Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A plague is upon the house of Purple. For the first ever, Sim had three days off school while we waited to see if his scarily deep cough would re-merge or keep wending its merry way downwards. Thankfully, the pestilential blighter saw sense, and decided to go back to infect his throat, so we were spared the kind of emergency trip to hospital that my sister endured with her daughter three weeks ago.

Three more of us now have the bug. Sim has gone back to school, to be relayed by Miss "no, no, cant take any time off school or the whole world stops revolving" Hen. She is now ensconced on the sofa, filled to the lugholes with mixtures and syrups, reading a very good book. This makes a nice change, because part of the Hen package is that she has to be doing all the time, which means that reading rather falls by the wayside with her. She worries me sometimes with her lack of reading. This said, she gets the best marks of the three at school, so maybe reading and erudition are overrated in the modern world... (please, please let it not be so)

Dill has dragged herself into school, intoning her usual tongue in cheek refrain "Just because I'm last means that no-one notices me- I've had a cold since November but no-one notices me, because I'm last. They notice Sim, oh yes; they notice Hen; but little old me? Oh no..." The real reason is that Dill would not miss a day of school unless moribund, so much does she enjoy going there.

Meanwhile, I am ploughing through an exceedingly dull contract that I'm meant to be proofreading rather than translating, and distracting myself at five minute intervals with trips to Scrabulous and the chickens. Did I mention that I have, erm, a small Scrabulous problem?

I have decided that Scrabble is a lot like life really: you do the best you can with the letters and the spaces you have available to you. Sometimes you are lucky and get the double or triple score squares. Sometimes you have to settle for far fewer points than you thought. Sometimes the other blighter nips in and pinches an opportunity that should by rights have been yours. Mostly though you just muddle through to the end.

Here endeth my philosophie du jour.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Last week, on the day of my fortieth birthday, I had my first piano lesson in thirty years.

And my new teacher is lovely, a very far cry from the deranged 700 yr old blind crones who taught my sister Henna and me simultaneously an eon ago, and whose blindness was made made all the more disturbing by the fact that they had extra-sensory powers of some kind (it was the only possible explanation), and could see when my sister and made faces at each other across the room as each of us was put through our theory and practical separately. I still remember to this day the wizened fingers of folding terrifyingly over mine on the keyboard, while the fingers of the other hand kept up with the tune in the braille version of the pupil book. At the same time, across the room, her sister was putting my sister through incomprehensible solfege instruction, her fingers also running across the wide blank Braille book.

Both wore dark glasses even indoors. I attempted to see behind, to catch a glimpse of blankness, a wandering pupil or wildly unfocused iris as I'd seen on other blind people, some kind of proof, but the sunglasses excluded scrutiny.

Something didn't add up with these two. A school friend of ours claimed that she had seen them driving, and that went they left the house, they had neither white stick nor guide dog. The only dog in their dark dusty apartment was a pencil-thin shivering whippet-like creature, whom they made a great fuss of, in stark contrast to their sharpness with their pupils.

My sister and I discussed this in whispers after our lesson, not knowing how much English the evil teachers knew, as we waited for our mother who had gone to the Saturday market, and kicked our heels in the dusty hot street below their apartment. Our mother did not approve of these conversations, thinking them disrespectful to the handicapped, so discussing it during the 30km drive home was out of the question. When we got home, the complicity acquired during these terrifying lessons would be replaced by the more mundane mild mutual loathing. We had only a scant few minutes in which to swap notes and theories.

Once, when our mother was delayed and we we were still waiting, a scary sister emerged from the porte cochere of the apartment block, asked if we still waiting, tutted audibly when we said yes, and walked steadily off down the street in the direction of the bakery.

We understood well enough that it is possible to have less than perfect sight- after all, I was extremely short-sighted. None of my siblings however had anything less than perfect vision- how could it be possible that both sisters were completely blind? Had they both been blinded in the same freak accident? Had it been gradual, or sudden? Had they had time to memorise their street so that they call walk down in that assured way?

It never occurred to us to imagine that some children are simply born blind. It never occurred to us that our piano teachers, who in hindsight can actually only have been in their mid thirties, ever had been children.

A short while later, we stopped lessons. The official reason was that our father did not want us away from the house when he was there- a perfectly acceptable reason in rural southwestern France in the 1970s, where the father's word was law. The real reason was that without a piano of our own, meaningful practice was impossible - we practised our fingering on the edge of the kitchen table- and that the lessons were too much of a drain of the already stretched family budget.

My sister and I breathed a sigh of relief, and felt as though we'd been broken out of jail early. We'd both wanted the lessons, and both still wanted to play.

Henna and I both and separately and without consultation arranged to restart piano lessons late last year. Maybe the trauma needed the intervening thirty years to to wear off. It's just strange sometimes how we are guided almost against our will in the same direction.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


That's it.

One is officially in one's mature years, at the moment of one's life. It all starts swinging back from hereonin, apparently.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Purple Towers Birthday Week started today, with the Boff arriving at what he fondly imagines to be the grown-up magic number of 40. He is soooo much older than me. I said as much to him this morning as I roughly awoke him at 6:50 by shouting "Tea!" in his ear and helping him sit up in bed. Strangely he did not look overjoyed. Th dog decided to honour the start of Birthday Week by leaving two enormous turds and a pee in the living room, and not even looking sorry about it (and yes, he WAS let out last night).

Our neighbour, who fortuitously turns out to have full Corgi registration* and knowledge of LPG boilers, managed by some sleight of hand to get our boiler working again yesterday, but it is still losing and gaining pressure at random, and requires a new pressure switch. At least now we have hot water throughout the house, for which I would feel like falling to the floor and kissing it, pope-style, were it not for the fact that I know what has -recently- been on it (see above).

Dill hauled her bedding into our room in the middle of the night and slept deeply on the floor for the rest of the night, after claiming that her sore throat and cough were unbearable and keeping her awake. Same sore throat also prevented her from going to bed at a sensible time last night, yet vapourised once she got to sleep.

Dill, incidentally, passed the exam to the school she wants to go to; I say "passed" and I know I should not brag about this, but she actually got the highest reasoning mark the current headteacher of this very academic school has ever seen. Which was nice for her. Maybe her sleeping problems are due to the recent swelling of her head?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Top of the evening to you all, and a Happy New Year. I have been derelecting my duties here, so I thought I'd pop in and give the old place a dust-down.

This year (2008) has been interesting so far, what with having had no functioning boiler since New Year's Eve, anything up to 15 people in the house at any one time, small nieces going down with pneumonia (better now after three days of intra venous antibiotics), and Dill about to take her exam for entrance to the very selective girls' school of her choice.

It's wet outside, and cold, and cold inside as well, although we are smugly glorying in our decision to fit alternative methods of heating and water heating. In our main rooms it is toasty warm thanks to the fantastic woodburners but breath-visibly cold in the bedrooms. Undressing to put on pyjamas is a bit of a trial at the moment.

The girls have reorganised their bedrooms, so that for the first time since mid-June, Dill has been able to have her room back. We are, as a nuclear family, alone in the house for the first time since June 15th, and it's so nice for it to be just us again that I am loath to let the girls go to their standard weekend sleepovers. I'm sure that'll pass by and by.

Sim is improving, after several months of having a brain roughly akin to porridge and a vocabulary to match. He has surprised us most horribly recently by actually letting out the dog for his morning pee, and lighting the fire. He's never had the standard teenage trouble with getting up in the morning, but that monosyllabic moroseness was really...trying.

There will be more, I promise. I am out of the habit. I will phase myself back in by degrees.

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