Monday, 13 October 2014

Performance

White Noise Radio is on the road!

Max and I popped in to see them play an opening set at The Railway in Winchester on Thursday evening, though unfortunately Martin's plane was delayed so he was unable to come.
Ben's amp had blown a fuse at the outset of their first gig in Bristol the previous night, so he was running through his pedals but managed the practical difficulties so effectively that we in the audience didn't notice. It was a great set, I especially enjoyed hearing live the piece he had put on his website, amazed that he managed to sing with such vigour and to such good effect, and also their final piece.
We had a quick drink together afterwards and met the rest of the band, who were all charming. Fingers crossed they have no more mechanical hitches (Ben had wisely had the amp overhauled just before the breakdown so had done everything right) and keep this line-up, they should go far.

Martin returned late but chuffed to see his new company car sitting on the drive waiting for him. It was delivered home in his absence (after a last-minute panic when it seemed I had missed the delivery) so he has since spent some happy time poking and pressing and generally exploring the clever electronic gadgetry. It is dark blue with cream upholstery, for now looking very swish on the drive and Martin seems suddenly happy to go out!

It has been a busy weekend, too, with five members of Vocalium staying for the weekend so that we could rehearse on Saturday and Sunday and perform our concert in Wherwell Church on Saturday evening.
We held a pot luck meal for 14 in the garden room on Friday evening, which went down very well and allowed Martin to meet some of my new choir friends. Waitrose delivered lunch to the church on Saturday so we were well catered, and in fine fettle for our evening of song.

Dale had chosen some gorgeous pieces, I particularly liked Gjeilo's Northern Lights and Golavanov's Otche Nash, both of which have wonderful alto parts, but there was a good mix of old and new, dissonance and melody, not to mention a crash course in pronunciation for three Welsh pieces. Our small but appreciative audience were full of praise, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first concert with these talented singers.

Martin went down to fix the heater on Drifter on Sunday, so when I got back and had cleared the decks I decided to put my feet up and catch up on the weekend's papers in front of a cosy fire. Vicki and I managed finally to Skype, and we had a super chat. She has moved into her new home and has an interview with an online magazine later this week, meanwhile has helped new friends with some filming and play production as well as picking up a student of English (I suspect that studying at Oxford will help attract more) so she has a trickle of income at last. Apart from having suffered a horrible bout of sickness for a few days, life seems to be good and she was in wonderful form.

Rosie, too, seems to be enjoying her new proximity to both friends and central London, able to pop out with housemates on a whim, and managing to explore much within walking distance. However she ended up having to call an ambulance again this week for a child who split his head bloodily, so has continued to have some challenging times at work. Plus she, too, has been performing, having decided to attend a weekly drama workshop requiring her to ad lib. and think on her feet.

I cannot imagine anything more scary.
But great training for the real world.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Working Girls

My birthday treat to my little sister was to drag her away from family for a long weekend of toil in the Normandy countryside.

Martin returned from Germany and Max from rugby at about the same time Jenny arrived from Kent on Thursday evening, so we had time for a quick drink before bed. Then we were up at 5.45am to get to Poole for a really straightforward, sunny crossing.
Arriving at lunchtime meant we had time to forage in a Troc, finding a beautiful, petite Grandmother clock which we wished we could re-purpose, and an elegant little mirror. Then off to Auchan to stock up on wine (and some food), dump it all at the house and then have a relaxing wander around the fields in the sunshine.

We spent the weekend painting the raw wood ceiling of the old playroom to cover some unsightly marks and make it look more cared-for.
Jenny doing all the work
The wood was rough and some stain started to bleed through, but with two coats it looked much improved by the end of the weekend.

I woke early Sunday to find the most glorious sunrise, flooding the bedrooms with peachy light. My camera couldn't catch it  but the experience gave me a warm glow for the rest of the day.
As huntsmen gathered outside for the first weekend of hunting, with a horn and dogs, we found some matching emulsion in the barn and used up every drop of spare paint giving the walls a freshening coat and covering our little blemishes along the beam-ends.
 
 and we even found time for a lunch of salmon, tabbouleh and avocado salad outside in the sun.
Fearing that Jenny might be expecting some time off once we completed the playroom, I pointed out the chipped and yellowed radiator in the kitchen and she obligingly joined me in washing, sanding then painting radiators throughout the house.
Look how hard my poor sister worked! But I did bring her a G&T after that (7.30pm Sunday eve when we finished the last one) and we retired for baths, lit the salon fire and enjoyed the delicious bourguignon that had been filling the house with tempting smells all day.

Betwixt and between I met up with Simon and his builder friend, who is going to try to sort out the leaking chimney once and for all (but who also suggested some other costly, but urgent work), and left payment for the sweep and insurers.

Plus we found time to wander around some Depots Vente looking for a new wooden bed (though we realised we couldn't fit one in my little car anyway) and finding some interesting old magazines.

