Monday, 30 March 2015

Diary of a Provincial Lady Redux

Us - trying to look provincial

For my birthday Jen sent me a voucher for a Persephone book and I chose Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield.  It is brilliant.  Laugh out loud funny (God I hate that expression, and it's so often not true, but in this instance I think the mini-beasts became quite disturbed by my eruptive chortling) and perceptive of the everyday triumphs and failures that occur between couples, parents and children and friends/social acquaintances.  In fact it's suprising how modern many of the observations on human nature are, which goes to show people don't change, and children certainly don't.  I felt very much connected to the 1930s housewife narrator, a connection I found by turns reassuring, amusing, disconcerting and downright depressing.

I decided to keep a note of all the quotes I wanted to share but I think I gathered one every other page, so here is a selection of the highlights from a very illuminating book.  In many of the quotes what I love is the contrast between the profound or violent nature of the sentiment and the lighthearted and elegant turn of phrase.

"Have a depressed feeling that this is going to be another case of Orlando about which was prefectly able to talk most intelligently until I read it, and found myself unfortunately unable to understand any of it."

"Reply that we shall be delighted to see her, and what a lot we shall have to talk about, after all these years!  (This, I find on reflection, is not true, but cannot re-write letter on that account.)"

"Financial instability very trying."  (Indeed...)

"Lady B. waves her hand - (in elegant white kid, new, not cleaned) - and declares That may all be very well, but if they could have got husbands they wouldn't be Feminists.  I instantly assert that all have had husbands, and some two or three.  This may or may not be true, but have seldom known stronger homicidal impulse."

"dear Robin, who climbs all over the furniture, apparently unconscious that he is doing so, and tells me at the same time, loudly and in full, the story of The Swiss Family Robinson."  (Just insert Matilda for Robin and that's my life)

"Robin says essential to get gramaphone record called "Is Izzy Azzy Wozz?" (N.B. Am often struck by disquieting thought that the dear children are entirely devoid of any artistic feeling, in art, literature, or music.  This conviction intensified after hearing "Is Izzy Azzy Wozz?" rendered fourteen times running on the gramaphone..."  (Let It Go anyone??)

"Vicky and Robin behave well, and I compliment them on the way home, but am informed later by Mademoiselle [the French nanny] that she has found large collection of chocolate biscuits in pocket of Vicky's party-frock".

"Query: Why do people living in same neighbourhood as myself obtain without difficulty minor luxuries that I am totally unable to procure?  Reply to this, if pursued to logical conclusion, appears to point to inadequate housekeeping on my part."

"Query: Would it not indicate greater strength of character, even if lesser delicacy of feeling, not to spend so much time on regretting errors of judgement and of behaviour?  Reply almost certainly in the affirmative."

"House resembles the tomb, and the gardener says that Miss Vicky seems such a little bit of a thing to be sent away like that [to stay with her aunt], and it isn't as if she could write and tell me how she was getting on, either.
Go to bed feeling like a murderess."

"(Mem.:  Candid and intelligent self-examination as to motive, etc., often leads to very distressing revelations.)"

"Query here suggests itself, as often before:  Is it possible to combine the amenities of civilisation with even the minimum of honesty required to satisfy the voice of conscience?  Answer still in abeyance at present.)"

"I am moved to exclaim - perhaps rather thoughtlessly - that the most wonderful thing in the world is a childless widow  - but this is met by unsympathetic silence from Robert, which recalls me to myself, and impels me to say that that isn't in the least what I meant."  (Robert is her husband, I love the word 'impels' here)

"Vicky bids me cheerful, but affectionate good-bye and then shatters me at eleventh hour by enquiring trustfully if I shall be home to read to her after tea?  As entire extent of absence [a week in the south of France] has already been explained to her in full, this enquiry merely senseless - but serves to unnerve me badly, especially as Mademoiselle ejaculates "Ah! la pauvre chère mignonne!" into the blue."  (Ejaculates into the blue, I love that!)

"Long before we are half-way there, I know I shall never reach it, and hope Robert's second wife will be kind to the children ... Death by drowning said to be preceded by mental panorama of entire past life.  Distressing reflection which very nearly causes me to sink again."  (When swimming out to a distant rock in the Mediterranean sea in order to impress a Viscountess)

"From time to time remember, with pained astonishment, theories subscribed to in pre-motherhood days, as to inadvisablity of continually saying Don't, incessant fault-finding, and so on.  Should now be sorry indeed to count number of times that I find myself forced to administer these and other checks to the dear children."

"Cannot at the moment think of really good answer, but shall probably do so in church on Sunday, or in other surroundings equally inappropriate for delivering it."

"(Mem.:  Theory that mothers think their own children superior to any others Absolute Nonsense.  Can see too plainly that Micky easily surpasses Robin and Vicky in looks, charm, and good manners - and am very much annoyed about it."

Reading back my selection, I am slightly disturbed as to what this reveals about me but, in the spirit of the Provincial Lady I shall not dwell.  Now go and read the rest of the book, I must go and see to the dear children.

