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Wednesday, 17 September 2008

mrs hope

“Oh, Mummy, you’re just like Anne, never happier than when you’ve got a needle and thread in your hands,” sighed F9 with dubious contentment. “Yes, you make a house a home.”
He placed his sun-glasses firmly upside down on his nose and went outside to talk to the grass.
(Anne, for those not on first name terms, was last seen on the steps of a caravan letting Timmy lick the plates clean while Dick, Julian and George sorted out some filthy gypo. And since F9’s own haven of choice, his filth-packet bedroom, is a place a troll would hesitate to enter, his idea of domestic perfection is possibly insulting.)

Still, it’s true that I’ve had my fill of needle and thread recently, in sewing a million labels onto rugby tops and navy shorts, to the point of grinding a hole in my finger. Something the Victorian novelist Mrs Oliphant did for real, to more lasting effect in that her books will be read rather longer than my labels will, though not for want of strong stitches.

For T11 became T12 last week which means Secondary School.
F9 expressed his wishes for a good day in typical bizarre fashion.

T12 already looks two years older than he did a fortnight ago by dint of donning a different school uniform. [photo removed] Nylon blazers, slippery ties, oh yes, the lad is growing up: he has 73 new songs on his mobile phone to prove it. Pray God you’ll never have to hear them. We do. 2 bars of a tinny Funky Town at 6.45 in the morning tests parental love to limits the NCT kept quiet about.
A step up the school ladder is a big stride for us too.

For starters, there’s the continuous flushing of cash: not merely the usual wild splurging on Extras but endless new uniform and then £86.50 (horribly specific, as if they added it up and everything), on a bonding trip. A bonding what? one is eager to splutter. £330 went on an end of primary school jolly and now one gets stung for a beginning of term one.
Then we got a sharpish letter reminding us that we haven’t put in for Ball tickets. At £40 a pop, no, we haven’t, love. My eyes are quite giddy with rolling. We endured death by Speech Night last Friday, am I really ready to bop in a big frock, jostling with strangers and pay £40 for the pleasure?

Then there’s the unGodly hour. We have to get up as if we’re about to catch a plane, at 6.30, to ensure T12 catches his bus, a grimy soup of ring tones and tossed plaits and who fancies whom, and representing another £740 flying from the account.

Home schooling was never contemplated, thank you, but a frown did flicker at glancing at a map he’d filled in, and spotting that his confident placing of Gloucester (his school town) firmly in Wales, a shifting down and to the left by a couple of crucial centimetres that threatens Cardiff’s free run at the south coast. There was no busy, red correction from the teacher. My fingers itched, but my attempts to re-establish the relative locating of Cheltenham, Bristol, Gloucester and Cardiff were met with the disdain of one who
a) knows my reliance on sat nav to get out of the drive in one go
b) being 12, knows it all anyway.

Still, education, eh, marvellous thing.
It’s paid for, moreover, in long, long days, days where breakfast takes place in the dark and 11ses feels like lunch time.
It is easier, the hellish rising, than I had feared, but it underlines why I am a night-person. By night you can be with those whom you choose, those you love. Come the drilling of the alarm clock and we are fractured, dispatched via endless mini-roundabouts and roadworks, by an obligation to earn money or sit in a classroom.
Well some of us are, some of us stay behind and hang things crossly on the washing line and wish we’d thought of being a doctor, pound signs zinging in our greedy, lazy eyes. Until the realities of the mouth ulcers of strangers, gummy teeth and furry tongues ping in and I am content instead to take comfort in serene contemplation of two more rooms being all but finished: the house becomes a home indeed.
An ex-garage has been converted into a room housing most of our books and 2 sofas you could swim on

and we have a sitting room, (with normal sofas)

No curtains yet, nor are all the pictures up but to wander about at will without crashing into motley furniture or piles of boxes is so pleasing as to make one weep.

Consolation for being torn apart again following the lovely long holidays, for being left with the dog for company. [photo removed]

Although, when wearing her bomb, her obedience collar, she’s almost pleasant to be with. Words I never thought I’d say.

Today, we went picking blackberries. (Oh God, "we" is me and the dog, shudder.) I filled a bag full and then leant – very Aesop – towards the only plump cluster I had seen so far, just out of reach, only to plunge down a rabbit hole – very Alice. My foot was clutched by roots, my hands steeped in nettles, the bag split, the blackberries scarpered and I swore. Not very Anne.

I stood there, suddenly knee high, fearing moles and bats permeating my boots, feeling strange, feeling like Mrs Hope. She who knew that Help Was Coming. A clumsy pensioner with a propensity for living on the edge who, in a range of press ads in the ‘80s, frequently found herself poleaxed on the floor: stumbling on the stairs, stiff across the lino, prone against the back door. Was there an ill-advised attempt to take on the attic ladder? I think there was. She never learnt. Anyway, a twit on her pins, Mrs Hope cannily clung to her zapper and could ping for Help. The tools of my rescue were merely the detonator for Lolly’s bomb and my mobile phone which at that point swarmed into life with a lusty toot of Funky Town (courtesy of T12). I glanced at my hands and arms, resembling those of a self-harmer and discussed lesson dates with the piano teacher at the other end of the line. I whispered, fearful of being come upon in a hole and shouting.

