Saturday 2nd June
Repair to Brighton by train with Daughter Number 3 leaving Number 2 to act as plumber's mate during the installation of new kitchen sink, Part III. Survive the journey as seats were fought for and won but an hour after arrival following 2 trips to the loo via a vertiginous basement staircase and an enforced review of the fashionista's summer wardrobe, I'm finished.
Sunday 3rd June
While the fashionista is off being a barista, I iron, sew and tidy until it is time to set off for the South Lanes and dinner with Daughter Number 1. Although making good progress on the Level the incline of North Street takes its toll so I am greeted with a look which mingles irritation with daughterly concern and led by the hand to our favourite (3 courses for £5.99 in Brighton!) Italian restaurant. A couple of hours and restorative glasses later I announce my intention to retrace my steps to Hanover, declining my dinner guest's kind offer of (calling) a taxi. Instead she calls Number 3: "Mum's leaving now and if she's not back in half an hour you'd better go look for her". Humph. Make sure I return in record time with newspaper, chocolate and insouciant grin which rapidly fades to a grim rictus during the ascent of Everest and collapse on paper-strewn bed. "Gerroff" squawks the welcoming committee, "You're squashing my xxx lesson plans!!"
Monday 4th June
Timely rescue in the shape of Good Friend in a taxi en route to Kemp Town guest house. The only twin bedded room is already taken but we are offered, for the same remuneration, a "family suite" of adjoining single and double bedroom with facilities, additional shower in cupboard on landing, if required. Sounds good but of course this lap of luxury doubles up as the Penthouse apartment, accessed by no less than four flights of stairs and no lift. No fire escape either, just a door opening onto a brief terrace and then a sheer drop to the concrete yard. By some uncharacteristically fortunate quirk of fate we seem to have hit what will later prove to have been the only 3 warm and sunny days in the whole of a wretchedly wet and dismal June and will therefore be very glad of the door to nowhere as a source of much needed ventilation in our Bohemian Rhapsody.
Tuesday 5th June
We are growing quite fond of our garret, and its exclusive seclusion. So much so that we have been indulging in our very own "Ab Fab" existence. By dint of a few extra (height) inches and a blonde updo necessitated by the desperate lack of air con, I am Patsy and Good Friend is perforce Edina. Sadly no ciggies of any complexion (just as well in our private death trap) but it is fun to swan around in our underwear, swigging duty free G&T, popping those chocolate covered, low calorie honeycomb pills (aka Maltesers) jeering at The Apprentice, Big Brother and any other TV reality programme which provokes our wrath. In the early evening following a telephone spat with Daughter Number 3 regarding the location of the venue of her evening gig (as the invited artiste and Brighton resident shouldn't she be telling me?) and faced with the Herculean task of putting on clothes and staggering down 4 flights to enquire of Mine Host, I fell so far into character as to snarl over my shoulder to Good Friend, still reclining en dishabille on my bed (better TV reception) "If the brat rings back, Eddie, you deal with it, OK?"
As it turns out, by her own admission, the brat's gig was a waste of time and only accepted in accordance with the amateur musician's mantra, "Turn down no opportunities". After all, if The Police once played to an audience of three in the wilderness of upstate New York and became chart toppers almost overnight, discovery could be lurking in the back room of the Madeira Hotel amongst the members of Space (Society for the Prevention of Any Cool Events) Gluttons for punishment and still in search of the Ab Fab, Good Friend and I kiss the despondent songstress goodnight and decide to "crash" the debut gig of Daughter Number 1's band, happening in an under promenade cellar just a few yards from our present position. It was like going back 10 years except that my thighs and ears no longer have any stamina. Perhaps the music was different but the line up was the same even to the (visual) reincarnation of Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) in the back row lending random hoots and toots to the proceedings. I dare say the music was very good, of its kind, and I'm sure my daughter's vocals were absolutely brilliant, if only we could have heard them above the sternum cracking drum and bass. We enjoyed the robotic dancing though and the interesting split personality outfit of school Marm beige courts and on the knee A line skirt topped with shocking pink T shirt bound and draped with all manner of beads and chains a la Xena, Warrior Princess, circa 1987.
Back in the Upper Rock Gardens penthouse, knees and ear drums throbbing, Patsy and Edina make a unilateral decision over double rations of grog and a pyramid of melted candy balls bearing an unfortunate resemblance to something Gillian McKeith might wish to examine: scrap tomorrow's proposed day trip to Lewes in favour of a very long, breakfastless lie-in and a "let's just see what happens" kind of day.
