Tuesday, 25 August 2009

A star-studded summer

Today is the 400th anniversary of Galileo's telescope, which is a very fitting date as today I find myself reflecting on a truly star-studded summer holiday. It is hard to believe that the kids are going back to school next week - so soon!? - and we've only got a few more days to complete room makeovers, new shoe purchases and to ensure that all the new uniform fits!

Now the star-gazer lillies in the garden have finally gone over, although the jasmine, like fragrant points of starlight adorning the back of the house, is still holding out.

Our summer holiday began with Junior Golf Week at Wrag Barn Golf Club. This was our third year in attendance, hubby's third as Junior Organiser, and it was wonderful to watch the young ones enjoying themselves on the golf course. This is truly an opportunity to see some golf stars of the future in action, and the presentation evening is such a great night out for the cadets and juniors alike, with lots of prizes and certificates for everyone taking part.

In August we packed a picnic and went over to Lydiard Park for some Shakespeare under starry skies. This was a fabulous production of The Comedy of Errors by the troupe from Shakespeare's Globe in London. The kids really enjoyed this night out - and chortled loudly all the way through the slapstick comedy. It was a great introduction to the Bard for children - ours at 11 and 6 could not have been better entertained.

We spent a week under the star-spangled skies of Somerset, where the starlings roost, in the delightful company of my sister-in-law and her family. A rural location, there are no streetlights for miles, so no "light pollution" preventing a perfect view of the Milky Way.

While the kids stayed in Someset, hubby and I hopped over to Dublin for some star-stalking. We stayed for a couple of nights at the Clarence Hotel, part-owned by Bono and the Edge of U2, to celebrate our wedding anniversary, and imagined meeting the stars in the Octagon bar over a quiet pint or 3 of Liffey-Water.

Next it was to be star-struck for real as we took the kids to see U2 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. The biggest stars of rock n'roll, those Irish boys did not fail to disappoint, and we had a fantstic night, only wishing that it could have gone on for much longer.

But despite all these exciting star-studded activities, one of the most enjoyable had to be lying in the dark on the trampoline with hubby and the kids after an evening barbecue, watching the shy stars pop out of the sky and tracing shapes in the clouds. Witches on broomsticks, killer whales, kangaroos and rabbits holding candles all made an appearance. Sorry Galileo - who needs telescopes?

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Old flames

In the age of facebook and friends reunited it is easier than ever to seek out old flames.

One such has recently sought me out. After the initial shock of hearing from him - made doubly weird because minutes before his message landed in my inbox I'd just been googling him to see if he really did become that famous journalist and author he always talked about - we immediately got into some profound banter about the meaning of life, love and everything. It was ever thus between us. And all in French, because he is.

He's in his 40s now, and unmarried. So I guess he's still got his pre-marital imagination intact. It can prove devastating for a married woman to come face-to-face with this after many years of effectively taking on the role of her husband's imagination. It can send wives into frenzies of confusion, which end, at worst, in betrayal and separation, at best in an awakening of Shirley Valentine-esque self-awareness.

So, mon vieux has tracked me down. I was 17 the last time I saw him. When I turned 20 he asked me to send him a photo - then told me he was disappointed by how I'd changed - in three years!! God forbid what he'd think these days, after 2 kids and the legacy of my Dad's premature greying gene kicking in.

Pour couper une longue histoire courte, he was always a serious character, and now, like the chap in Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity", he's hunting out past girlfriends in order to "try to understand".

Maybe this is what's happening in the minds of old flames - they just want to understand something about themselves and life that has so far eluded them. When I got in touch with an old boyfriend a couple of years ago to see if he wanted copies of some old video footage of birthday parties from way back, all I really wanted to know was that he was OK. When I discovered that he's fine, married, settled and very gainfully employed, that was enough. He politely and sensibly declined the videos and after this I was happy to let him be. I certainly didn't want to rekindle anything, and I was in agonies for a while that I might have inadvertently opened old wounds by writing to say Hi. Then I gave myself a good talking to - it's not always about me after all.

But I do think that we get to a certain point in life and we start looking back and wondering about the choices we've made and what might have been. Of course it doesn't serve to dwell on these too much - better to take hold of the life you have and milk it rather than living in a fantasy world. It's all a question of balance after all.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Balloon races and egg powder

At the village fete a few weeks ago a lady from the local care home was selling tickets for the Grand Balloon Race to raise funds for her establishment. Apparently in the past they have had balloon tickets returned from places as far afield as France and Holland. The person whose ticket is returned from the furthest destination wins a prize.

But it wasn't the prize that had me fishing the pound coin out of my pocket. It was more the possibility of making a tenuous, unlikely connection with someone whose life and experience is literally and figuratively hundreds of miles away from my own.

In the 1950s, whilst opening a packet of Australian powdered egg during the final days of war-time rationing, my Grandad found himself reading a name and address and the Alice-in-Wonderland-esque reqeust to "please write", scribbled on a scrap of paper and, presumably, inserted into the box by a factory worker down-under. This single act of launching a message-in-a-bottle from one side of the world to the other spawned a correspondence between 2 families who shared news and well-wishes for the next 2 decades.

Serendipitous connections make the world go round. They appeal to our sense of oneness with the rest of the human race. They are little miracles.