Friday, 28 September 2012

Knee support

I am knackered to the core. The thing is, it can't be good for the knees. All that extra weight. Call Dan. He knows about knees, given that his are always causing him gyp.

'Hulloo!' he says in his ironic hale-fellow-well-met voice. 

'The thing is,' I begin, 'trekking up and down hills with 8 kilos on your back can't be good for the knees, can it?'

'No.' There's a pause.

'Oh. Is that the full pearl of your wisdom?'

'What are you actually doing?'

'Training for my Raleigh weekend.'

'Have you told them you've got one of their bikes? They might look on you more favourably.'

I snigger.

'So what have you got in your backpack?' asks Dan more helpfully.

'1 cast-iron frying pan, 1 cast-iron Le Creuset lid, 1 Yellow Pages, 1 Thomsons Local, 1 can of chick peas because I've eaten all the baked beans, and 1 aluminium water bottle full of water.'

'I can understand the water,' he says, 'but I think you've got quite a lot of cooking utensils and not a lot of fire-making equipment. I'd take out the frying pan and the lid, which isn't going to do you a lot of good without the pot, and put in a box of matches and a few logs for example.'

'Ha ha.' 

Dan puts on a more serious voice. 'What I've got from the physio is a whole load of exercises. No 1 is the Alexander Technique which is absolutely brilliant because all you have to do is lie on your back and put your head on a book. I asked if you have to absorb the information through the back of your head but it isn't that, it's just to support your head, and then you think yourself longer and stronger.'

'Longer and stronger,' I repeat slowly. 'I like that. And does it work?'

'Well wait, when you've done that, then you do your exercises, which is brilliant because they start with lying on your back. So, you pull your tummy in, and do some abominable crunches. Then you sit up with your legs out straight in front of you and wobble your knee caps about...'

'EEURGH!' I exclaim. 'Why?'

'Because you want to jiggle them back to the right place.'

'But aren't they in the right place anyway?'

'No,' he says witheringly. 'That's why you jiggle them about. It keeps them mobile.' 

'But why aren't they in the right place?' I persist, sticking my legs out in front of me and jiggling.

'Because we're getting old and decrepit, and you more than me! So, then you stand up, legs apart, feet pointing slightly outwards, then you tighten up your fillet steaks...'

I burst out laughing. 'What does that mean?'

'It's the muscles on the inside of your spine - your inside loins... Then you have to squat down until your thighs are almost horizontal, stick your bum right out and you do that 30 times...'

I gasp out loud.  

'But you might want to do it in three lots of 10. And Lize, it's brilliant. I could be on Operation Raleigh tomorrow. It is just cycling, isn't it?'

I let Dan go back to picking his courgettes. I must say, though, this is amazing and marvellous news. All is not lost. I'm going to lie down straight away. 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Pony club

Ah! At last I manage to get a two-minute audience with Lily on the phone.

'We're in the middle of the pony obstacle course,' she says breathlessly.

'I thought you'd be tucked up in bed by now?'

'I was in bed.'

'Eh? You just said...'

'Mu-um! We do it at night in the dorm. Pony obstacle course. Cecilia's the jump, Mattie's Teasel the pony, Eva's the rider who jumps over Cecilia the jump and she also rides Hannah who's Splinter, and Tara's the teacher.'

'Oh. Well that sounds like fun. What are you?'

'I'm just the audience because I don't want to get an SYR.' 

It really is gratifying to find out that my daughter is quite sensible on the Manor's own scale of off-the-wall to off-the-planet.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

In training

I am hiking around the BMX track in the park with a 6.5kg pack on my back, overcome with positive thoughts, such as: 'Am impressed with myself!' And 'Am marvellous!'

In my 45 litre knock-off North Face backpack from Nepal I have:

1 cast-iron frying pan
1 cast-iron Le Creuset lid
1 Yellow Pages
1 Thomsons Local

I am in training for the wretched Raleigh weekend. Over the past week, I have volte-faced about 45 times.

It'll be fine!
It'll be miserable!
I'm going to cancel!
I'm going to do it!

Why can't I just be like Cousin Claude? She'd say, 'No, darling, it's not me. I need my bed and my hot water bottle.' Which is what my Voice of Wisdom keeps saying, loud and clear.

But then my Voice of Fear keeps whingeing on with its can'ts and don'ts and won'ts and shoulds, and then Mother chimes in with, 'Are you man or mouse?' and then I think, if I chicken out of this most minuscule of hardships, then I really am chickening out of life. Throwing in the towel. Waiting for the bus pass (not that Nick will let me have one by the time I get there).