(Mem.:  Could it be that my dear readers will infinitely prefer the wit and wisdom of another to the lacklustre outpourings of my own beleaguered brain?  A regrettable but unavoidable probability.)

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Gappy Gertie (finally!)

Firstly, my apologies to anyone viewing this rather gruesome post over breakfast.  This front tooth has been waggling about for weeks, I've been desperate to get my hands on it and during tea tonight it finally made its gory departure.  I do not remember so much blood when I lost my teeth.  And that got me thinking that from now on, Matilda will remember most of her childhood.  No longer will she be cocooned merely in my fuzzy mother's memories, she'll have her own pretty clear memories.  I find that quite odd, though I'm not sure why.  Maybe I'm just worried because now I can't afford to make so many parenting mistakes.  Anything I get wrong from here on in will be stored away in her memory and may or may not come back to haunt me (or worse, her) later.  Or maybe it's because the recollection of your own memories marks the start of consciously building your own personality, of becoming a 'proper' person apart from your parents.  Now as you know, I am all for independence but part of me finds the prospect slightly scary.  I find my own consciousness tricky to negotiate, will I be able to keep up with the ever-changing consciousness of my child?

Gosh, all that reflection from the loss of a tooth.  It's like Proust and the madeleine all over again.*

*Ridiculous (and inaccurate) posturing, you know I have never read Proust.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Flying high

Last night we took Matilda and Owen to see Tiravol by Compagnie Daraomai, a circus-dance show at La Cigalière, along with our friends Anso and Tilio.  So amazing!  We all came out flying high on the adrenaline of a show that had us all gripped to our seats.  Modern circus is so complete.  The two performers, without saying a word, created characters and a relationship between them that was utterly engrossing, both funny and moving.  Their physical power and control was so strong it created some very strange yet beautiful images.  Matilda could barely sit still she was so excited and Tilio and Owen were transfixed.  At one point the two performers engaged in what was essentially an enormous pillow fight around the auditorium, which included assaulting the audience with gigantic pillows.  The kids were breathless from shock and hilarity, "Ils sortent de la scène!" Matilda kept squealing.  Ah, so good to see their barely nascent perception of what theatre is already being challenged.

At the end of the show the performers said they would be around if anyone wanted to talk to them.  We left the auditorium and went into the foyer and Owen started darting around like a crazy person.  I asked him what he was doing and he said he was looking for the dancers, he was desperate to speak to them.  So we returned to the auditorium to find the girl chatting, "C'était génial!" Owen gushed at her enthusiastically.  And the kids got to have a go on the Chinese poles that had provided the framework for the show.  It was an inspiring night!  There's something elemental about circus that speaks to everyone, regardless of age, language or culture, and it's something that I love.

If you want to get an idea you can watch the edited highlights of the show.  Oh and as you can hear, the music was rather cool too.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The right priorities

This weekend, one of the words on Matilda's list of words to read from school was "viticultor" (wine-grower in occitan).  So reassuring to know that my children's education is teaching them about life's essentials.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Tête-à-tête time

I love the fact that our family is a big raggedy mess of people and theirs wants and wishes and whims and wimsy and, let's admit it, quite a lot whining.  Not such a fan of the whining actually.  But when Matilda recently told me she would like to spend some time just the two of us I felt my wishes and wants perfectly in tune with hers.  So with circus class cancelled yesterday morning I suggested we take the time to do something together.  We have lots of birthday parties coming up - and I like the kids to choose their own presents for their friends - so Matilda suggested we have a morning shopping for presents and I suggested we go out for breakfast together first.

In a strange way I was overcome by how different it felt to be with Matilda, just Matilda, away from home.  To have a proper conversation, to really listen to her.  Her lengthy flights of fancy (all true she swears) are intriguing and revealing.  I was struck both by how mature and yet how little she still is.  One of her stories involved a ghost called Rosa she had discovered in the playground at school.  She recounted the many adventures the two had been on together, in detail.  After about twenty minutes she summed up, "So you see, I don't need Zia anymore".  Zia is her best friend, who she fell out with last week.  My heart broke a little.  A timely reminder as to why and how much we all need stories, to tell them, to listen to them being told by others.  And I determined to give Matilda more time to tell her stories.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Carnaval joy

Yes, it's carnaval time again.  This year's theme was carnivals of the world, Owen was a Gilles from the carnival of Binche in Belgium, and Matilda was a Touloulou from the carnival of Cayenne. 

Owen looked so damned cute I just wanted to pick him up and cuddle him all the time.  However the obscene number of staples holding his loo roll hat together made such a proposition physically impossible.

I also had a loo roll hat but thankfully no one took a photo of me.  I suspect myself of looking a bit silly.  Certainly not damned cute at any rate.  Anyway here are some of the fun moments :)

Monsieur Carnaval being led up the allées

Owen - not loving the confetti

And so bye bye to carnaval for another year. It was fun as ever.