What a difference a day makes …

On Friday, at about 12.30, I parked my car on Riverside just along from the theatre and went to join about a dozen friends for lunch at The Vintner, in Sheep Street. We’ve all known each other since our kids were a primary school together, and we still meet regularly for one escapade or another. Anyway, this get together was to celebrate our last day of ‘freedom’ before the school holidays began. We were all settled in with a drink each and had just placed our orders (lamb kebab with couscous and tian of leeks, since you ask) when the mobiles started to ring.

First of all we were a bit blase. The river wasn’t especially high – the bridge was clear. They were probably over-reacting. Surely the buses would get though. The teachers probably just wanted to get home early. Gradually, it became clear that this wasn’t a false alarm. The rain was sheeting down outside and we started trying to make sensible plans. Drivers of 4x4s, normally teased unmercifully, were now the focus of attention. How many kids could they take? Which way would they go?

More calls. More news. The Birmingham Road had been closed. Ingon Lane was a torrent. It was nose to tail on the Alcester Road. We paid and left.

My car – very much NOT a 4×4 – was still fine, the river still within its banks so I set off on the 20 minute drive, going through Shottery to shave a little time off the journey. An hour and a half later, I was nervously inching through a stream of water, trying to stay near the middle of the road where, to judge from the car in front, it was still shallow enough to negociate. Ten minutes later, I arrived at the school.

The head had everyone together in the hall. I picked up my two and another boy who was going the same way and we set off again. The water was certainly deeper now, but the traffic was lighter. Most people had heeded the warnings and got themselves home. We were back by 5.00pm.

A couple of hours later, the only way to have reached the school would have been by boat. Have a look.  Images 1, 2 and 9 are of the road to my kids’ school. Images 3 and 4 are a stone’s throw from where I parked before lunch. Image 5 was taken in the village where we were supposed to be at a party last night. Image 7 is where my husband was going for a meeting. Image 8 is the village where our friends, Chris and Jo, have been flooded out of their house for the second time in 10 years.

Spare a thought.



My daughter was carefully wrapping a present for her friend’s birthday.

Her twin brother was watching with puzzled interest. After a while, he said:

‘What is it with girls and jeweled fruit?’

Hah – does he have a lot to learn!

Deflowered in Bristol …

Lots of healthy, bouncy, shiny, energetic people are popping up with running stories at the moment. Heroic tales of pavements pounded, toenails lost, ligaments pulled and walls hit. Well, I’m not that type. And this is emphatically NOT a running story, so don’t worry about that. You don’t have to pull your tummy in when you’re reading this blog.

But I did take part in a half marathon power walk this time last year in Bristol. The Sunwalk – raising money for breast cancer charities. This is the less-gruelling relation of the Playtex Moonwalk and, like it’s London-based, night-time, full-marathon sibling, demands that all participants (both men and women) wear a decorated bra for the duration. Yes, that’s right. A decorated bra.

I walked with a team of about a dozen friends. We sort of trained together, but not very assiduously. Quite often, training took the form of a wander along the tramway as far as the pub but I reckon that talking and laughing while you’re walking increases the intensity of the exercise. And, dear Lord, at talking and laughing we’re world-class.

Now, walking 13 miles isn’t that much of a stretch, but in terms of ability and fitness, I was very much the middle of the pack. Some of the team are hardened runners – not me, though. Not bloody likely. How, then, did I come to finish first in my group, and by quite a large margin?

Rewind to the bit about decorated bras. Now, despite the fact that I was educated by nuns, I’m really not that gifted with the needle. In fact, I’ve been known to turn up hems using staples and the one time I sewed my daughter’s Brownie badges on her sash, people commented what a good idea it was to let her do it herself. (She was eight.). I’d sooner throw out a shirt than sew on a button. Sorry, Sister Berchmanns, but that’s the way it is. All your efforts were in vain.

