Posted by Tania Kindersley.
The writing of the blog gets later and later. This is the thing that amazes me about family life: what the geek character in a glossy American thriller would call time suckage. I write that not in a tone of disparagement, but of awe and wonder. Awe is an overused word; but I do remain in awe of those of you who look after the families.
Perhaps I should explain for those of you new to the blog that each November, I come to the Beloved Cousin whilst her husband is in South America for his work. Together, we do the domestic life, with three children from twelve to three. I tend to take over the cooking, because that is what I love.
What astonishes me is the amount of co-ordination that is needed. We spend a great deal of time making lists. Then I usually lose or forget my list and have to make a new one. Menus are also interestingly complex. All the food groups must be represented. Someone does not like cheese; someone else cannot eat fish. We can’t have chicken on Thursday because we had it on Tuesday. Also, there are an amazing amount of errands that must be run. At home, I just have myself and The Pigeon to look after; I write my book and indulge my passion for American politics. Here, I realise the great gift of time that I sometimes take for granted.
Today was not an especially crowded day, on paper. Yet, it ended up so busy that by seven o’clock, when the children had been fed and bathed, I had not stopped for a second to listen to the news. That is why The World has been rather absent from this blog for the last couple of weeks. I am normally a fiend for current affairs; now, the Cousin comes downstairs and says: ‘The stock markets have gone apocalyptic again,’ and I feel the shock of insulation. For all I know, the revolution could have happened, crowds with pitchforks could be walking down Whitehall, and all I would be aware of is that we must get the Chemistry revised for the Godson’s exams tomorrow.
For all that, it was a day of small, but potent pleasures. I saw some lovely people who knew my dad in his youth. They spoke of him with such admiration and fondness; they remembered his great racing days, his courage, his brilliance on the back of a horse. It was keenly bittersweet. I was able to talk of him without a tremor in my voice, but as I type this now I feel a little flayed, the grief still near the surface even after six months. I spoke to my friend the Man of Letters this morning, his voice strong and reassuring down the line. His theory is that it takes a year, to feel normal again. I quite like that theory. It means I don’t have to bash myself about for having moments still of sudden, streaming fragility.
In the evening, my sister’s dear face appeared on the Skype, which is still a kind of miracle to me. I got news of the Nieces. We made some Christmas plans. In the removed from the world state I am in, I vaguely hope there still will be Christmas by the time I get home.
I speak to my mother, who kindly informs me that she is making sure the autumn leaves are being cleared from my flowerbeds, so I do not come back to dead, brown mulch.
I think: people are very kind.
My conclusion from all this, because I like to have a conclusion, is that you are a bit of a miracle, all you family people out there. Especially the single mothers and fathers. The old platitude of not enough hours in the day comes bashing home when I see what is required, just to keep the charabanc on the road, at close quarters. It is a platitude because it is true.
One of my feminist crossnesses is that the people who do not work outside the house, mostly especially women, get described as not having a job. Well, it’s a job. It might not be commuting, and nine to five, and involve secretaries and meetings and conference calls, but it seems to me being a good parent demands being a major-domo, a shrink, a nurse, a cook, a cleaner, a washer and wiper, a driver, and a planner.
I know it’s a choice; I know it’s a joy. Those small people give you rewards of the heart which you would never get from a boss. But it’s work, all the same. Sometimes I think there should be a red carpet for the parents, an Oscar ceremony for the fathers and mothers. There should be a glittering night when a crowd gathers to pay tribute to those who are raising the next generation. It’s a huge thing; respect should be paid.
The photographs today are very odd indeed. There was no time to take the camera outside, and it was a rotten old day anyway. But I made the mistake of mentioning my new hair a couple of days ago, and some of the Dear Readers requested a viewing. At first I thought: oh no, I can't put up my silly old face. Also, I rather like the anonymity of this blog; you know my name, but mostly you do not see me. There is a sort of safety in that: the bad hair days and mornings when I wake up with cross, puffy eyes are not recorded. I freely admit it's a bit of vanity thing; and I do like the idea of my words speaking for themselves.
Yet I find it oddly hard to refuse the Readers, because you are all so kind. So I took a couple of pictures, most abashed and feeling rather foolish. When I looked at them, they made me laugh, so here they are.
My expressions are rather mad because I took them myself in a looking glass in the Cousin's back hall. It's the thought process which I find funny, so that's why you are getting a series. I am angling the camera up, so you can't see it, and just pressing auto-focus, and hoping for the best.
So: slightly serious face:
Oh, hello, I'm Joyce Grenfell:
No, no, but remember to SMILE for the Dear Readers:
No, come on, proper big smile:
(That is what the cousins call my crazed Buddhist all creatures are wonderful smile.)
Now feeling like a complete idiot, because what am I actually doing?:
My lovely old hairdresser did do a good job, though, didn't he? He's been cutting that hair since it was blonde, which is a very long time ago indeed.
And now for a proper face:
She has no doubt at all that she was built for a close-up.
And finally: small housekeeping note. Because of the time thing, I am rudely not replying to your kind comments. I read and love them all. Forgive the omission.