When I tentatively suggested a big family picnic at Brentor on Mothering Sunday my brother and sisters got very excited and the whole project snowballed. I spent a lot of time imagining all the things that could go wrong but I shouldn't have worried - my family are picnic pros.
Five cars filled with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents arrived at Brentor at the same time, a small miracle because one family drove up from Penzance and another family came down from Bristol. My father was given the task of scouting out the best place to sit and we all followed with armfuls of rugs, picnic hampers bursting with goodies and enough thermos flasks of coffee to set up a cafe.
We sat in the warm sunshine watching boy cousins climb on the rocks and girl cousins demonstrate their gymnastic prowess, sharing memories and enjoying each others company. Everyone had brought their favourite picnic food to share and so there was a feast of spinach quiche and salad, pasties, pork pies, baguettes and cheese, crunchy apples, flapjacks and party rings. At the end my mother cut her famous Dundee cake and for a happy moment it felt as though we had slipped back into our childhood.
I arrived at London Waterloo yesterday afternoon intending to walk to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square before returning to the South Bank to meet a friend and go to a concert in the Royal Festival Hall. It is a very pleasant stroll across the Jubilee footbridge looking down the river towards Westminster and I used to do it every day when I worked in London.
As my train approached the platform I could see that the entrance of St. Thomas's Hospital A&E was crowded with ambulances and police cars and that traffic was stationary on surrounding roads. The air was resonating with the sounds of sirens and helicopters and when I reached the South Bank I discovered that the whole site was taped off and that it would not be possible to walk across the river. Behind me a police van was shouting at pedestrians and telling them to clear the area.
These are the things that I saw and heard and my question to you is what would you do next if you were in my situation? Would you find another route across the river and continue with your plans for the evening or return to Waterloo, a crowded train station. How would you get information about the safest place to be?
I turned to Twitter and read on @BBCBreaking that the incident was in Westminster so my alternative route was out of the question. @MetPoliceUk were giving advice on roads that were closed and it was apparent that the incident was very serious with a large cordon around Westminster Bridge. There was no evidence of coordinated attacks in other parts of London but I checked @southbankcentre and saw that the site had been closed on police advice. @LPOrchestra quickly confirmed that the concert was cancelled and so I could make the decision to return home.
In contrast, my friend chooses not to have a smart phone or use social media and apps and I realised how vulnerable she has made herself by rejecting changes to the way that information is shared. She was dependent on other people before she could make decisions about the safest course of action and because reception for analogue phones is poor when everyone else is using their phones it was difficult for her to keep in contact.
I learned two things yesterday:
1. You do not know when you will be in a fast moving security situation. It could be a train station, a concert hall, an airport, a shopping centre. Think about how you would access information to keep yourself safe. In my experience Twitter is the quickest way to get information from reliable sources so it is worth investing time to become familiar with how it works.
2. Always have a fully charged back up battery for your phone in your bag. If areas are cordoned off or transport stops you may be using your phone for several hours and your family will need reassurance that you are safe.
I hope that you are never in a situation where this advice is helpful but please be prepared so that you can make informed decisions and stay in touch with your family.
This post is dedicated to those affected by the incident at Westminster on Wednesday 22 March and to the emergency services for their work protecting the people of London.
I can highly recommend taking photos of your garden first thing in the morning. It improves the mood. Especially if it is sunny. But only if there is no one to scold you for letting your porridge get cold.
I will neither confirm nor deny that I have been researching antique kimonos with a view to purchase one of the aforementioned items. Any conversation that I might have had with MissM on the subject is entirely coincidental. Nothing can be inferred from the large number of images of kimonos on my laptop. MrM will testify that he is completely unaware of any intention related to imminent kimono purchase.
This is not my sushi but I'm going to claim some of the credit because we gave MissM the vouchers for the Waitrose Cookery School at Christmas. After a very enjoyable session at Finchley Road she is now a Grand Sushi Master with black belt and knots. Unfortunately I had to restrict myself to drooling over the photo because the sushi was consumed by MissM and her flatmates. MissM is fired with enthusiasm and has persuaded me to enrol on a breadmaking course with her. There will be photos of me looking hot and covered in flour in your future. You have been warned.
Thank you for your friendship this week. I'm going to be spreading compost on the garden because that is what Tracey the Boot Camp Gardener has decreed so you can be sure that whatever you are doing is going to be somewhere above me on the scale of Weekend Fun. Enjoy your weekend!
It was sunny on my day off! I hung out the pillow cases and watched them blow on the washing line, drank a mug of coffee and listened to a blackbird in the holly tree, admired the dayglo pink camellia flowers, looked carefully at the green buds on the cherry tree, gloated over bold patches of daffodils by the summer house and thought briefly about cutting the grass before putting on my sunglasses and going for a spin in the car with the sunshine roof open. By the time I came home winter had left the building.
...MasterM and Drummond the horse are getting on just fine.
MrsM is delighted to receive this aquatic action shot but MrM looks slightly faint and goes off to check the insurance policy for clauses excluding 'phones dropped into rivers within ten days of purchase'.
I can see the white camellia when I open the curtains in the morning. Day by day I watch the buds grow fat, willing them to stay closed until the danger of frost has passed. Now the slender branches bend with the weight of flowers and I am astonished. Was there ever such a year, such a reckless abundance, such a storm of snow petals?
Apologies for absence over past few days - sometimes I try to do too much and my body protests. It is probably a hangover from my brush with meningitis and is very annoying but over the years I have put together a plan of action which starts with "stop doing stuff (including writing) and get some sleep". So I wrap myself up in my Donegal blanket, lie on the sofa, and remind myself that it is better to suffer from having too much fun than too little.
"I wish that you could see the wild daffodils in the woods but it is so wet today that it wouldn't be much fun. The daffodils in the orchard have come out very early - just look at that selection in the jug - but I am afraid that there won't be any for Easter which is such a shame. Come and look at my hellebores - if you stand just here you can see them without getting your feet wet. I'm definitely going to plant some more for next year - they seem to like it in that spot. Now stay there because I'm going out to dig up some snowdrops for you to take home. I have been moving them around this year so that they flower in the right places where I can see them next year. And what do you think of my camellias? These are the ones that I have grown from seed - I don't know if they are going to flower this year but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. "
My mother is always looking forward enthusiastically to the next season, the next year. It is the life-enhancing characteristic of real gardeners.
Seriously, you turn your back for one moment and the next thing you know the Iris are in full bloom. Not that I'm objecting but I would have preferred to appreciate the process a bit more. A petal here and there rather than an overnight explosion. But now they are here I'm committed to full time Iris appreciation. Can't waste a moment because they'll be over if I blink.
(And before you Classical types get angsty I can confirm that the correct accusative form of Iris is Iris because I checked with MrM.)
MissM and MrsM went to watch 'The Sleeping Beauty' at Covent Garden last week. They clapped as loud as anyone when the divine Marianela Nuñez completed the Rose Adagioand swooned ever so slightly at the sight of Vadim Muntagirov doing jetés. Kristen McNally was commendably Gothic as Carabosse and MrsM's secret passion for James Hay remains undimmed. All in all a very satisfactory night out at the ballet.
Two Dancers on a Stage
MissM and MrsM were particularly impressed by the bouquets received by La Nuñez. One was the size of a small garden and must have required an individual delivery van. Somewhere in London there is a wholesale florist planning a family holiday in the Bahamas.