Then I clambered out of the hole, undignified and rather foolish. The crumble will be slim on blackberries, and still it's not yet time for lunch.


Mud in the City said...

I loved the Famous Five (but leant more towards George than Anne it has to be said) - I'm sure the self harming scratches will go down a treat at the school ball. Maybe a weapon to scare away all the try hard mummies?

Good to see you back.

Edward said...

A fine blog as usual, and some top photos too. I feel that I should point out that F9, in his spidery scrawl, wished T12 a "floccinaucinihilipilification" birthday. "Floccidoodah" being, as any fule kno, the act of estimating as worthless. I think he was just showing off his vocabulary.

Pipany said...

Oh lovely Milla (didn't want to spoil the comment by using the correct punctuation!). Hope the crumble was worth the pain and embarrassment of the fall; most Alice indeed, but funny to read I'm afraid.
Don't even get me started on the cost of schooling!!! Huge rant brewing as I feel the same as you about it all. Am I really Mrs Stingy-Mean or just Mrs Stony-Broke? No longer sure as I think the two go hand in hand. Little chap does look lovely though doesn't he? xx

bradan said...

Most splendiferous blog Milla, you knock E.B.'s Famous Five into a cocked hat. Was feeling slighty nauseous today, but the description of your encounter with a rabbit hole has cheered me up no end.

Cait O'Connor said...

Lovely, lovely blog as ever.
Two handsome sons you have too.

Joe said...

Too funny.

Looks like you have lovely home and wonderful children.

Thanks for dropping by my blog and taking the time to comment!

DevonLife said...

bloody hell. where did you steal those children from. too gorgeous and, obv highly intelligent.

I'll come to the ball with you. I'll pretend to be your gay lover. maybe you'll get a fee discount as you'll then fill a minority quota.

Will blog tomorrow in your honour. Won't be as good as this fine effort, but hey ho. One must try, hope coming or not.

KittyB said...

I'd forgotten what beauties your sons are, and bonus points for the vocab there, F9.
Two rooms look lovely - a Milla blog with pics, no less. I'm lovin' the blue, and all them pics, thank gawd someone else has so many. Am intrigued by the chair betwixt the natation sofas. V. modern.

LittleBrownDog said...

Oh, Milla - so much to be envious of and what gorgeous pictures! However, not perhaps the beginning of term fleecing and would certainly draw the line at bopping in a frock for 40 quid with lots of people I didn't know. Now what is that blue in your sitting room? Tis divine. And that lovely neoclassical mirror. And those handsome boys. Would also like a bomb for our dog, but have not yet plucked up courage to investigate...


Tattie Weasle said...

The bliss of having a room without boxes trying to trip you up, a whole wall with shelves just for books - heaven....despite the sewing caper!

Potty Mummy said...

So with you on the hole in the finger thing. I never thought I would yearn for a thimble, but... God, I AM turning into my mother, dammit!

lampworkbeader said...

Ah Life was so much cheaper when they left school at 14 and went down the mines.
Lovely boys, but as I've already had four of them, I'm more envious of the books.

Frances said...

Howdy Milla,

Your sons grow more handsome every day!

All of the photos are splendid, and I give special praise to the birthday wish picture.

Having said that, now I must tell you how much I enjoyed reading the words, marvelling at how you glide from some serious issues right down a rabbit hole, and back up through brambles to the glorious possibility of even more adventures tomorrow.


nuttycow said...

Hello darling Milla - welcome back. We have missed you.

Great photos of the house. Sort of how I expected it to look actually. Lots of books (hoorah) and an open fire. Take us on a tour - I'm so nosey!

Watch out for those rabbit holes.

Preseli Mags said...

Hooray! (I was getting a bit fed up of popping in and it still being C Ya.) What handsome sons and such fabulous rooms. Frightening school costs, though. I think I'd pay £40 NOT to go to the ball. Glad to see you back!

auntiegwen said...


The Black Box sended me

I covet with covety covetousness your book room !

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Wonderfully written as always. T12 looks quite the charmer and I think you have excellent taste in the drawing room. And how many books is that? Have you ever counted them?

CJ xx

blogthatmama said...

Loved the photos and the post Milla, how smart and proud T12 is in his school uniform, long may it last. I think your pictures may have solved our book clutter crisis the estate agent keeps pointing out - floor to ceiling shelves.


snailbeachshepherdess said...

book shelf envy here! Mind you I have got a very nice picture that would fit in so well with yours...just say the word and Beddlgirt could be on the way.
Lovely pics Milla, lovely blog.

Fire Byrd said...

A joy to stop by.
You just wait till the sons get attitude then you really will resent spending money on the little darlings!!!
Of course you could always start a new group for survivors of the NCT who are now into subtle self harming!!!

anyscribbles said...

