musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

Conkering Hero — October 2, 2016

Conkering Hero

 

Today has been one of those perfect autumn days. Sunny. Crisp. Warm. There are probably not many of these left here in good old Blighty before the damp and cold of winter sets in.

I love this time of year. The colours are fantastic. Hedgerows are full of berries. Fields have been harvested. Squirrels are busy laying away acorns and beech nuts for winter. Cobwebs shine in the early morning dew. Daddy long legs flutter at twilight. The last hopeful butterflies emerge and dance in the sunbeams. The crispness of the, increasingly later, dawn gives way to a warm sun-filled day.

We have had a lovely summer and autumn here in the South East of England. It took summer a while to get going but during our long school break the weather was generally kind. Unless we had a day planned at the lido.

September has also been generally glorious. There have been many days like today. To start with actually hot, unseasonably so, but now pleasant with the heat of the summer sun ebbing away into autumn. Even so I have line dried sheets and walked coatless much later in the year than usual. A couple of weekends ago Youngest, husband and I blackberried in glorious heat with insects still buzzing. Of course we have had rain, mainly on Saturdays to coincide with pitch side viewing, but mostly it has been set fair.

This weekend was Harvest festival. I have spent a large part of it at church celebrating the bounty this season provides. Eating too much good food. Yammering with friends. Marvelling at the low October light streaming through the stained glass dancing coloured shadows on the floor. Singing Rutter and hymns. Enjoying children serving food and singing Sambas. Including my own.

And today was also the day for our Annual Conker Extravaganza. As to my mind nothing symbolises autumn like conkers.

As a child I can still recall the excitment of finding a spiky case fallen from a horse chestnut tree. An unopened package containing one or possibly two beautiful gifts. Finding such bounty was difficult. All horse chestnut trees near my home were regularly scoured by children with sticks beating the branches to release these packages. One had to get up early and brave that crispy dawn to find them.

Last week I went on a walk to the local bottle bank and passed a beautiful old tree near to our local school. I was amazed to find literally tens of conkers and unopened cases lying underneath. I guess life is busier. Kids have other activities to soak up their time. But even so I find it sad that there are any conkers left for a woman of a certain age to collect on a random Thursday lunch time. Of course I was unable to resist hoovering them up and taking them home for my children.

But really that is not the same as doing it yourself. So today we went off to do just that at a local park. In the well trodden areas I was heartened to discover that conkers were hard to come by. People who had got up earlier than us had been bothered to collect them. So we had to resort to ‘children on shoulders’ to retrieve some directly from the branches.

But in more tucked away areas there were still hundreds to be found on the ground. The slight wind also helped as we had timed it perfectly and newly ripened fruit regularly dropped to the ground around us. It was very exciting to chase after them as they bounced along the grass. Youngest came away reluctantly from one tree pockets bulging with beauties.

Of course there is no use in just collecting conkers. One has to play the game too. Which we duly did in the back garden. Youngest remained undefeated. Middlest burnt through three, Middlest one and myself two.

I have plans for Christmas decorations for the rest of our not insubstantial haul. Maybe a wreath or tree hangers.

Horse chestnut trees are in trouble in this country due to a leaf mining insect and a fungal infection. They are dropping their leaves earlier and often look rather dry and sad by this time of the year. They still produce their wonderful fruit though. I am not sure how many more years this activity will be viable. It will be a very sad day indeed if they do die out.

For as much as we love bashing the bejeebers out of each other’s conkers the real joy is in the collecting and unwrapping of these wonderful free gifts provided by Mother Nature.

 

 

Putting A Brave Face On It… — August 16, 2016

Putting A Brave Face On It…

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I recently went in to Boots (other pharmacies, that also sell other crap such as photograph albums and kids clothes so that there are hardly any staff left on the actual prescription counter meaning you have to wait days for your child’s asthma inhaler, are available) to restock my face creams.

It may come as a surprise to some that I use face creams. I do not wear make up. Anyone who knows me personally knows this. Why not? Multitudinous reasons. My mother didn’t wear make up when I was a child and so I never ‘learnt’ to apply it. Or more accurately I never learnt to ‘need’ to apply it. It didn’t figure in my parameters of being a women. I can’t be bothered to get up earlier to make time to put it on. I similarly lack the will to take it off at night. I do not know what ‘palettes’ suit me. And frankly I can’t be arsed.

