Sunday, 14 September 2014

Summer memories

This summer started off with sunshine and happiness.  We had a wonderful family day out at Bolton Abbey, full of tree climbing, splashing in a river and eating ice creams.
It was so warm, happy and picturesque I felt like we were living a scene from Swallows and Amazons or Five Go Adventuring Somewhere Crime-Free.

A couple of days later we went to one of our favourite places: Chester Zoo. Part of our picnic lunch for this particular visit - at least for Zach and I  - was some lovely ripe melon. I think this had a large part to play in what happened next.

We headed into Luke's favourite part of the zoo, the Bat House. I always have to brace myself for entering it because the smell is appalling. I follow the advice of the bloke from Neal's Yard cheese shop of taking some big gulping breathes on the grounds I'll get used to it in 30 seconds. This never happens. The whole time I'm there I feel my nose is being assaulted. However, bats are cool and Luke is cooler, so I go in every time.

There is a little tunnel in the Bat House where hideous things like blind cave fish are kept. As we came out of it, Zach said there were loads of little bats whizzing around him. Luke dismissed this as the wishful thinking of someone mistaking the air movement caused by the larger bats and pooh-poohed the idea. However, standing near Zach very still for a while showed he was right.  Tiny fruit bats were circling his legs. As we all stood still they circled us as well and started to land on our fingertips. They were particularly keen on Zach and me. Several nibbled our fingers before flitting off again.  It was utterly remarkable. We stayed for a good 15 minutes in the centre of this colony of wheeling bats.

As we left the Bat House and washed our hands, I remembered the ripe melon. I suspect the melon juice on our fingers attracted the bats once we were still enough for them to approach us. Knowing Zach, I am pretty sure he'd have wiped his hands on his shorts, too, hence them starting by circling his legs.

The rest of the day was fun as usual. I happened to be at the Giraffe House (my favourites - such beautiful eyes!) as they were getting their evening meal and enjoyed watching them run in. With such long legs they look like they are going in slow motion while moving very quickly. It's surreal. The keeper told me some new stuff about them - personalities, a possible pregnancy etc - which only reinforced my opinion that all zoo workers are lovely people.

The kids had a week at the grandparents' houses, swapping about a bit between them and generally having a wonderfully indulged time. They never miss us while they are away. This either means they are secure and happy or that we're just rubbish.  Pollyanna soul that I am, I'm choosing the former. Sad thoughts? La La La I can't hear you!

While they were away, some entitled soul smashed a side window in our front hall and snatched my handbag. This has caused more flipping effort than you would believe. It's astonishing how much stuff I keep in the handbag I use every day. It's not just the cash and the debit cards, it's all the other gear. Kids' library cards, gift cards, stamps, repeat prescription, Oyster card for London trips, photos of the kids and of my Dad as a toddler (I found it in my grandmother's things when she died and liked it.) Useful numbers, loyalty cards, a couple of tiny souvenirs that make me happy when I see them. Most of the make-up I use regularly. Indeed, I am mostly bereft of make-up as it appears I just shove everything in my handbag and apply it using the living room mirror. I lost 6 lipsticks amongst all the other stuff, which is VERY annoying.

Anyway, a good few days were chewed up by dealing with the police, crime scene team, insurance company, glaziers, and every single company I had a card with. My 'free week' felt a lot less free.

Fortunately, one of the highlights of my year occurred on the Friday - the annual trip to RHS Tatton with my Very Excellent Mate SJ. SJ is one of the most ace people I know. Unfortunately, my kids share that opinion so it can be very hard to have an uninterrupted talk when they are in the vicinity.  Tatton is our luxury - a full day looking at garden things, having a picnic and a damned good chat.

We got dressed up for Ladies' Day this year. Here we are reflected in chrome panels flanking one of the show gardens -
I am crediting my dress and the fancy hat thing I borrowed from my friend Kirsty for the fact that SJ and I were invited into one of the show gardens to sit in a remarkable globe chair I'd admired. Stepping over the barrier, I felt like royalty. Or Monty Don, which for gardeners seems to be the same thing. It was great fun.

On the Sunday Mark and I celebrated our 20th anniversary. Or 10th, depending how you count.  We spent the wedding money on the deposit for a house 20 years ago. Ever since then we've counted the day we moved in as our anniversary - other people had a wedding; we lived in ours.  On our 10th anniversary we went to the registry office with SJ and her partner Rich and got married. (We picked that date so there would be no confusion over when our true anniversary is.)
My idealistic feminism may reject the patriarchal institution of marriage but my pragmatic self wants access to Mark's pension and for him to have rights over the boys (they were born before the law about unmarried parents changed.) So, we think it's our 20th anniversary this year but other people might think 10th.

My lovely parents had the kids to allow us to go to London overnight. We ate a refined and delicious lunch at Rowley Leigh's Cafe Anglais on Sunday (Mark arranged it with himself in mind) and saw the truly wonderful Boyhood by Richard Linklater in the evening. We cried, we smiled, we were charmed beyond words. I do recommend it wholeheartedly.

The next day we went to the Matisse exhibition at Tate Modern. Mark bought me a Matisse lithograph for my 40th birthday - made during his lifetime and overseen by the man himself. We didn't know the original would be included in the exhibition as it is in private hands. It was - hurray! And WOW is it ever massive! I was thrilled to see it in the flesh, so to speak.  The whole exhibition was marvellous.

We had lunch at Bocca di Lupo (which Mark arranged with me in mind. I think Italian is the best of all types of food) which was utterly amazing. If you ever get the opportunity to go, I urge you to order a granita cocktail. I had the Bramble - gin, lemon, blackberry liquor - and Mark had the Bloody Mimosa - blood orange juice and prosecco. It was a good job the food was so amazing; in any other restaurant those cocktails would have been the highlight of the experience.

Back home we had a day divided between the den building event in town and the free Breeze festival, which involved me, the kids and a whole pile of their friends.  I used my Christmas vouchers for a patisserie day at Betty's (just fabulous). We had a big get-together with many of my Very Excellent mates and their families that ended with 16 people sleeping in our house. There was barely a patch of floor not covered in sleeping bags.

Miss B spent 16 days in Spain with her uncle and cousins. The lads joined her after a week, travelling with my parents. While they were at home without her we nipped off to watch Guardians of the Galaxy - top fun. We also had the highlight of Zach's whole summer: meeting the author of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels. Bryan Lee Scott was touring to promote his new graphic novel, Seconds. It's a more mature story; very much a novel that happens to be told in pictures rather than a comic. Bryan was a lovely bloke, very friendly and encouraging. Meeting him, getting an autograph and a photo with him put Zach in a giddy, euphoric mood for days.  He even enjoyed queueing for 2 hours to be at the front of the line because talking to the people in the queue "was like finding my people, Mummy!" 

While the lads and B were away Mark and I were very busy on our summer project. I'll post all about that in the next little while.

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