Hi Milla, found my way to your blog and after reading for a short while I know I shall enjoy it as many others clearly do!! I recognise many things you write about, having Teens of my own! Scribble

Cait O'Connor said...

I'm learning to Black Box, been having a helluva job but at last I have been taken to a blog and it's yours!

Fennie said...

I think if I were the proud possessor of such a beautiful home and family, wall to wall bookcase - wonderful idea, just what I need my converted garage was filled with mother-in law -
I wouldn't mind paying for the 'extras' though what sort of affair the £740 represents I cannot imagine.
Not only would they be bonded at that price but superglued and welded as well. Glad to see that Lolly and you are almost on speaking terms.

Janelle said...

ah to spend time curled up on that sofa with ALL THOSE BOOKS!!!! lovely! XX janelle

DJ Kirkby said...

I covet your new library! Want, want, WANT!!!! T12 looks so grown up.

Posh Totty said...

Great blog, I came here via the black box :o) Xx

Annie Bright said...

Hi, I came via the black box :-)

Sally's Chateau said...

Oh you do make me laugh, not that there is anything funny about a 6am start (here) but at least with a uniform you haven't got to cope with a ruddy fashion parade everyday and mountains of washing.


Being likened to Anne would be enough to send one plummeting into a blackberry bush. I'd prefer to be George any day. What has happenned to civillisation that school blazers are now Nylon for goodness sake!

muddyboots said...

new day, new school, new uniform, brings a tear to my eye but yes thank god for the nylon blazer!

annakarenin said...

Popped in quickly to see how eldest was getting on and very smart too he looks in new uniform, rather a handsome lad me thinks.

Worth all the stress I am sure, she says, hopefully, being up to her eyes in it all at the mo.

No pie is worth all that, will ditch plan to go blackberrying this minute!!

ChrisH said...

very fine photos all - and all the money spent on uniform was clearly in a good cause, the boy looks very scholarly. Would now like to come and browse your books - always want to look at other folks books. As if I don't have enough of my own.

FairSailor said...

Milla - Loved the blog as usual and love your home! Very warm and inviting. What handsome boys you have. Thanks for the laughs as always.

Expat mum said...

Death by Speech Night, oh I must remember that and pass it off shamelessly as mine!

Ernest de Cugnac said...

That's not just a sitting room; it's elegance personified.

Exmoorjane said...

Too tired to make any kind of sense but had to say - by heck, you're doing photos! More please....lots more. Want to see the other rooms. We have bookshelves now but are all ill because of breathing in varnish fumes....in fact, can hear a child coughing right now so must away (but not before I put the plates down for Asbo to lick clean).
Loveliness m'dear - as always...jxxxxx

Debs said...

Beautiful photos.

I'd love bookshelves like that as I only have small ones and have the rest of my tbr pile stacked up against a wall, not very elegant.

KAREN said...

My grandparents used to let the dog lick the plates as a treat on a Sunday. Sometimes, we hadn't even finished eating.

No more school uniforms/routine for me. They've all left now. Sniffle.

Lane said...

My, what fine T's and F's you have!

And the books. Oh the books.

Miles Away In France said...

Hi, I just found your blog and I love your sense of humour.
I will be visiting again.

Racheal x

@themill said...

Wot - still no book deal? How blinkered must be the world of publishing to miss the gem and genius that is Milla.
PS I have mirror envy.......

Fire Byrd said...

got here by black box... first purplecoo person I've been sent to.
Need new post though, read this one already!

CAMILLA said...

Milla honey,

Absolutely fab blog, and from the enormous amount of lovely comments here surely tells you that you should have your own page in The Times, brilliant writing.

Your sons are a handsome pair, gorgeous photo's, and I love the room with paintings and that beautiful shade of blue, would be interesting to know - Designer's Guild, maybe Farrow and Ball.


bodran... said...

Ok whats the black box ??
Very serious shelf envy going o here and as for the modernist sort of chair i love it !! and the blue xx


God Milla you make me laugh! Also identify with so much - the wrench after the school hols has been grim, adjusting to lonesome life and hating it before re-loving it! Haven't done blackberries yet this year - and your descriptions remind me why! Love 'fearful of being come upon in a hole and shouting'. Hooted.

Am also with you on the 'not a morning person' front - and have been forced into the scary early rising routine for school bus for the last couple of years. Have got it down to a fine art now, but it doesn't stop me being crabby. You described it superbly though, as ever.

Sorry I missed the pix. [Photo removed] has a hint of alarm about it...
Know so well what you mean re new uniform and them growing up in 2 weeks at a new school, especially if they're the cool ones who go on the bus. Mine have changed beyond belief.

PS: loved the book room too. And the sitting room. I shall be visiting soon. Now that IS alarming.

小貓咪 said...


mewmewmew said...

Which reminds me Milla.... must make a vist to the bottle bank, my garage is fit to burst with empty's of the red stuff. I just 'chuck' them all in one skip, hoping for the best.!

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