There may be many people wandering around catching sight of my un made up face and inwardly cringing at my gaucheness. But then equally I walk around seeing people at the gym or next to the swimming pool on holiday in full make up and think- you muppets. So touché.

But I do use face cream. This desire started in my twenties when I first started to get a few laughter lines. The fact that I panicked quite so wholeheartedly at that point is now frankly laughable as laughter lines etch into wrinkles and my neck acquires a droopiness that no amount of foundation would disguise. Oh the naivety.

But anyway I started on the road of face creams. I began with Body Shop stuff. Seduced by the tangle haired founder’s claims of naturalness and lack of animal testingness and other such stuff.  Once everyone caught on to this particularly welcome band wagon I switched to Simple. It was cheaper.

When I had my first child I decided all this political correctness and affordability was all well and good but what I needed now was something that actually worked. At the time Boots (don’t forget other such stores, with appalling customer service and overly made up beauty counter assistants who scare me, are available) was heavily advertising its new No 7 miracle creams. They had actual scientific evidence that wrinkles were reduced. Beautiful models glowed radiantly out of posters. I hadn’t heard of Photoshop, the IT troglodyte that I am. And so I went in to purchase some items.

At the time my age, general skin type (normal) and lack of skin problems landed me firmly in the Early Defence range. Well I wasn’t really firmly landed in that range as it was designed for 20-35 year olds and I was 34 at the time but the counter assistant I discussed it with knocked a few years off my age and I was too flattered to contradict her. This hasn’t happened since. And anyway, I argued with my inner voice, I was still within that age range. Just.

I nearly had a heart attack at the pay desk. This stuff is seriously pricey. I was so overwhelmed I was suckered into a Boots (remember other stores, which so overstock their shelves with ‘gift sets’ at Christmas (which always contain a product the recipient will never use, in my case body lotion) making it impossible to locate the Savlon, are available) store card. The points I amassed buying day cream, night cream, eye cream and serum entitled me to a small cruise. Well I exaggerate but I did get a free tube of toothpaste.

Anyway I religiously began to apply said creams. Well when I say religiously I mean as often as I remembered/ had the energy/ had the time with a squalling new born.

The next five years passed in a whirlwind of babies and nappies and toddlers and bone numbing, aching tiredness. I must have replaced those creams occasionally. I certainly remember graduating to the  35- 45 years cream Protect and Perfect Intense at some point. Whenever I say that in my head I always shout the ‘Intense’ part out louder. Not sure why. Maybe it makes me feel better about the even larger price tag. Presumably this cream has more of the ‘stuff’ in it that 86% of 83 people believe reduces their wrinkles. Seriously can’t they ask a few more people. It is not like Boots (remember other stores, which smell the same wherever you are in the UK and always hide the dental aisle very comprehensible, are available) isn’t some international company.

Anyway I must have replaced those creams as some more free tubes of toothpaste came my way and some very welcome two for one vouchers courtesy of that reward card. Which of course I can never find when paying. It is usually under the Costa card. Which says a lot for my priorities.

I started applying it more regularly as I came out of the fog of early motherhood. And it has an SPF factor of 15 which makes me feel better about walking in the sun.

Before our holiday I needed to replace my night cream. I knew that on holiday after my daily ‘post sea and pool’ shower my skin would feel tighter than …a very tight thing (I thought about being coarse there but thought better of it- my father reads this blog) and would need generously smearing with that night cream.

I approached the right area of Boots (remember other stores, that coyly call tampons feminine hygiene products, are available) and dodged the over eager, foundation plastered, twelve year old assistant to grab my night cream. She wasn’t to be deterred. She was determined to ‘assess’ me. Flustered and in a hurry to get back before the school chucked out for the day I rashly provided my actual age when she enquired. Rather than politely and yet assertively asking her to eff off.

She then politely and assertively told me that I needed their over 45 product, upper age range not specified, called Lift and Luminate. I sheepishly took down a bottle of this magic elixir. And paid yet more money at the counter. Presumably it has yet more of that ‘stuff’ in it. I thought they might offer me a discrete brown paper bag to wrap it in, such was the shame I felt. But then these people are used to selling feminine hygiene products, condoms and haemorrhoid cream and so are immune to customers’ embarrassment.

I took it home. The vessel that contains it is a soft purple, the smell is faintly ‘old ladyish’ and yet perversely I quite like it. However I am yet to feel Lifted or Luminated.

Oh god age is a bitch.

 

 

 

 

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