But most importantly we shared some wonderful sister time, catching up on all the news and making plans. In fact we hatched a rather significant plan, which has left us both with some interesting research and ideas to explore and left me feeling excited!

The return ferry was a little rougher, and delayed as we went to the aid of a sailor. But we got home before midnight, and Jenny was back in Kent today in time to look after Tom, who is home from school having received stitches yesterday to a cut eyebrow. Why do these things happen when Mum is away? Poor Ally had to leave his course to run to the hospital, since we were still in France (lunching with wine and croques monsieur) so huge thanks to both Jenny and Ally for letting us have such a productive long weekend.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Autumn

The fabulous weather continues, which means that Rosie finally saw her new home in warm sunshine rather than the heavy, chilling rain in which she traipsed around London and first viewed it. Martin, Max and I went over to SW18 on Sunday to help move all her possessions to SW9, where she will be living with Hannah, Jess and Harriet.
Both sets of Grandparents have returned safely from their trip along the Welsh canals, having spent by all accounts a happy, sozzled week together without falling out... apart from literally!
 Good to see them together
Martin and Max both had rugby matches on Saturday, I only have a quick pic of Martin, but it does prove he was there and not down at t' pub

I finished my fight with white paint for the time being, though not before an entire new tin had upturned itself on the laundry floor in a space where I couldn't get to it quickly, wriggling out both drier and fridge and knocking off the dustpan brush (which also shattered on the floor) as the paint oozed ever further. But here is the freshly-fresh laundry:
Max has tried driving a tractor at work, but is otherwise occupied in rather tedious testing. However, it is a steady income, albeit at the most minuscule rate. Oh wait, he has a pay rise coming up in his final week of work:

He has just bought himself a laptop with part of his first pay cheque (partly birthday present from us) and is planning to keep the rest towards some big adventure next year. The US Social Security Dept have sent us confirmation of his SS number (which involved the sending of lots of original paperwork to the US Embassy) so now he is ready to find lots of photographic evidence proving that the wee baby in his expired US Passport has indeed morphed into this muscly, handsome 19-year old.

Apart from throwing paint on the floor I have been keeping on top of 'household management': sorting out our house insurance, a chimney sweep for France and flooring sealant here, whilst figuring out how to entertain a choir posse visiting in a couple of weeks, and how to feed our own choir when they visit for a barn-showing of Dale's video of our last concert.

Local charity shops have done well from my Autumn-clean, and I have made two trips to the tip already to dispose of unwanted waste. We still have a host of used computer components, some exercise equipment and the odd bit of furniture which will be taken soon if they don't disappear on Freecycle.

And I am still raking up Autumn leaves as they drop!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

People and Places

I have just come in from the garden, picking some of the cooking apples which otherwise will fall and bruise, though I don't know how many more I can cram into the freezer.

Martin and I enjoyed a final blackberry-picking walk yesterday morning and came home with a good haul, some of which are now frozen, some already baked and stewed, some made into a rather gruesome-looking ice cream.
We had a delightful meal out in Stockbridge with Bill and Sarah (who kindly treated us) and Deborah and Ian on Friday, following which Sarah and I were invited to use Deb's pool before they turn the heating off for the winter. So as Martin and Bill set off for a sail yesterday afternoon, we girls had a relaxing swim and tea on the terrace.

In fact the boys ended up sailing to Bembridge, then setting off around the rest of the Isle of Wight to get home late Sunday evening. They seem to have had a great time!

Bill before he exploded:
...and after!
All the grandparents set off on Saturday for a week aboard a narrowboat in Wales, so if they have had this lovely sunshine they will have enjoyed their first weekend.

Back at the ranch, our vine is beginning to turn red, and I have swept up the first of the leaves from the big red tree on the drive, the start of an exercise regime that will endure for several weeks.
Meanwhile we have heard snippets from Vicki over in Buenos Aires. She couch-surfed for a while but has now moved to a hostel, which looks amazing: this is a picture of the staircase
She seems to be making plenty of acquaintances and getting out and about, so a good experience so far.

Rosie's stressful time at work has continued, with tutors failing to turn up, leaving her with children to teach whilst she is supposed to be showing new parents round and getting on with administrative tasks. On top of which she had a bit of a health scare last week, so she is more than ready to get into a house with friends. Max and I should be there next weekend helping her move in, with fingers crossed that it is the start of a better way of life.

Back home I started painting the spare bedroom, only to find that it was a bigger project requiring the removal of some shelving, filling of holes, and some re-jigging of furniture. After many layers of paint, and several visits to DIY shops, it is now looking fresher.
Which room next?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Merry Max

Hard to believe it, but our younger son turned 19 this week. Before long we won't have any teenagers at all!

Max was working at the farm all day, so Martin made him a special packed lunch, and he took cake in for the people at work (pineapple bread always goes down well!). Then back home to open presents (Vicki had given hers before she left) and enjoy more cake before he was off to rugby practice and a night out with friends before they all left for university.

