(No) light in August (or As I lay dying)

As regular readers may already have surmised all is not well in the House of Merchant. Like the naughty schoolgirl I never was, I left my homework (Blog) to the last minute and was then overtaken by events ie sickness (mine) and cycle accident (his). I can't pretend to have kept a daily or even weekly diary this month and will be treating you to a retrospective stream of consciousness instead.

For the past 3 weeks I have been struck down by an insidiously nasty little virus called Labyrinthitis - constant feeling of motion sickness, lack of spatial awareness, depression, fatigue and, maundering husbands beware, extreme, barely controllable irritability. The fact that I can't stomach any tea, coffee or alcohol and, unlike my wounded soldier, have no outward Badge of Suffering with which to draw sympathy, doesn't help much either. In fact, I am just a bad tempered, hysterical, clumsy shrew in contrast to my Better Half, brought down if not quite in the course of duty then at least attempting a return to his place of gainful employment and now proudly sporting a broken arm and an unsightly graze on his noble cheekbone. Of course, as I find myself saying over and over, it could have been much worse. A back tyre blowout sent him straight over the handlebars, fortunately not into the path of oncoming traffic but onto his head which was admirably protected by his helmet (other riders please note) which then promptly split in two. Two days in hospital and a week of convalescence and we were both more than ready for him to return to work on the Monday, albeit via the trusty Number 4 bus. We have already worn out Daughter Number 1 who came in thwarted hope of some driving practice, made some tasty meals and left a trail of destruction in her wake. We have also done our best to alienate Number 2 with our "constant childish bickering" and demands for cups of tea and Diet Coke. Number 3 actually survived almost 5 days and did her best to take us in hand. However, as the slightest rise in adrenaline levels sees me collapse in a furious heap of heat and nausea and the regular sight of Brian pumping not iron but an bumper pack of tuna in brine in front of the telly in an effort to restore his elbow to its former glory sends my irritation barometer off the scale we are not making great progress.

Hurrah for Jeanette Winterson writing in last weekend's Guardian about our new breed of "illiterate educated" and the constant erosion of language in our schools, universities and, of course, the Media. In an uncanny echo of trainee teacher Daughter Number 3's response to a tutor who thought the apostrophe rule was too difficult for his own students, let alone those they were supposedly being trained to teach: "It is impossible to have high standards if we have no standards" You go , Girl! Where to?, quite reasonably enquires Ms Winterson.

Recently proofing a job application for Royal College of Art graduate Daughter Number 2, I removed, but not before I had naughtily appreciated, the following unintentional howler, to wit that she had "greatly enjoyed regular handling sessions with the museum's curatorial staff", which uncharacteristic slip brought to mind a similar gaff discovered too late in a friend's son's personal statement in which he was eager to record his "awareness of the importance of liaisons between members of staff". Sadly he didn't get the job. A little too close to the bone, perhaps?

"Who's cheating?!" Not the most tactful opening to the address given by Richard Chartres Bishop of London at the Memorial Service on Friday even if the words were apparently Diana's own playful teasing of 2 geriatric card players and not yet another dig at the failed marriage of the Prince and and Princess of Wales. Still, an uncomfortable few moments for an already ill at ease Camilla-less Charles. Her sons did her proud, however, and so much better than the toe-curling rock concert of earlier this summer. But will the Media, the souvenir industry and Charles Spencer let Diana rest in peace? Not while there's still money to be made is my guess.

Although is will soon be 9 months since we said goodbye (and still don't know if it was Adieu or Au Revoir) to Texas, people still occasionally ask what I miss about my life in Gods' Own Country. Well, it's not the big house, the swimming pool or the V8 SUV (not much, anyway); it's not the cheap gas, myriad (and usually excellent) eating out opportunities or the shopping (not much, anyway); or the heat, the fantastic live music or good friends (quite a bit, actually), It's, as Robert Earl Keen has it, the little things, those itty, bitty things.... Like finding a lone sock on the stairs after you've already started the eco-friendly front loading washing machine, like bashing the ice tray, the worktop and your thumb when you fancy a margarita or worse still, opening the ice box to find that you forgot to refill the tray last time around, like young men trying to take your place in the bar queue and young women treating like their grandma's intellectually challenged best friend and no-one calling you Ma'am Yep, it's the little things, that p*** me off!

It may be September 2nd , but I just have to comment on an article in today's Sunday Times by one Stephanie Flanders, economics editor of BBC2's Newnight. Her subject is David' Cameron's, in her view, ill begotten proposed tax incentives for married couples. Her defence of her unmarried parental status runs thus: "I'm not married because, like a lot of thirtysomething women, I thought buying a home and starting a family were more pressing issues - not to mention a far greater and more long term commitment."

Did you , by Jove? Well, I hope in the years to come your son will appreciate that commitment to a stable and lasting relationship with his father came a poor second to beating your biological clock and getting a nice house. I'm afraid, Ms Flanders that, like so many thirtysomething (or twentysomething) women you are confusing a marriage with a wedding. Both require thought and the former hopefully rather more than the latter but there is no comparison in time and expenditure required. A marriage, once decided upon, can be contracted in a matter of minutes in either church, registry office or other licensed premises of choice. The big investment comes afterwards and is ongoing and, in my experience, not entirely incompatible with the acquisition of children or houses. Full marks to Ms Flanders for not wishing to fritter energy and money which could be better spent elsewhere on a fancy dress parade in Las Vegas or an extended family holiday in Barbados; nul points for attempting to offer this as an valid reason for rejecting marriage. So, Daughters One, Two and Three: what do you say to the Brighton Pavilion and 50 covers in a Kemp Town restaurant? Book yours now while offer lasts....

William is pleased to report that he has had a relatively quiet month. He appreciated Daughter Number 3 coming to hold the fort and spare him a trip to the cattery. He even allowed the seeds of a relationship to develop with Number One during a particularly indulgent afternoon during which he reclined Nero-like on the bed in the Blue Bedroom for some considerable time while I caressed his tummy and Number One kissed his lovely little rabbitty toes. He was not impressed by the sight of Brian post accident and his views on the misappropriation of the tuna reserves are not to be repeated. This morning was not a good one as he mistimed his elevenses-seeking re-entry from the garden to coincide with both the bin men and the carpet cleaner. Looking out from the kitchen window a few minutes ago, the far border seemed to have sprouted a new exotic plant with grey/green petals, a pink centre, long white stamens and a distinctly reproachful expression. Ah, must be that rare botanical specimen Cat's Snoot.

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