Tuesday, 21 December 2010

In which I confess to neglecting you

I really must offer my apologies for being so dilatory a correspondent. I have been long overdue to make this entry but have struggled to escape the bonds of everyday life for even the sufficient time to write.

I should really report back of the nuptial celebrations of Mr B's cousin. It was all absolutely delightful. Mr B's cousin, as I fully expected, looked radiantly happy and beautiful. And yes, the elegance of her bridal gown almost defies description. Suffice it to say that she looked rather like a goddess of the silver screen in Hollywood's golden age.

When the moment came for me to don my own gown, I was generally satisfied with my appearance, although a short frock like that does rather draw too much attention to the similarities between my own legs and those of a grand piano. Still, enough has been said now of the shortcomings of my shape and thus I shall refrain from further animadversions on my form.

The shoes which I found to accompany the gown were satisfyingly stable in spite of a high heel. It also made me appear a trifle less ridiculous when standing next to or dancing with Mr B, who like the unforgettable Mr Darcy of Miss Bennet's delightful Pride & Prejudice has a 'fine, tall person' (as well as the 'handsome features and noble mien'). We never find out whether Elizabeth is tall or not, but she could easily be much taller than myself without being in any way conspicuous for her height. Thus, if I am wearing low shoes while standing next to Mr B, he appears to be escorting either a dwarf or a baby sister, neither of which is at all soothing to one's self esteem.

I did wonder, as we travelled on the day, whether I hadn't rather pinned too much onto this one social engagement, as we were unlikely to know many of the other guests. We had however a perfectly wonderful evening, the speeches were amusing (I particularly enjoyed the words of Mr B's aunt) and we danced the night through. I can only be thankful that the weather, although cold that day, reserved the worst of its rigours for the following weekend.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

In which Mamma buys me a new gown

It is now some weeks since my birthday but the shopping trip Mamma and I planned to buy me something pretty to wear had to be put off, owing to poor Papa's indisposition. In the meantime, we received an invitation to the nuptial celebrations of Mr B's cousin, who weds at the end of November.

My delight at receiving this invitation notwithstanding, I must confess to a slight sinking of the heart, increasing to veritable trepidation, on reading one part of it: the dress code. The code for ladies is cocktail frocks. For me, this was a disastrous concatenation of circumstances, each one multiplying the others. Suffer me to explain.

I am , ahem, a 'petite rondelette' as the French might say it. In plain English, I am short and somewhat round. The former problem is mostly of little concern to me, except on the few unfortunate occasions when I try to buy a gown (or try to reach anything on a top shelf). I am so short that I always find the low point of what should be the d├ęcolletage of any frock in any shop is, in fact, much closer to my navel than to my d├ęcolletage. Leaving aside (as though one could!) the indecorousness of it, it is scarcely becoming, particularly bearing in mind the deficiencies of of my figure.

For my embonpoint (note my preference for French circumlocution as opposed to plain English while discussing the failures of my form), I have been striving to reduce my proportions somewhat, although I am loth to go to the extremes adopted by Lord Byron of subsisting on potatoes mashed up with vinegar, accompanied by glasses of seltzer water. While my efforts have been attended by a certain measure of success, the unquestionably skimpy nature of cocktail attire might be considered the worst wardrobe imaginable for ladies such as myself. 

Now, I would never be guilty of the either the stupidity or the vulgarity of trying to compete with a bride at her own wedding (I am no Mrs Veneering), but the fact that Mr B's cousin is a tall and strikingly beautiful girl with an extremely elegant figure added considerably to my trepidation. However insignificant, one does like to look one's best at such an event, but I was beginning to think I would have to contravene the dress code in order to achieve this.

Figure to yourself, then, my amazement when on our shopping trip, for the very first time in my life, I found an actual 'little black dress' that fits me; yet without emphasising all those disastrous bits that one would rather cover up (which is my usual fate in dress shopping). I could scarce believe my eyes. Mamma asked would I not rather have the dress put aside and try on some few others in other shops? I adamantly refused and insisted on purchasing the dress there and then. I suspect Mamma was a little disappointed as she was hoping for a more exhaustive degree of thorough shopping than we actually achieved. Nonetheless, she was delighted to be able to give me as a belated birthday remembrance my first 'little black dress'.

I will never have a figure like Elizabeth Bennet's: 'light and pleasing'. Little as I have in common with Fanny Price, I believe I felt the same degree of amazement at the relative improvement in my appearance as she felt before the ball at Mansfield Park.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

In which Mr B proves himself not bloody, but bold and resolute

Part of the amusement of quoting the Bard in relation to Mr B is that in comparing him with Lady MacBeth, one could not light on a character more ludicrously unlike his own. Lady M is wholly evil, obsessed with power and unwomanly in the means she will adopt to pursue her ends; while Mr B is mild to a fault and far more interested in caring for his bairns than furthering his career.

