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Escape! Arranged a weekend off and drove up to Durham to see The Girl for her birthday. A complicated exercise, as I had to arrange a Granny-sitter before we left. Gone are the days when we could just jump in the car and go when we felt like it. My brother offered to come up and look after her, so we could get away. Why should I be grateful because my brother volunteered to visit his mother for the weekend? Mainly because it involved a 6-hour drive , I suppose. Still, it all went as arranged, and we got away.
No snow up in t'North. It snowed on friday night, but must have turned to rain, because there are only traces left on the cold sides of hills. Lovely and sunny, if very cold, so we dragged them out for a quick folly-hunt. Found the Banqueting Hall at Gibside, as well as the Chapel, the british statue of Liberty, and the remains of the Icehouse. Then we went to the coast, and walked them up a very muddy, icy river. There was enough snow for a mini-snowman and a quick snowball fight. It started to sleet so we went home.
Another early morning call - it took me 50 minutes to get to the school, and surprise, surprise, there was no work organised, so I had to make it up as I went along. Only half a day too, so I probably spent nearly as long driving there and back as I did teaching. Oh well, it's money, I suppose. Supply teaching is well paid, but I don't enjoy it much. It's just glorified (and very expensive!) baby-sitting, but it is much better paid then other part-time work, so it's worth doing Shame life has to revolve round earning money though.
It started snowing again this afternoon, quite heavily, so I decided not to go into college - W can work through the Driving Theory test by himself . Alan decided to go and clear the snow off the drive so he could get his car out in the morning. Not a very good idea, because all he did was to pack the snow down and it was still snowing when we went to bed. Very pretty, big white flakes, more serious snow than we had before, making big white domes on the tables and benches outside. Very cold and crisp and silent.
There was a thick layer of ice under the snow this morning, and the Move's little wheels couldn't get up the drive. My car managed it though. Another early morning phonecall, but I said I wasn't sure if I could get out. When I rang the agency to say I was able to, all I got was the answerphone and they never rang me back. There really isn't that much snow - about two inches, but it was enough to bring things grinding to a halt. It is February, it's not unusual to have snow at this time of the year.
The Girl's birthday today. Twenty years ago, I watched the snow swirling around outside the hospital window in Sheffield, holding her and feeling very sore and pleased with myself. Alan rushed about phoning people, and buying important things like toothbrushes for her (?) Hard to remember much about it now. I think I was a little tired, as I'd been in labour for 29 hours, she wasn't keen on coming out, and made a fuss - what's changed? Took one look at her daddy and wound him round her little finger. Start as you mean to go on, Girl! Twenty years old!
Went for another interview this morning, but didn't get the job. It was a "very close thing", "a very hard decision" etc, but I still didn't get it. I feel very tempted to give up teaching all together, except I'm not trained for anything else, and when I am working, it is reasonable pay. Gloom and despondency! And it rained or drizzled most of the day, and washed away all the snow, and everything is muddy and grey. Strange how appropriately the weather can behave at times. It's most definitely February at the moment, the lowest point of the year.
Not only has the rain washed away all the snow, but it has washed all the gravel down the drive as well. At the bottom of the drive, there is a good 4 - 5 inches of gravel on the turning circle, deep enough to slow the cars down, but there is very little left up the slope, which is probably why it was so slippery and difficult to negotiate last week. I spent a happy morning shovelling the gravel into the wheelbarrow, trundling it up the drive and spreading it out again. How long will it stay there this time?
Today we went to a candle-lit vigil for peace in Shrewsbury. I suspect there were a lot more round the country, as according to the papers, over 70% of the population do not support the race to war. About 200 people stood in a circle in the market square in Shrewsbury, holding candles. An interesting spectacle, but I wonder what it's likely to achieve? As far as I know, there was no press presence, and certainly there was no disturbance, so the fact we stood there in the cold is not likely to have registered anywhere on the national consciousness.
There will be a Peace Rally nest Saturday, the main one will be in London, but there are to be others around the country - The Girl is going to Glasgow, as Tony Blair will be there to be heckled. We won't go, our days of going on rallies and demonstrations are over. Not that I don't support the movement, but we can't afford the trip to London, either financially or in time, since I would have to find a Granny-sitter for the day if we went. Also, we've seen it before, done that, worn the T-shirt - pass the torch on!
