I have of course been immensely looking forward to Sophie and her daughter coming to spend the summer with me and last weekend when I met them at the airport I was as excited as any child at Christmas waiting for them to emerge from the Arrivals Hall. When they did finally come through the doors it really was like a scene from a tacky movie with lots of kissing and hugging and, yes, tears as well; happy ones…
I had spent the previous few days busily getting the house ready for them. My mother’s house has been on the market for over a year now. I have to sell it to pay her care home fees. On the one hand it is quite worrying that it hasn’t been sold yet but on the other hand it is very convenient that it is still there. For much of the past year I have had the depressing job of emptying her house of all possessions (which nobody should have to do while their parents are still living) and yet it has still been my retreat, my real home and escape from the world although I haven’t officially lived there for several years. It has been quite a treat to be able to move some things back into the house and redecorate it (albeit sparsely) to suit the needs of the three of us for the summer. Even if I get a buyer now, I think Sophie, Tina and I are safe to stay here for the next six weeks. And anyway I love the house and I am quite emotional (in a good way) about the chance to inject some more memories and love into it’s walls before I leave. This house is about my childhood and has seen my growth into a woman. I suppose most of all it retains the spirit of my mother before she was ill; and I want that spirit to know and be known by Sophie…*
I am still working, but I have managed to take time off from my regular job during the summer and work part time instead for a local language school for the next month. It means I am only working four hours a day (and the work is very easy in comparison to what I normally do). So afternoons and evenings are completely free to devote to Sophie and Tina.
I had lots of plans; places to go, things to see and do to keep my girlfriend and her daughter entertained, but then summer happened…
Britain is in the grip of the longest and hottest heat wave for many years. Every day this past week has been blessed with clear blue skies and temperatures in the thirties (90`F).Newspapers and the TV news are boasting every day that at the moment most of Great Britain is hotter than Spain, Greece, Florida or The Caribbean. So since it was too hot to actually do much else, we have spent most afternoons lazing in the garden getting an all over tan.
I was a bit worried about the garden because I have neglected it and it is very over-grown. The good thing however is that it means we are completely secluded and nobody else can see in. Most importantly though, Tina loves it. I am becoming convinced that Tina is a reincarnation of Gerald Durrell (author of My Family And Other Animals)! She thinks the garden is a jungle and she spends endless hours exploring and collecting wildlife samples. It is a good job I overcame my fear of spiders many years ago because my house is now filled eight legged mini beasts; some of them in jars and some not! Obviously I have not really played any part in Tina’s upbringing until now, but whatever Sophie did, she did right. Tina is a lovely, bright girl; also very kind and polite. It is truly a pleasure to have her around and I am so glad she likes it here.
When not enthusing about spiders, worms and the occasional butterfly, mine and Sophie’s intensive sunbathing is only interrupted by trips to the kitchen to make snacks, get ice cream or mix cocktails.
In the early evenings the three of us leave the house and go down to the beach for a swim. There is a nice unspoilt stretch of beach about twenty minutes walk from my mum’s house. Sophie and Tina may be able to ski and endure the freezing weather in the Alps better than me; but when it comes to swimming in the cold English Channel, I’ve got them both beat!
When we get home again we cook and eat. This week most of our meals have been improvised barbecues. Tina goes to bed between nine and ten. Sophie and I snuggle up then and watch a dvd or something on TV. Later we go up to my old bedroom and amuse ourselves for hours before going to sleep.
The heatwave is expected to last for another week by which time I expect to be as brown as my favourite Egyptian Goddess! I will get to the things we planned to do… Eventually.
This old house has always been about family to me. It still is.
* I have also taken Sophie to visit my Mum. It went well. I may write about it another time.