Wednesday 6th June
What happens is rather too many hours spent in enjoyment of the obligatory British seaside experience of two deckchairs perched precariously in south coast shingle. Patsy had the foresight to cover her head with another obligatory British seaside accessory, the ubiquitous cardie and therefore, unlike poor Eddie, avoided startling their fellow guests, a retired couple and mum in law from Darlington, with the extraordinarily rude health of her complexion - a scarlet forearm and matching instep proving somewhat easier to disguise.
Apropos of aforementioned reality TV programmes, was anyone surprised that equine- visaged Katie Hopkins got the boot (albeit sideways on) on The Apprentice last night? What was surprising was Sir Alan's rationale. Surely these days it isn't legal to discount a candidate for being a single mother or even suggest that maternal duties might prove a hindrance to advancement? Of course, anyone who observed Katie's showing in the very first (coffee selling) task knew that she was never much of a hands-on Mum and certainly not a frequenter of play groups or coffee mornings where all of us ordinary Mums took turns at catering for the masses and would therefore know how to estimate the quantity of milk required for x number cups of coffee.
Thursday 8th June
So smug, opinionated, super intelligent Emily Parr used the "N" word on Big Bro and was summarily dismissed, in the middle of the night no less. Would you believe it, especially after the last series' furore? Well, frankly no, I wouldn't. Ever the cynic, as dubbed by Daughter Number 3's form tutor every time I questioned the nonsense which passed as information to parents, I'm pretty sure this was no accident but a pathetically transparent attempt by Channel Four to attain or at least attempt the Higher Ground. I should perhaps explain at this juncture why I have been watching BB at all. Well, it's because I've found the all female plus Ziggy dynamic quite fascinating. Didn't you just love the squabble over the hair straightners? "I can't help it if my hair has a natural curl" sobbed sweet little Posh Spice Wanna Be, Chanelle, in the Diary Room as if on trial for her life. Don't worry, my interest is waning in inverse proportion to the addition of each new male to the house so no need to fear any further reference to "this colossal waste of time" (Brian)
Thursday 14th June
Ex boyfriend Number 2 continues to be a pain in the nether regions and now we must, surprisingly, admit Number 3 to the Rotters' Club. "You can't have your cake and eat it", as my Mum was fond of telling me but, of course, we all try.. You can be a victim, a hero and a rat, if you must, but not all at the same time. You can make decisions but not dictate the outcome for other people. At our lowest ebb we have been driven to label these otherwise exemplary individuals as s******, the latest fashionable term for gentlemen who have disappointed us. There may be rather more *'s there than you might have expected because this is not the usual rather less than complimentary appellation with which I -and you - may already be familiar but an abbreviation of an anatomical area peculiar to the male of the species. It's all just a load of balls but it afforded us a much needed laugh, anyway.
Friday 22nd June
So Poland has told the Germans where they get off. Bravo. The truth hurts.. For the benefit of Transatlantic readers, at yesterday's EU summit, held in Germany, Poland had been fighting plans to change the current voting system to one based on population which would heavily favour the Teutonic State, since reunification by far the biggest country in Europe with a population of 82 million. However, as Polish prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski so rightly points out, had Germany not "interfered" in Poland between 1939 and 1945, Poland would today have a population of some 66 million; as it is they are 28 million short. There is nothing short about premier Kaczynski's memory, apparently, nor that of his twin brother, Poland's president Lech Kaczynski. Sounds like this formidable double act could be just what's needed to keep Germany and that other European Colossus, France, in check. Certainly the Brits haven't been up to the job, not in the last 60 odd years, anyway.
Tuesday 26th June
William has had a relatively quiet month. He has coped well with Good Friend and managed to avoid most of Brian's unwanted attentions. However, last weekend's influx of (non-resident guests) and the constant, relentless, climate-changing, Houston-rivalling, biblical rain have finally worn him down. And of course it's my fault: my fault that he can't go out whenever he wants to; my fault that he can't lie in the flower beds and toast his tummy to a becoming shade of minky brown; my fault that the house is full of people so he can't find a suitable bolt hole and is forced to sit out in the pouring rain; my fault that on re-entering he has to be dried off in a stinky green towel and most definitely my fault that the rain has made his fur so exceptionally soft and silky that Brian keeps rubbing his beard in it. In fact so much is everything my fault that a very disappointing scene took place in the garden today. Rude words were spoken and if I'm not much mistaken, an equally impolite gesture was made behind my retreating back. Apparently William didn't read Ronald Payne's article (Daily Mail Thursday 21st June) about ladies and their pussies and their relationship with the opposite sex, to wit: "The first rule in cat ownership clearly states that any feline misfortune may be attributed to male interference". Well, he will have a golden opportunity to put this theory to the test on Thursday when Brian delivers him to the cattery. Brian is displeased with me too but this disapprobation precedes the rain. Actually, he is p****d off with Life but it's so much easier to be snarky with Wife although neither strategy accomplishes much. I think it's called the Male Menopause.