And so here I am, conquering peaks, battling the elements, avoiding dog poo, chatting to fellow dog-owners (team building)... I really am getting into the spirit. Plus, I feel at one with my backpack! Tomorrow I might even add a couple of tins of baked beans.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Parenting triumph!

I've just finished clearing up the chewed snorkel and mask that Dolly found during her morning stealth mission when Lily calls. 'Mum, I need your help!'

You see. I knew the moment would come when my daughter called upon me in her hour of need. It's taken 12 years, but I'm ready.

'I have a massive dilemma thingamajiggy.'

'What is it, darling?'

'Basically, there's a netball match today which technically I'm meant to be in, but Mattie's asked me out riding all day but I can't because the match is at 2.15 and then I'd miss the riding altogether and I haven't been riding at all yet because Helen says I'm doing too much.'

'What are all the things you're doing?'

'Loads of sport, loads of music. Yesterday I was in jazzamatazz, the day before I had wind band, the day before that I had chapel choir and I haven't had a ride at all but if I go with Mattie all day it'll give me a head start when I finally get a ride with Helen.'

Hmmm. I'm impressed. Lily doesn't usually think in terms of 'head starts'. Or in terms of using canny terms like 'head starts' to impress me when all she really wants to do is have fun.

'Mum,' Lily says urgently, 'I really really don't want to do the match.'

'But darling, they'll be relying on you. You're one of their top shooters after the last match.' I am indeed a proud mother. My darling scored 8 of the 18 winning goals last week. 'I think you should take your dilemma to your PE teacher.'

'But Mum, if I go to Mrs Murdoch and say, "Oh Mrs Murdoch I have a massive problem, I want to go riding when I'm meant to be in the match," she's just going to say, "Go to the match."'

There's a brief pause. Normally I leap to my daughter's aid with solutions and orders, but I sense a new grown-upness about her approach. 'Well, darling, what do you want me to do?'

'I want you to do an excuse, a really good excuse.'

'But it might jeopardise your chances of being in the team in future,' I reason. 'They'll think you're not very dedicated.'

'I would still be dedicated if you say we have a wedding...'

Aha. That kind of excuse. 'Well, darling, I don't want to lie. I think you're going to have to sort this one out yourself.'

'I can't. It's too confusing and hard and annoying and dilemma-y and problem... atic.'

I'm impressed again. She's beginning to sound like her mother. 'Well, how about you just tell the truth?'

'What, that I'd rather go riding?'

'That you've been invited out by Mattie and it's all organised, and you can't get out of it.'

'Oh.' Her voice brightens. 'OK. That's good. That'll work. OK, Mum, I've got to go.'

Yes! I am not a domineering preachy-style parent. I am an amazing American-style parent of the type who has graduated from parenting classes with distinction. With calmness and understanding, I have helped my child solve a dilemma practically by herself!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Oh Dolly!

Fame and the Voices of Fear and Wisdom

Oh my Lord! Fame is upon me! Well, imminently! Caitlin Moran, Jeanette Winterson, Zoe Williams, Prof Tanya Byron, Natasha Walter, Liz Jones and ... me, Eliza Gray! Talking about our oeuvres at the inaugural Mumsnet BlogFest on 12th November! It's all marvellous.

Except my oeuvre has got lost in the move. And eclipsed by more pressing issues, such as clearing up after naughty Dolly (who has taken to unzipping her cage and going on a dawn raid, emptying the hats-and-gloves pigeon hole, renting slippers asunder and dissecting juggling balls) and hobbling round the BMX track in the park in an attempt to get fit enough not to shame myself mercilessly at the Raleigh weekend.

Plus, the notion of sharing a panel with some of the greatest women of our time is a) laughable, b) hysterical and c) terrifying. In other words, ARGH!

Let's see what Rhonda has to say. Here we are. The Voice of Fear vs The Voice of Wisdom. Hmmm. Except both my voices are saying the same thing: Don't Do It! Cancel the Raleigh! Cancel the Public Speaking! Go back to Walking the Dog and Hoovering!

Ah. I see. Rhonda saysThe subtlety between the two voices is razor thin. Fear can be so clever and so convincing it's hard to tell the difference. But they have two very different goals.

The voice of fear will always make you feel bad about yourself, will always focus on the shoulds, the can'ts, the don'ts, the won'ts...

Aha. So it's the Voice of Fear saying Don't Do It!

The Voice of Wisdom (or Intuition) doesn't ever shame you, doesn't ever blame you, doesn't ever make you feel like you should do something, it just says, 'Hey, you might want to try this.' This is a revelation! The Voice of Wisdom has never once addressed me in my life. Only ever the Voice of Fear.

