollection whatsoever. My diary says that I also went to La Cenerentola the previous evening in 2007, and I have photographs demonstrating that I was indeed in the grounds of Glyndebourne with friends that day, yet I have absolutely no recollection of that production, either.

Operatic amnesia: it is a new one on me.

And odd because the production and the performance were both absolutely terrific, and are now seared on my memory for the long term (if, at my age, there is any long term to be had).

We had an excellent picnic, too, kindly contributed by my guests, and despite the mugginess of the early afternoon and the apparent threat of thunder, it proved to be a magically perfect English summer’s evening.

Even down to a very pretty girl with long blonde hair dancing round the lawn in what I feel compelled to describe as a long white shift. She was doing it as we arrived, right next to where our friends had planted their picnic chairs and rug. Mrs H expressed some doubts about the wisdom of approaching the lunatic. I preferred to think of it as some sort of lawn theatre – perhaps, with any luck, an advertising initiative by Peter Stringfellow. Our companions felt that it was intended to put us in the mood for The Turn of the Screw by making us think of the orphan Flora. I could say what it put me in mind of, but I don’t think it would get past the traditional vetting of this blog by Mrs H.

I wonder whether we will ever come here again? It won’t be easy logistically in summer 2012, with a three-year-old and a new baby to look after. It may not be easy financially, either. I suppose I should just count myself fortunate to have spent so many truly memorable evenings here over the last 27 years, plus a few that I cannot remember at all. And congratulate myself for having the presence of mind to add my name to the waiting list for membership of the Glyndebourne Festival Society within minutes of walking into the place for the first time in 1984.