Anyway, the team decided on a Hawaiian theme. Grass skirt, flowers in hair, and little fabric flowers to be sewn – yes, sewn onto bra. Problem. I could see staples probably weren’t a good idea this time, and blu-tak simply wouldn’t do, so I went along to a haberdashers (we still have those in Stratford) and bought some fabric glue. Problem solved. My bra was resplendant. I was good to go.

But one thing I hadn’t counted on was rain. Oh, and sweat too. And the effect of damp on fabric glue.

Well, I’m sure you can imagine. By halfway round the course, autumn had come early and my bra was rapidly defoliating. A little trail of fabric flowers bedecked the pavement behind me and i was now, basically, walking the streets in my (damp and therefore transparent) smalls.

It’s amazing, you know, the burst of speed that walking around a major city with your tits out can bring. I zoomed past the other contestants. I was a blur of speed – at least I bloody well hope i was because there were quite a few gentlemen (who didn’t especially look as though they had a big interest in sporting achievement) taking photos and videos along the way. (I know – eeeew.) Basically, the faster I got round that course, the sooner I could get back to my car and get a t-shirt on.

And that, my dears, is how I came to walk the half marathon in the fastest time of my team. I can’t say i’d recommend it, but if you’re trying to shave a few minutes off here and there, it might be worth a try. I’ve got half a bottle of fabric glue I won’t be using again if anyone wants to have a go.


(p.s. thanks to cronznet for vastly improved title)

Nectar and ambrosia

Because of a thing someone asked me to do on the way to going somewhere else to meet someone about something, I found myself, at 9.00 this morning driving around a trading estate on the outskirts of Leamington Spa.

I know.

My friend – the one who asked me to do this something – called me on my mobile and explained that her directions had been wrong. I needed to turn right after the garage, she said, down Artemis Drive. Well, I was on Apollo Way at the time, having just turned off Olympus Avenue and I thought – Aha! Because I’m quick that way. When I reached my destination and had done the thing I was supposed to do before doing the other thing, I reversed in Plato Close and returned thoughtfully to the main drag – Europa Way. Here are a few of the people I saw as I drove along:

Okay – I made that bit up. 

How did this happen? Do you think someone in the urban planning department ended up there after a Classics degree, has lost the plot entirely and is attempting, by stealth, to bring a little much-needed culture to the mean streets of South Warwickshire? Or is it a subversive and ironic comment on the evils of urban sprawl and consumerism?

Either way, I’m onto you, unusually-well-educated urban planner with a strange sense of humour! I know your game! And now so do the three people who (very) occasionally read this blog.

You don’t believe me, do you, gentle readers? Wake up to this Olympian peril before it’s too late! It’s even worse than I thought.

URGENT UPDATE: The gods walk among us – and not just in Leamington Spa. Check out this much-awaited debut novel by Marie Phillips. It’s provoked the kind of pre-publication hysteria that would normally have me gnashing my teeth with envy – but Marie is so lovely, I can’t honestly feel anything but delighted for her. It’s going to be HUGE. (And remember it was me what tipped you off.) 

Move over, quick brown fox. Lazy dog? You’re not needed any more.

I taught myself to type. Amazing isn’t it? You’d never guesowa4er.

I had a book. A kind of spiral bound thing that came with the typewriter. Yes – a proper typewriter with ribbons and everything. And this book had typing exercises and sentences for you to type in order to improve your skills. The person who devised this typing course really used their ingenuity to make sure no key went untapped. Tricky combinations of letters were clearly a priority. The quick brown fox looked very dull by comparison.

Let me tell you, once you make it mandatory to include z u x q j and k in every sentence, you move into a bizarre parallel universe that resembles nothing so much as an episode of Mapp and Lucia. Some of those sentence are with me still:

Bezique was the game often played to vex Jake.

Pack my box with exactly half a dozen jugs of liquid veneer.

The bad major will fix a quiet, cozy nook for the vexed gypsy.

Vaulting over the larkspurs brought him a dozen worries.

Now that’s a universe I wouldn’t mind inhabiting!