I had the house to myself today, for the first time for ages. I packed the Old Woman off to the Day Centre for the first time. The house feels quite different when it's empty, more mine, I think. I grubbed about in the garden, and tidied up the dead montbretia leaves, cut down the hypericum berries that are all black and squishy and trimmed the dead sedum flowers, and gave myself backache, balancing on the slippery bank while I was doing it. Lots of little green shoots under the dead stuff, and my crocus bulbs are all coming up.
Terrorist alert at Heathrow yesterday, with tanks patrolling the perimeter -"intelligence" sources gave the warning, and it all looked very dramatic on the television! Also Bin Laden is meant to have issued another tape, threatening more terror. All good propaganda for Mr Blair's War on Terror, very convenient timing too! Trouble is, there is still no proven link between Bin Laden and Iraq, and although Americans supposedly cannot distinguish between Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden, surely we can? I mistrust "intelligence sources" (thinking that in relation to government , it's a contradiction in terms) or am I just being unthinkingly cynical?
FOE published their objections to the war today, providing "compelling evidence" of the link to oil - far more "compelling" than Colin Powell's evidence of Iraq's WMD. Oddly enough, France, Russia and China stand to gain a lot more interest in Iraq's oil if there is no war than if the US muscles in and topples Saddam, and controls the lot, which is fairly obviously what they want to do. The UK interests will be better served if the US control the supplies, because of our "special relationship" with them - ie/ if Blair continues his role as Bush's poodle. Morality, eh?
Got the new Apocalyptica CD today, as a Valentines pressie (we'll share it!). It's not as good as the previous one, one of the cellists has left, and they've added a drummer, which wasn't necessary, as he is a little pedestrian and uninspired - so much so that he sounds a bit like a drum machine at times. Unnecessary because the cellos provided plenty of bass and rhythm on the previous CDs. They have put some rather nice piano on a couple of tracks, and there are no cover versions of heavy metal tracks. It's on very loud now - pretty good!
A non-day, a done-nothing day. Just doing, spending, pottering. Today, 2 million people descended on London for the Peace Rally - the biggest public demonstration in British history, echoed all round the world. The Girl went to Glasgow and had a whale of a time- thought she would, demonstrations are fun. And what did we do? We bought two new drills and some coloured varnish for the wood. Exciting Stuff! Nice new drills - except one is a router, not a drill. Heavy duty, hammer action, very noisy and heavy, just right for bashing holes in the concrete. What a lucky man!
We discovered another forgotten valley today, hidden under a hillside. The river runs through it, fast and deep in places. The valleysides are covered with trees, and the flat riveredges have plantations of - willows? Ash? Don't know, but tall slim straight treetrunks, grown in rows. The river flows over rocks, and is crossed by rickety iron bridges, that sway and wobbled as you walk on them. There is a pool deep enough for swimming, underneath a sharp outcrop of rock. Cold in February, but I ,the eternal optimist, see it on a hot summer's day, and we will swim there.
Yesterday's valley had huge drifts of snowdrops up the banks, thousands of them lying like snow beneath the trees. Made me dissatisfied with my one poor little clump, so I took my trowel into the churchyard, and dug a couple of clumps up from the undergrowth at the far end. I wouldn't take them from graves, people do come back here to tend them, and the snowdrops were obviously planted at one time. They've just run riot, as all good plants should. I tried to dig a hole to put my stolen clumps in, but the ground is frozen solid.
Been writing today - not just 100words stuff, but a longer, sustained piece on love (as one does, of course). The magical, catastrophic, bewildering, aspect of falling in love. Using my imagination, and stealing from all the love poetry and stories I've read during my life, I can describe it - but not really remember it. Is it real ? I love, but it's ordinary, honest, everyday prosaic love. It's survived 33 years, complete with all the normal crises of birth, money, careers and families, and also the abnormal, tragic illness and death. But I wonder, and lose myself in inventing the magic.
Strange, reading old stuff - fragments of stories, descriptions, places, ideas. I wonder if I will ever get round to putting them together, organising it all into the Novel that we all have inside us ( along with the so many metres of intestines, and purple blobby bits like spleens, livers and kidneys). Probably not, I still can't work out what I actually want to write about, and there does need to be some point to the story. Easy though stream-of-consciousness writing is, it's not enough, despite James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, and I'm not either of them. I need a plot.
