slow lane life 3

slow lane life 3

Saturday, 22 April 2017


Having been gently chivvied along by some of you, I thought I should make the effort and tackle the post (with somewhat random pictures) that I've been putting off. "But I've nothing to write about!" I mutter to myself. "I have such an uneventful life there's only the same-old same old to report!" But really, there's always something happening, quietly or otherwise. And not all of it is good.

Our friend S, in her mid-50s and recently diagnosed with breast cancer, was bracing herself for treatment. She underwent a huge battery of tests, and to her horror, was given the worst prognosis of all. Time may be short, and friendship needs to step up more than a notch to support her through what is to come. Thankfully, she has good friends and a frank, clear-sighted attitude, facing with courage the cruel combination of stark facts, little hope and too many grim unknowns. But everyone is reeling.

The lovely grandson, baby E, is turning into a proper little boy, a glorious mix of strong feeling and vibrant energy, despite frequent bouts of ill-health. He is thought to be asthmatic,  although no one wants to pin that label on him while he is still so young (19 months); his coughs, colds and fevers, and the accompanying paraphernalia - inhalers and nebulisers - are a constant feature in the family's life. I worry about his life in London's polluted air, and welcome his visits to us. Like his father, he does not appear to be sensitive to dog or cat fur, but only to dairy, which makes it relatively straightforward to cater for him.

My sister Anne arrives from her Greek island on Monday, to spend over a week with us. She will bring with her a little pot of a miracle oil with which a friend (on instruction by his aged mother) sorted out her badly-sprained ankle. On investigation, it was found to be an ointment made from St John's Wort, beeswax (in her case from blessed candles from a particular church on the island), olive oil and a secret blend of herbs. It is available commercially, but you know how it is: being local, home-made, with secret ingredients and a church blessing, it is vastly superior to anything bought over the counter! 

I look forward to these island offerings; last year I received a jam jar filled with a dense syrup made from the red grapes grown by a friend, boiled down - nothing added - until it had reduced to a thick, barely-spoonable consistency, and apparently useful for coughs and colds. Also very palatable stirred into hot water and sipped; a sort of black treacle/metallic/sweet/rich flavour. 

Then there was the lifetime's supply she brought me of Greek mountain tea - Sideritis or  ironwort - to be steeped in boiling water for three or four minutes, and again, useful for colds and respiratory ailments. She looks after our physical welfare with traditional Greek folk remedies; I in turn will nag her about her smoking, and do my best to put some weight on her birdlike frame with traditional Somerset calories. 

In the middle of her visit, baby E and his father are coming to stay for a few days over the May Bank Holiday; the quiet house will be energised immediately. I shall warn the cats. My daughter-in-law, who works as a doula, cannot come on those dates, but will visit later on - that means another delightful visit from E! 

Anne (Great Aunt) has not met baby E yet, and is in for a treat. She loved his father enormously at that age, and she will love baby E. He in turn will love her, but not until staring sternly at her for an unnervingly long time before yielding to friendly overtures - a technique he has mastered on public transport. 

On the domestic front, we have steeled ourselves to begin the painting that we've talked about for at least two years. Much of this cottage is painted white indoors, so I've added the odd spot of colour to draw the eye, and of course once one area is painted, in this case the end wall of the hallway, the remainder looks atrocious, so tomorrow we start on the rest of the hall. It will be a very soft, pale grey - the hall is gloomy and needs to remain as light as possible - and must cope with muddy-dog splashes being washed off it at regular intervals. I'm hoping for a tasteful, calm effect, which means we must be more disciplined about the number of coats, shoes and dog leads we have on display.

Perhaps it is only I who notices the general tiredness of the walls; I painted one side of the hall a long time ago, and gave up in despair at the awfulness of the very expensive paint I had chosen (yes, Farrow & Ball - I had been warned that professional painters hate it, but I didn't listen, and now I understand). No one has ever noticed that one side is a cream colour (not quite what I'd hoped for either) and the other, never tackled, remains grubby white. Time to pull our socks up!

We have also replaced the hideous flooring in the dining room - a mottled vinyl tile that never looked clean, and that we detested, although it coped well with old Catkin's frequent throwing up; now it is an oak-effect laminate, and cleans brilliantly. We would have liked genuine oak (well, who wouldn't?), but budget and scrabbly dog claws made this impractical impossible, and we are happy with what we could afford. 

The dining room is a challenging area, with a route through to the stairs (the door of which must be kept closed to avoid a certain wicked cat (see above) from sneaking up there to claim it as her territory in her own particular way), an interior window, the ill-assorted furniture that seems to be my trademark, and an oversized table that takes up too much space but is wonderful for when the family is here and there are many serving dishes. 

Like the rest of the house, nothing is straight, or level, or really right-angled:

Which is, of course, part of its charm.

And that's all for now from the house where nothing much ever happens. As they say round here, "Cheers, then!"