Marooned in the Modern World

In conjunction with my book "Swiss Family Suburban" this blog is from my diary; the diary of a wife and mum in a world where neither is valued highly. Beth Bill.

21st September 2010

I've noticed how we spend our days completing seemingly meaningless tasks, and yet - in hindsight - it is these very dull tasks that matter most. (Hence a plain grey square for an image!) I always remember a quote that "Though a man may travel the globe he must do it one step at a time, and it by these steps that our life is measured." For example; I spent this morning being a 'field assistant' for a friend of mine who is conducting an degree science experiment/dissertation on the quality of soil in allotments founded on old industrial sites. We spent the morning traipsing around an allotment gathering trowel full after trowel full of soil from various depths at various locations on the allotment. It's difficult to connect this morning's activities to what will become a scientific table of soil analysis and chemical read outs - but without the spade work (literally) there would be no journal or report on what could be going into someone's veg.

On a more every day level; the endless routine of preparing meals results in whether my family is fit or obese, or the fact that I sit and listen to the same piano pieces and scales all over again means that my children will gain their music qualification and hopefully gain them a good University place, or my marking yet another maths paper results in a good GCSE equivalent for my kids. Similarly, making time for my own piano practice (ahem!! moving swiftly on) - when I've really had enough for the day - should mean I maintain my own skills and gain some sense of personal satisfaction. Even more mundane is that fact that I keep washing, ironing and cleaning - in addition to teaching my children and a fair few of everybody elses - means that my home is clean and (reasonably) tidy.

In reality family life isn't very 'shiny' (or at least ours isn't and I haven't any spare energy to pretend!), but if we all roll our sleeves up and get 'stuck in' whilst trying to keep the peace and maintain loving relationships (which is just as much hard work) - we should make it through pretty whole.

15th September 2010

Last night Em auditioned to join my choir (in addition to singing in the City Youth Choir) and was placed with me as a 2nd Soprano. It's great that we can sit together, but it raises some quite ludicrous seating issues. There isn't really any more space on the row so a few of us moved up to the front row, but this left my friend Mae behind. Unfortunately there are those who are really nasty if they don't sit by a particular person and insist that others sit in a specific place. We'll have to give serious thought and split into two's! Perhaps Em can move to the back and sit by Mae. How silly! It's just like being back at school.

The reality is that it doesn't matter who you sit next to as there is absolutely no time to chat during rehearsal and then you can move and chat during the short break time. You really are there just to sing. Em has just a few short weeks to get to grips with "Elijah" - no problem.

I do have a dilemma; David is considering a business trip to Northern Ireland, to sell his motorbike prints and I could go with him - making it into a mini holiday (we've not had a holiday in over 16 years). However, I'd be missing our Handel's "Messiah" concert! I have sung this before but I was really looking forward to singing this with our 'new' conductor, Oliver Neal-Parker, and with Em joining too. Hence the dilemma ...

P.S. I love today's Google logo marking the occasion of Agatha Christie's 120th birthday! We are real mystery nuts; I was so proud when Jonti solved the murder at a Murder Mystery Night after only two clues! (He has read a fair few Poirot mysteries).

12th September

The other night I lay awake thinking about smartening up my old ironing board. Because it's an old fashioned wooden one I can re-cover it tightly (I really dislike those tie on covers for metal boards as they always crease around the edges, which makes your ironing crease - as well as looking messy). I had previously covered it in orange to match the kitchen but I tend to iron upstairs now (in peace). I can't iron in front of the TV as I'm too busy watching the movie to watch what I'm ironing and so it takes ages, I prefer to listen to an audio book or a podcast. I was thinking about a more 'au naturelle' effect to match the wicker and linen ironing basket. It did seem a little crazy when I couldn't go to sleep because I was wondering if I should paint the legs too! David suggested I had more important things to do at present. I consented to compromise and today Matt helped me with the cover using David's canvas pliers to pull the fabric taught and then secure it in place with a staple gun. I do love a little project and feel that lovely sense of satisfaction from using old to create new - some old fabric remnant in this case. I have a little problem when it comes to fabric; I have simply tons of the stuff stored in boxes in the under bed drawers. After years of needing quick costumes I can't get used to throwing it away. Also, if I get the urge for a project I feel I've done a good job if I haven't needed to buy anything new.