I made a bonfire yesterday. Not of my old writing, I'm not that ruthless yet. Only the garden rubbish that's been building up all winter - old Christmas trees, cuttings from the roses, the ivy I pulled off the wall, old window frames, a broken sledge and cardboard boxes. Every thing was frozen solid, but felt dry, and I had plenty of newspapers. To my surprise, it actually caught, and burned for ages. There's something extremely satisfying about burning things - fulfilling some deep primeval urges or something, or maybe I'm just a closet pyromaniac, but anyway the rubbish is all gone.
We are having stained glass windows made for the hall and the front door. Not traditional, needless to say, but to our own design. The window features three cooling towers, loosely based on those at Ironbridge in that they are pink, and the door window has wind turbines set on a green hill, like those in Powys. Different, anyway, and they go well with our ground-loop heating system - an alternative-energy house! We went to see the designs today to give our final approval before they are done in glass and start costing money. I think they will look very good.
Hard to think that war is imminent - the birds have decided spring is on its way and are singing their heads off in the garden, my bulbs are coming up, and the pond has nearly unfrozen today. All hopeful and forward looking, until you read the papers. They are full of war - Bush and Blair's antics to convince the world that it is not only necessary, but an act of humanity (?). While I agree that Saddam is a corrupt and dangerous dictator, I cannot see how it could possibly called humane to bomb the hell out of the Iraqi population.
We went for a scramble up the sides of the valley through the old lead mines. Very very strange. The last mines closed in about the fifties, the old buildings mostly abandoned. The shafts were fenced off, and fifty years of Nature have virtually obliterated them. From the road, one old chimney is visible, and you can see the slag heaps if you know what you're looking for, but buried in the trees and scrub are old shafts, tramways and embankments. This is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - but there is very little that is natural here.
More job applications - this one requires my CV plus a supporting statement, and I cannot think of anything to say. I should be composing it instead of doing my 100 words, but my brain won't function properly. Plenty of words to write, but they are undisciplined and not useful in job applications. Plus the Old Woman has just put her television on extremely loudly, making it even harder to concentrate. I need to make myself sound an "energetic, creative and enthusiastic person" to help the educational development of the museum, and I'm not feeling energetic or creative, let alone enthusiastic.
Another day on my own - freedom! And how did I spend it? I went shopping! . To Sainsburys! What fun! What an exhilarating life I lead! But the sun was shining, it was warm and spring-like, the birds were singing, and I like being on my own. Another application form to fill in, and another way to sell myself on paper, but another Apocalyptica CD arrived in the post , -much better as it has no drums on it- and another Masfell, from Hungary, which is also very good. Not exactly ironing- music, no lyrics to sing along to, but never mind.
The Girl has got a hamster. Not quite sure why, but she's very enthusiastic about it, and rang this morning to tell me , most indignant that I was out and she had to leave a message ( I was working for once - a pre-booked day, so the work was all planned and ready for me, nice small class, pleasant school, quite an enjoyable day ). Anyway, she's called it Psycho, and it has red eyes and bites people - just the sort of pet you need! Her nurturing instincts coming into play, I suppose, - just keep it to pets for the moment, Girl!
The countryside is a very peaceful quiet place. Today, the birds are twittling in the trees, the stream is sploshing about, a chainsaw is roaring at the front of the house and Alan is using his new hammer drill and electric saws at the back. Very quiet and peaceful. Two Welsh gnomes are pleaching our hedge for us, (using a traditional chainsaw). Very clever - they cut a nick into the trunks just above ground level, then bend the trees over horizontally, and weave them in and out of each other, making the hedge lower, but much more dense. Most ingenious!
Last day, so I flicked back and read my month's entries. I never "wax poetic"- I'm not poetic, I don't think. Prose is more interesting to me, and more satisfying to write. Most of what I have written is true, in the sense that it has happened, and I haven't invented it, but why record it? A curious invention - a record of day to day events, not written for an audience, but which, when read back, appears to be some kind of narrative, as if there is some point to the record, although I don't know what it is yet.
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