Losing things and finding Jane again

Jane Austen is a regular preoccupation. Though not a complete Janiac, quotes and phrases from her novels do pop into my head quite regularly. And soothingly.

It is a truth probably universally acknowledged that a new sock and its mate will soon be parted. I recently received a thank you email from my brother-in-law for a pair of merino walking socks which we sent as a birthday offering. Unexciting, predictable but extremely postable. And he walks a lot, even more so since lockdown. My sister made the sock suggestion and we knew that merino wool would be appreciated. Unlike the husband, my brother-in-law’s also the kind of guy who doesn’t lose things.

With me, there’s a constant loss of pens, not socks. All guests arriving on the farm, whether to stay or to eat, have C-19 contact forms to fill in. Just before a Saturday pizza afternoon/evening,( the first at which guests were going to be able to eat their pizzas outside if they wanted to), the pen shortage had escalated into a mini-crisis. Orla lent me 10 of her store of writing implements, fully believing that she would be able to reclaim them. I’m afraid to say that only 7 remained at the end of the evening.

Early in lockdown I bought three or four packs of pens and stashed them in a top drawer in the farm office. I naively commented to my daughter – ‘that’ll keep us nicely stocked up for the summer’. All have gone without a trace.

A small delivery of wine arrived about two weeks ago (the first since February). With it came a rather smart pen bearing the logo of the local West Wales wine business. I claimed the pen as mine – not for sharing, not for folks to borrow. Of course it’s vanished too.

The last three weeks have been hard, exhausting in fact. Once the donks are in bed, the sheep are fed and we have eaten I have no energy left, especially mental energy. Talking to friends, blogging, reading – all are temporarily on hold. The pendulum has swung too far the other way, but it is as must be for now.

I return to Jane Austen…the other evening, I collapsed happily in front of the concoction that is ‘Becoming Jane’. I’d seen it before, probably twice. But it had a watchable cast and sufficient wit to sustain me until bedtime.

May the Fourth

Yesterday was Star Wars Day, celebrated by fans around the world. Apparently, some binge-watch the films, (set in a galaxy far far away), and exchange classic lines of dialogue with like-minded earthlings. ‘May the Fourth be with you’ is a neat little pun – an appropriate greeting for the day. I’m told it originated on May 4th 1979, when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. A full- page ad was taken out in a newspaper congratulating her – ‘May the Fourth be With You, Maggie!’

After the initial excitement of the first couple of films, I was unmoved by them. The youngish Harrison Ford had a certain swagger about him, but it was Carrie Fisher I admired. Despite the huge Princess Leia side bun hairdo, she seemed incandescently intelligent. I’ve read ‘Postcards from the Edge’ twice, (and seen the movie), and I felt very sad when she died suddenly in December 2016. A waste of a multi-talented individual, a woman of wit and wisdom, who had many more serious troubles to contend with than earmuffs.

The husband likes a bit of swash and buckle. He’s been binge-watching, not Star Wars, but The Last Kingdom. There have been four series so far, based on a series of books by the prolific Bernard Cornwell. They are set in pre-Norman Conquest ‘England’ and feature kohl-rimmed eyes (the men), much horse-riding, many battles, and some unpronounceable names riddled with vowels.

 I’ve been less gripped. I have to close my eyes and ears at the gory bits. Scenes of torture, execution, etc aren’t really my thing. But that period in history has always interested me, and the main character is quite easy on the eye.

What fascinates me though is the range of hairstyles amongst the male protagonists – from close-cropped to bowl cuts to flowing ringlets to undercuts and manbuns. Some beards are plaited and ornamented too. Complicated to maintain in those turbulent times I would have thought.

I am not usually trusted with anything sharp. My lack of prowess with a blade causes people to look away, hold their breaths. Over the weekend, the husband decided it was time for action. He took himself away to a quiet place and attacked his hairiness with ancient clippers, better suited to trimming the whiskers of a mouse. The outcome was not good – scalped in some places, mullet in others.

Yesterday evening he gave up his hat disguise. He traded a tidying up of the disaster zone for a bottle of wine. My daughter-in-law, who has many practical skills, came to the rescue armed with Babyliss for Men. The husband now has hair of the same length all over. It is bristly and a lot shorter than I’m used to. But he looks like he means business.   

On wit and gin

My mother worked in nursing, apart from a few brief months as a GPO telephonist, from the age of 17 to her premature death at 50. While she worked nights, I recall watching old black-and-white films with my father. Not all were age-appropriate but, if my father had been asked to justify exposing me to such material, it would have all been about the dialogue. He admired a snappy one-liner, a withering put-down. The English-only rule was broken for Raymond Chandler and a couple of those quick-fire sparring movie partnerships from the 1930s.

More modern films left my father unimpressed. He found them banal and saccharine. World-weary cynicism was one thing,  but when it was combined with a laconic delivery – superb.

The first TV I remember was acquired, or rather made, by him when I was six, convalescing in bed for just under two months. Recuperating, trapped, I read a little but watched much more. Now, confined to home in the nationwide notgoingoutclub,  I’m forgiving myself the dip in energy levels, the short attention span. I’m letting a lot of barely average TV wash over me, except of course for the ever-present, unavoidable news. Luckily, there’s usually an evening G&T to take the edge off the relentless sadness, the vitriol of journalists, the incompetence of politicians.

And luckily too, there’s this place, and there’s family.