On the subject of ironing; not too long ago I thought I'd try and be a loving wifey and bought some perfumed ironing water (this was a sacrifice as certain strong smells give me an instant headache) to make all the ironing extra special. David walked in the room and wrinkled his nose, asking "What's that awful smell, it's dreadful!" So much for the thought (it did smell odd) - back to tap water.

10th September 2010

We are warming up to the start of term gradually. For the children's music theory lesson we needed to get a little filing in order - so we took it to McDonalds! It was quite funny really as there were a couple of businessmen behind us talking 'shop' over a coffee and a laptop, and everything seemed so very important. In contrast we had papers spread across the table, a hole punch and Big Macs as well as the officious coffee. I think things will be a bit stricter next week. Mind you, we have taken music theory into McDonalds before and done some serious thinking work, so perhaps the next trip isn't really so far away - so long as we get the work done.

9th September 2010

Yikes, term time has crashed in upon us and I haven't even scratched the surface of what I'd hoped to achieve. Nevertheless, it's good to get back into routine. I've not got myself anything like as organised as usual, and I think that's because I've suffered unusually with pre-term nerves because Jonti and Em will be starting their A' level equivalents this time, which does feel quite daunting. However, now that term is upon us and we're getting on with it things don't seem quite so ominous. We've a heavy timetable to work through and lots to get done, but the thought is always more effort than the action. It's just a matter of tightening things up into a more workman like manner and being organised.

I've started back to choir for this year and we've a massive performance of Mendelssohn's "Elijah" in a few weeks. I spoke to our conductor, about Em joining us - now she is of school leavers age and aiming to go to University to study music, and he suggested that she jump right in and sing in this next concert with us. It's a mammoth undertaking, with only 5 rehearsals left, and having never sung it before. Ah, well - 'no guts, no glory'!

1st September 2010

I know that the Chinese have a very fine tea tradition whereby the constant sloshing of tea around the teapot brightens the burnished glaze, but I think we also have such a tea tradition, if not so refined and perhaps only found in the older generation. If I ask my Great Aunt and Uncle if they would like a cup of tea making they reply "Aye, ah'l have a vessel - just 'alf a cup", or, "Aye, ah'l have a swaller". My Great Aunt has her drink in a strangely mismatched cup and saucer. The saucer has a kind of apple leaf design on it and the cup, which is the tiniest of cups, has a picture of a teddy bear holding several colourful balloons. It really is a tiny cup, so " 'alf a cupful" really is nothing at all. No matter how little tea is to be consumed it is always in a stainless steel pot where, magically, a fresh tea bag is always waiting - and they always insist on using only 'Yorkshire Tea'. Never would they consent to blunging a tea bag into the cup.

David and I used to have a glass teapot which had a mesh strainer inside for tea leaves. We loved that pot and used it constantly, until it fell apart. Since then I've really gone off tea, I just can't drink it. Jonti is the same - he used to love Earl Grey tea but now only drinks coffee. He used to drink black coffee but he found that it is detrimental to your teeth and so now consents to add milk. David and Matt are the only tea drinkers in our family now (Em only drinks water - how healthy!) and we use a teapot now and then, especially if there are plenty of guests, but the institution of the teapot isn't held in such honour. I think this is a sad lack and I've put two sizes of teapot near to the kettle - a one mug pot and a bigger one, but they often get forgotten.

I remember when Em was small we knitted a tea cosy by making a square in stocking stitch, with holes at the top. We threaded a crochet 'string' through the holes to draw the top together and embroidered the outline of a tea leaf in the bottom right hand corner to match the colour of the chord. Somehow we just aren't the tea cosy type and it seemed a bit unhygienic to have a tea-sploshed fabric lying about the kitchen. Once again I feel a sense of loss, but can't explain why.