Wednesday 27th June
Take the train to London in advance of Daughter Number 2's degree convocation. This time there are definitely no seats in standard class and a lot of Goldilocks and the Three Bears indignation about who is sitting in someone else's reserved place. I attach myself to a nice business lady and together, in the company of grandparents with two small children and a young couple with tremulous Granny in tow we decided to invade First Class which is conveniently just one compartment down. My new friend and I lurk and lurch outside the smelly toilet while Granny the Younger ear bashes a Virgin official who backs down without much of a fight. Business Lady and I then slip in and arrange ourselves at a convenient table for two. We then pass a very pleasant 45 minutes in which I tell her that I'm going to London for my daughter's MA graduation and she tells me that she left school at 14 (surely an exaggeration given her present age) with no qualifications at all and is now a high flying property magnate. Hey Ho. In an attempt to cheer up Number 2 and get her away from her semi troglodyte existence in the Georgian basement flat, known in happier days as the Hackney Mousehole, I suggest we venture out to the pictures. The nearest cinema showing the chosen film (Edith Piaf bio pic "La Vie en Rose") is in Dalston, an area of London with which I was previously unfamiliar and it does not improve on acquaintance. The streets were dark, dirty and depressing, ditto the cinema and (although well acted) the film and a modest packet of Maltesers cost £1.75 ($3.50).
Thursday 28th June
Accompany Number 2 to the RCA (Royal College of Art) to pick up her gown and hood (real or fake fur, Miss?). The journey from Hackney to South Kensington involves a bus ride, 2 tubes and a further bus ride or long walk down Knightsbridge, not something I would like to undertake everyday. I would, however, really like to make that or similar trip with one or two of my Texan buddies. If it wasn't for the double decker buses (no longer the jolly red Toy Town versions of yore) and Arab owned Harrods on the horizon, I think they might be asking when they could expect to arrive in London. For most of the journey Daughter Number 2 and I were almost the only Caucasian faces. This is simply a statement of fact. Loitering around the College in the course of 10 minutes I heard German, Japanese, Russian and "American" spoken around me. A casual examination of the convocation programme suggests that candidates from the British Isles make up approximately only one third of the 2007 graduating population. According to the register of this year's alumni, the architects, designers and art historians of tomorrow will be/already are East Europeans, Swedes and the good old Brits. So we can look forward to sitting in our concrete block or gothic castle, furnished by Ikea, nostalgically thumbing through books about the glories of the Victorian age.....and then going for a drive in our Korean car engineered by Germans. Vorsprung durch Technik.
Despite our transport trials we fare better than Brian who is stuck for 2 hours on the M25 arriving just in time for dinner at a middle European restaurant on Hackney Road: chicken liver and bacon, mixed salad and parsley buttered new potatoes all for £4.50 - yum.
Friday 29th June
Convocation day. Brian and I awake (in borrowed executive Docklands flat - luxury and kudos) to news that a car bomb has been discovered and defused in Central London. Thank Goodness on all counts although the full potential horror doesn't yet register as I debate the day's footwear and wonder whether to risk the cherished dull silver fabric wedges under seriously threatening skies. Vanity wins although by Canary Wharf tube station I'm already regretting my decision as my failure to wear them in makes itself painfully apparent. Despite Brian's worries we arrive dry and in good time at the Royal Albert Hall to await the arrival of the graduand and her younger sister (Number One is working). Friends and family of History of Design students are banished to the circle so the Brighton training comes in handy up three broad flights of stairs. We enjoy a bird's eye and only slightly vertigo inducing view of the proceedings including Number One's dissertation subject Tracey Emin (trademark white canvas stacked wedges with ankle ribbons) who is to receive an honorary professorship. Sir Terence Conran, RCA Provost, (of Habitat fame) is surprisingly frail and not, one suspects, with us 100% of the time but it is good to see him there. Some two hours later we are free to roam the exhibition in a marquee in Hyde Park and fight all the other fond relatives and one or two characters who just seem to have slipped in out of the rain for a plastic glass of tepid Chardonnay and a dried up prawn mayo sandwich. Several bus and tube journeys later we round off the day with a celebratory meal at the highly recommended Trafalgar pub in Greenwich. It's been a long and latterly bumpy two years and a long and tiring day but we are happy and proud to raise our glasses in a toast to Daughter Number Two the first (as far as we know) Merchant MA. And may the sun shine on us all in July.