I am having a disgustingly unproductive day and have mislaid a vital piece of paper. Don't tell anyone. Let's have a list as a sort of facsimile of efficiency.
1. Prog Rock
Prog Rock came for the weekend, bringing three Eastern European novels, a packet of dried crickets (salt and vinegar flavour), one of those impossible wooden puzzles in tiny pieces you have to assemble into a 3D shape, some Horrible Histories playing cards and an economy sized packet of dog shit bags, inherited from the sadly deceased Whiskers. We talked about:
- the origins and uses of distaffs in feudal Russia (my contribution: nil)
- Kandinsky's philosophy of painting (my contribution: nil)
- Richard Cobb's essays on Ixelles (nil)
- My sister (some contribution)
- Carl Rodgers and child-centred education (nope)
- Learning Polish (very limited)
The rest of the time he played chess with L (every two minutes I could hear him saying "You really don't want to do that, L", mildly) and a wide range of really stupid card games with all of us, took the dog for walks or sat in the corner reading Hard Books. It was LOVELY. I increasingly wish my family lived round the corner (well, sometimes), but they seem astonishingly and selfishly disinclined to move to the south Brussels suburbs.
2. Parental guidance
L walked into the kitchen on Saturday morning, dangling his library book. It was a French language biography of Dickens, a slightly eccentric choice, I feel. I had a look for curiosity and the very first page I read was this:
Let me translate approximatively for non French speakers (my emphasis).
"In any family aspiring to respectability, one needed to have a maid, whom one could go and collect from the orphanage. They did not cost anything. Mary Weller was thirteen. She must have missed her vocation as a midwife, because she was fascinated by labour and birth. She took Charles to visit young women who had just given birth, and even to visit a woman who had just had quadruplets. The babies, all dead, were displayed side by side on a clean sheet on top of a cupboard, and were reminiscent of pigs feet, laid out in a good butcher's".
I don't think I can really add anything to that.
3. Cowardly lit crit.
I have just deleted a rude review of this book under point 3, because it seemed unnecessary. I think it's probably sufficient to say that it was very much not for me. Someone else read it, so I can discuss with them, please? Or have you read it so we can discuss?
4. Music, maestro
F continues to learn the violin, slowly and querulously. It was his idea in the first place, I often remind him huffily and he doesn't want to give up, but he certainly doesn't want to hear my helpful ideas on the desirability of regular practice, or where his fingers should go. He would very much rather I went and boiled my head. His glittering expression of hate makes this abundantly clear every time I encourage him to get the violin out. Anyway. Next Sunday he is scheduled to 'perform', along with other students of his violin teacher and his violin teacher's friends, at a .. well. Recital, I suppose. Very much a beginner's recital. The violin teacher presented it to me thus. "It is going to be in a Senior Home. There is a piano .. the room is nice .. there are maybe twenty seniors. It could be ok, or it could be weird. It's up to you". I got a feeling that he was emphasising the "WEIRD" option, but that might be my natural reticence. Worse, I am supposed to accompany F on the piano.
I am far, far, better at the piano in my head than I am in real life, which is a feeling I am familiar with from eg. riding horses. Or a bike. Or running. As long as I don't play the piano, I am still, in my head, the person who can play Chopin Preludes. When I sit down, I struggle to play a chord. Unless it is from one of the three Chopin preludes I still have the muscle memory to play. I am concerned I will mess up and let F down. Or that regardless of whether I mess up or not, he will blame me if anything goes wrong. Whatever. I am going to woman up and practise the ludicrously easily accompaniment until I can be trusted to perform stolidly through whatever combination of 'senior' activity and scree-scree-delicious-torture violin confusion ensues. It is my parental duty.
Can you help me with one of two things? There is a choice, see.
(i) Suggest an easy family meal I can cook. I have asked this many times before, I suspect, but yet again, I am monstrously bored of my 'repertoire'. My children are not particularly difficult, except they don't eat cheese, the freaks. Peter, you are not allowed to answer this one unless you suggest something REALLY easy. Tonight it is the Old El Paso fajitas of despair. Heeeeelpp uuuuuusss.
(ii) Help me with something I am trying to write about family holidays. Have you tried to replicate your own family holidays as an adult, or have you been determined to do the polar opposite? Were you trailed around on city breaks, marched up hills, baked on a beach? Do you have warm, happy memories of family holidays as a child, or is it a grim, unhealed psychological wound (THE ISLE OF EIGG I AM LOOKING AT YOU)? Any assistance gratefully received. I am taking my children to Yorkshire this summer, to enjoy the horizontal rain blowing down the valley and taste the peaty despair, so you know where I stand on this. Somewhere wet and boggy.