Monday, 23 May 2011

Busy week!


What a busy week it’s been!

And we have a dotty phrase in our family (lifted I think from Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound): “The night’s not over yet, Simon Gascoigne!!!” (the name to be said with great relish and dark, sinister meaning).  Which is to say that this day also is rather bustling with things queuing up to be done – but just time to wave and say hi, how ya doing?

The week was a full one, with two funerals to write and conduct, and the bereavement call associated with one of them to be wodged into the week as well, as the next-of-kin involved needed to cancel his Friday appointment of the previous week.   Those went well, and were I think a comfort to the people concerned. 

Through last week I was also reading through the manuscript of my novel The Hour Before Dawn, which follows on from The Hardest Thing To Do (out in July), and which will be published in the winter.  It had come back from the copy-editor, who knows how unbearably finicky I am about the exact detail of everything I write, and how prepared I am to argue about every comma.  So he had cunningly sent me the amended manuscript with the changes not tracked.  Actually to be fair to him, he probably has to format the text so if he tracked the changes the whole manuscript would be so peppered with tracking it would be barely legible.  I think.  Anyway, I had to be even cunninger and know what I’d written so that I could think: “What?  Where has that word gone?  Why does that phrase sound odd to me?  Shouldn’t there be a comma in here?” and go back and cross check with the manuscript I had sent him after the first editing process had been completed.  This took a long time.  He is a good-humoured and patient man, and I hope won’t mind the many changes and reinstatements in the manuscript that came winging back to him.

I just got it finished and off by Thursday evening, then a funeral to complete and conduct on Friday, from which I came home to find my dear and much-loved friend Julia Bolton Holloway sitting patiently on my doorstep (see her in the picture, top, talking to the Badger over breakfast about the Roma in Florence).

The last time I saw Julia in person was when I was in training for ordained ministry in the Methodist Church, which feels as remote as another life now!  The last few years she has been living in the English Cemetery in Florence, gradually restoring it to beauty as well as championing the cause of the Roma, who are persecuted in Italy as everywhere else.  We had a lot of catching up to do!

Then Saturday, after Julia had moved on to her next port of call, was dedicated to preparing for Sunday, that being the Wretched Wretch’s second birthday.  His entourage, who were with us from Sunday lunch through until well past his bedtime, included his godmother from Sweden, his Granny and her new (delightful) husband from Washington, his Great-Grandmother from Battle, his Great-Grandfather and Great-Grandmother from Hastings, his Grandad and Nanny (my first husband and his present wife), two of his best friends and their mother (who is his mother’s best friend), all his aunts (naturally) and of course his mother and father.  With me and the Badger added in, that makes 20, I think.

The Wretched Wretch’s mother and I went to church with him in the morning – she had dreamed of skipping chapel on this busy day, but thought better of it, which was just as well as they had a wonderful colourful Happy Birthday banner for him on the front of the weekly notices sheet, and sang a Happy Birthday song to him, at the end of which he won all hearts by shouting “Hooray!” and clapping enthusiastically, as his mother is wont to do at the slightest provocation (nobody can say the Wretched Wretch’s mother is not an encouraging and affirming parent!).  After that had been done, he and his mother and I repaired to a back room and played with toys while the service took place, returning to the fold to participate in the eucharist, where she and I insisted on sharing our bread and wine with our little one, because that’s our theology even if the church doesn’t see eye to eye with us in every respect.

He fell asleep on the way home, and was crashed out on the sofa for a long while.  When he woke, his daddy was sitting with him, and brought him into the living room where everyone was gathered.  Poor child.  He was overwhelmed to see such a huge gathering, but once he reached the safety of his mother’s lap he was happy to let her point from person to person, quietly reminding him of the name of each one, so that the realisation sank in that this appalling crowd was in reality constituted of actual friends that he knew.

It was a good party, with presents and lots of food and chat.  His American Granny and Barpar (this was the Wretched Wretch's choice of appellation for his new Stateside ancestor.  No-one knows why.) had brought him a wonderful birthday gift of an aeroplane full of little people – a great hit!  He loves it!

His Grandad and Nanny (I hope you are keeping up with the component parts of this rambling 21st century tribe with its many step-relatives!) gave him a fabulous green wheelbarrow just like a grown-up’s one, with a watering can and gardening gloves.  Michael loves the garden, and I think this gift will be a favourite in days to come.

We (me and the Badger and the Aunts) gave him a farm with an eclectic selection of Schleich animals.  
“Where are these animals from?” asked his Grandad.  
“eBay, I said, They’re all Schleich.”
“Oh, mum, they’re not that bad!” responded his Auntie Fiona. 
The Wretched Wretch loved his farm.

Eventually the time came to ferry precious goodies and a tired child back home.  His godmother and father went ahead to fix dinner, his Grandad loaded up the loot, and his mother and I piled the young Adonis himself into my Nissan Micra.  This is a lengthy procedure, as he has ambitions to be the driver.  We waited a long time while he changed gear and adjusted the heating mechanism and opened the sunroof etc, responding with a decided “No!” to his mother's suggestions that he might like to get into his car seat now.  The time arrived when she had to Become Firm, and with cries like rending metal and many wild convulsions, the Wretched Wretch was pinned down into his car seat and strapped in (yes, readers, this is the Gentle Parenting of our dreams…)

As his sobs subsided and the sun went down, we drove him home.  My last memory of the day is of his still slightly distraught voice quavering pathetically: “DonkeyChocolate cake… ”  as we drove along – the memories of a wonderful day.

And today brings a réprise of beloved American family on their all-too-brief visit to the old country, then time spent with my mother so she knows she is loved and not forgotten, then my début as Parish Church Council Secretary at the Standing Committee this evening.

But tomorrow – ah, tomorrow! I am off to spend a couple of days at one of my favourite and most hallowed places, for some solitary peace and a double-dose of Minster evensong.  Ciaou!! xxx


kat said...

gosh golly gosh, what a lot of "stuff". I saw the Wretched Wretch recently and almost pounced in delight, when I realised that actually his mother might have been rather alarmed as I don't think she knows me!! However, I wandered on thinking AHA! THAT was the Wretched Wretch. He looked very delicious peacefully asleep in his buggy!
As I recall, Julia is another St Mary's Old Girl? Oh, and guess who's going to York on Thursday to see her daughter??!!!!!!

Hawthorne said...

What a busy lady! Hope you enjoyed your evensongs ;-) x

Linda said...

That so reminds me of my eldest son who is now 23 and rising in the public service.

Ember said...

Oh Kat! We must have passed each other at London Bridge or rattling along the rails somewhere between Peterborough and Doncaster! Hope your visit with Jen goes/went well! x

Hi Hawthorne - the evensongs were so beautiful! Just heavenly.

Hi Linda! Waving! x

Buzzfloyd said...

LOL, Kat, if you'd explained who you were, I could have coped!

Anonymous said...

How funny.

Ember said...

:0D Hi friend! x

kat said...

Hi Buzzfloyd - next time I'll pounce!!
Journy to York by car NOT via the totally blocked M1 NOT to be recommended! 7 hours ughhhhh, but worth it. Home tomorrow - more quickly I hope xx