Well, I'm going to take the bull by the horns! I'm saying Yes! to Raleigh and Mumsnet and No! to Fear!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Fearless Living?

Oh God. How did Rhonda Britten know about me? She's just sent me a link to her Fearless Living Boot Camp. I'm cringing at the very thought, being thoroughly Fearful about everything, especially Boot Camps.

Rhonda says:

You can't find love without risk.
You can't feel loved without risk.
You can't feel satisfied, have peace of mind or trust yourself without risk.

Well, honestly. What a killjoy. However, it so happens that I have a risk strategy up my sleeve. 

When I was in the depths of indecision and inertia and in-everything-else-negative-you-can-think-of re moving, packing, etc, I galvanised myself into overcoming my fear of applying for jobs, and applied to be a volunteer manager with Raleigh International (the fact that there was no remuneration made it less scary, as the potential humiliation stakes seemed less high). 

Raleigh kindly invited me on an assessment weekend in October, comprising 'various activities, indoor and outdoor, both mental and physical... the weekend is fun and you should expect to enjoy yourself!' That'll be jolly, I thought, imagining a hearty walk followed by boozy after-dinner games of charades or possibly Scrabble. 

I have now got round to reading the attached documents. 

'As there is a physical element to the weekend there may be some risk involved,' it commences. My heart is beating overtime at the very words R I S K   I N V O L V E D! But that is as nothing to the Equipment List:

Rucksack – please be prepared to carry your kit throughout the weekend. If the weather forecast looks like rain, it might be advisable to line your rucksack with binbags!
Tent – if you already have a tent, or are able to borrow one, then please bring it along. If not, we will arrange for you to share with others.
Sleeping bag 
Roll mat 
Warm clothing for the evening 
Water bottle 
Compass (if you have one) 
Mug, mess tin/bowl/plate 
Knife, fork, spoon 
Outdoor clothing (not jeans) - please bring a change of clothes 
Spare pair of Shoes - an old pair that you do not mind throwing away! 
Outdoor Footwear – if you already own walking boots, these are ideal
You should arrive in the clothes that you will start the weekend in - these should be clothes that you are prepared to get wet, muddy and possibly ruined!

Argh! Argh! Argh!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Morning dew

Em and I take the dogs for a walk. How quickly one becomes a townie! I have in my immaculately hoovered car boot (on account of the recent Spanish ant infestaciรณn rather than a newfound rigour re neatness or indeed cleanliness): flipflops, cute little suede espadrilly things acquired from the new (to me) TK Maxx in Brixton, and 'waterproof' trainers which have never been remotely waterproof.

The thing is, in London, we don't have dew! At least, not at the hour I dogwalk. In any case, in London we have tarmacced paths through our grass. Within three minutes, my 'waterproof' trainers are drenched. I squelch through the meadows, avoiding cowpats, feeling wrong-footed and alien. How on earth did I do this for two whole years?  

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Homeless and hotbedding

Homeless! Well, not exactly homeless per se, since we are looking after Sophia and Vincent's house in Chelsea for a year while Vincent goes through his midlife crisis late-onset gap year. (Yay! Thank the Lord for midlife crises gap years, otherwise we really would be on the streets.)

We are, however, country homeless. After much angst and deliberation, we finally quit our Mistlebourne shoebox. No more jam tart bake-offs for the Mistlebourne Flower Show! No more bacon butty breakfasts at the Saturday market! No more staggering back in the dark from drunken dinners at Jemima and Hugo's! No more breakneck drives down narrow lanes to reach The Manor before chapel! Which is why, having taken Lily back to school yesterday, and wishing to loiter until the weekend so I can watch her first hockey match of the season, I am hotbedding.

Last night, it was at Sal's. Tonight, it's chez Emily, Mattie Butler's mum from school. Tomorrow night, it's Franny's. (Dan, naturally, has drawn up his drawbridge and is pretending nobody's home.) It really is marvellously social being homeless!

After we've downed a couple of G&Ts, and a gammon joint and roast potatoes are sizzling in the Aga, Em goes to fetch Mattie and Flo. 'Shall I ask Lily if she'd like to come back for supper too?' she asks.

'You can try,' I say. As if my child would like to be prised away from school to see her mother!

Twenty minutes later, Em returns empty-handed. 'Look how well I did!' she remarks, removing three place settings at the table. 'Nobody wanted to come back with me. Flo said today was the best day of her life!'

We make happy/sad faces at each other. 'It's good, though, isn't it?' Em adds, smiling to mask the little catch in her voice.