We have changed the red car insurance so that it is in Max's name, since he is now using it every day for work. Strangely this didn't increase the premium (we still have four named drivers), although Direct Line drove me mad by slipping in that they couldn't cancel the existing policy except with immediate effect, so we nearly ended up with an uninsured car for a crucial few days.

This risks the rest of the children thinking Max is receiving favourable treatment, of course, since the effect is that Max has his own car, though in principle he does not and it continues to be shared. We are also sorting out what percentage of his salary he needs to contribute towards his keep, and to ensure he pays for his work petrol. The others have taken on big loans to fund their education and living expenses so it would be unfair for us to subsidise Max, though whilst he is earning so little (minimum wage is barely £5 an hour at his age) he can't possibly keep himself. I need to do some sums.

Meanwhile I have been upstairs with the carpet vaccuum, freshening up Vicki's room (too many coffee stains on your carpet, gal!) and the landing, and now about to paint over some marks in the spare bedroom. A woman's work is never done.

Actually I need to buy loads of paint, as we have just booked up to go across to France and paint the bare wood ceiling in one of the bedrooms, and since it needs a new loo seat, some new duvets and all kinds of other bits and pieces, I think I shall have a carful. But plenty of room on the way back for foodie and drink supplies!

The boys played on the same team at rugby on Saturday, with Martin helping set up Max for the first try. It was only the IV team but a good game and getting 'Man of the Match' in his birthday week helped with happiness levels.

Martin's happiness levels were improved with a day sail on Sunday with Mike and Georgiana, popping over to Wootton Bridge for lunch on a buoy. I don't think we tacked once all day, though the wind and waves changed around us, but it was fun to have friends aboard, the weather was good to us (I have rosy cheeks today) and Martin's repairs to the roller-reefing worked perfectly.

Vicki has made contact from BA and seems to be sorting a local phone and somewhere to stay. I have just been updating my Skype account (which I haven't used for ages and so was somehow blocked) and hopefully we can have a chat before long.

Plus with siblings calling Max to wish him Happy Birthday I have had nice chats with them this week, including finding out Rosie's holiday dates. I am rather hoping she will have trouble finding friends to accompany her on a brief vacation in November, and I will be able to rush to the rescue. Women's work, as I say...it's a hard life.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Adios Vicki

After a whirlwind of goodbye meals with friends, cinema visits, a party here, a crash course (including being thrown off onto a fence) in horses and riding from a good friend, research into backpacker insurance and carrying money abroad (including an assessment of the relative merits of taking US dollars to Argentina and the intricacies of official and black-market exchange rates), the purchase of a cheap tablet (to make up for a rudimentary phone and provide reading and research facilities), cheap flights and cheap camera, Victoria has finally flown West.

We had a celebration meal with her in Winchester, then I drove her up to Heathrow this morning, on both occasions forgetting to use the camera I had specifically popped into my handbag. So you must just imagine Vicki all fresh-faced, hair trimmed (she cuts her own) and with sundry bags and a brand new passport, excited and perhaps a little trepid, setting off on her trip into the unknown.

With exquisite timing, Santander called home whilst we were on the M25, asking Vicki to call their fraud line as they had frozen her account. So instead of a quick drop-off we ended up spending a somewhat tense half hour on the phone to the bank confirming that Vicki had indeed made disparate purchases in the course of the last week, and would continue to do so from foreign climes. It will be a test both of the bank and our independent daughter to see how effectively they manage to communicate over the next five months.

Vicki is headed to Buenos Aires, originally for an internship at an online magazine, for whom she has already done some published translations. However, they have suddenly gone quiet and we suspect out of business. So she plans to couch-surf for a couple of days, hook up with a couple of people  who have kindly offered their telephone numbers, trawl around with some cvs and a winsome smile, and hope she can find something interesting to do.

If anyone can, Vicki can.
Map of Argentina

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Little and Large

I have been sweating the small stuff a little too much of late: my own aches and teeth; Martin's job-angst; the children's various issues.

But I have just written two cards to friends whom I found out yesterday have much bigger hurdles. One has a newborn son with Down's Syndrome, so amidst the joy of birth they have been faced with many questions about his future and the unknown difficulties they will meet together.

The other has just discovered her husband has motor neurone disease. She and her family (who grew up with ours in Oregon) too face an unknown future, though they do know that the prognosis is not good for this untreatable, progressive disease that eats away at the body whilst leaving the mind intact.

Social media has been awash this summer with the "ice bucket challenge" raising money in support of research into ALS, the American term for this disease. If it were a question of high profile or millions of dollars, motor neurone disease would currently be at the top of the 'solved' pile.

Maybe researchers will come up with a cure. For Downs, for ALS, for cancer... the list of illnesses seems never-ending in the cut-throat competition for funding. We know the human race has found cures, or at least good treatments, for very many diseases. So it doesn't really seem too much to ask that we find a few more... does it?