Nonetheless, mild though he be, he took bold advantage of my absence last Thursday evening coinciding with a period of wakefulness on the part of the Inexhaustible, to convince that hitherto unregenerate baby that sleeping is indeed pleasant and agreeable. Furthermore, it is a state which he (the Inexhaustible) can attain all by his little self, without interventions of milk or rocking from Mamma. He informed me that it took some 40 minutes and involved much determination and going in and out of the room to reassure the Inexhaustible that he hadn't been deserted. To Mamma's almost boundless amazement (and relief) the Inexhaustible has now decided (on the eve of his first birthday) that he does actually find himself to be rather fatigued by the end of the day and that sleeping through the night is the best cure for this. Picture to yourself my amazement yesterday when I was able to put the little man down in his crib some few minutes after seven in the evening, with only two sleepy, lukewarm protests which he didn't have the spirits to persist in. And as for this morning when he only woke at ten minutes past seven, words cannot express the blend of astonishment, gratification and relief I experienced.

This would of course lead one to assume that Mr B and I enjoyed a peaceful night's repose. However, for only the second time ever, the Infant Phenomenon tumbled out of her bed with all the covers at four of the clock and set up the kind of unearthly howling that one really would associate with Shakespeare's blood boltered tragedy. Having thoroughly frightened both her parents, she peacefully went back to sleep, leaving us to struggle fruitlessly to regain our slumbers.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

In which the Inexhaustible Baby exhausts his Mamma

Borrowing again from Mr Dickens, this time from Our Mutual Friend, I find an appropriate name for my son, now nearing a year old. He is a perfectly splendid baby in many ways (like little Johnny Bold in Mr Trollope's Barchester Towers he takes his food with a will and doesn't have fits) but I cannot pretend that his sleeping is other than erratic.

This, as I woefully tell myself, is no more than can be expected from a baby - inexhaustible or not. What I find inexplicable is his ability to go through an entire day with a bare half hour of sleep and still be full of energy, while other babes will sleep for three hours (to the great relief of their fond mammas). While I am aware of those nursery authorities who would castigate me as a bad mother for not imposing an iron discipline on the Inexhaustible, I am simply unable to arrange the day in such a manner that both the Inexhaustible and the Infant Phenomenon sleep and eat at the optimum (and different) times for each. I suspect that I am sadly disorganised and wonder whether the redoubtable nannies of the fictional past, ruling with absolute authority over well-organised nurseries, really existed or whether, like so much in fiction, they are something that we would like to have had, but which never really existed.

Mr B, loving and considerate spouse and parent that he is, has been striving to the utmost to help, nonetheless his avocations in the city of London render his help but part-time. Hence five nights out of seven, it is Mamma who has to deal with the Inexhaustible during the hours of darkness. His vagaries are now exacerbated by the usual seasonal ailments and I find that an occasional night passes when the only means with which he can be persuaded to sleep is if I sit up in bed supporting him in an upright position to render his breathing easier. While I have a relatively felicitous arrangement of pillows to support both head and neck, this cannot be considered a comfortable attitude for repose. 

I fear it will be a long winter.

Monday, 27 September 2010

In which the Infant Phenomenon confuses herself with Tiny Tim

I should perhaps, as I introduce my daughter, point out that she is not yet four. A delightful age, it must be said, nonetheless bringing in its train many difficulties and confusions for the fond parent. All parents believe their children to be prodigies, it is indeed almost de rigueur in certain circles. The Infant Phenomenon introduced by the brilliant Mr Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby is but one example of this. Even with this consciousness upon me, I must say that her vocabulary is astonishingly wide for her tender years and productive of much mirth to the listening adults around her ("Are you a surrealist?" to which her response was "No, I'm a shopping list.").

Fate saw fit to afflict her with a broken leg several weeks ago - an experience I would certainly counsel the fond parent to avoid if possible (in our case, by avoiding trampolines). A night in hospital, the necessity for her to imbibe a composing draft (sedative, I believe the physician and nurse called it) before the limb could be properly set in plaster, the distress it caused in her and the anguish caused in her parent from seeing such distress; all are experiences I most heartily pray you may be able to avoid. The ensuing difficulties that the plaster cast (encasing her entire right leg) caused in the simple round of our everyday life would have to be witnessed to be believed.

That episode is now over - it is now nearly three weeks since the cast (purple with a green stripe by the goodwill of the charming people at the children's infirmary) was removed - and yet it is not. The cast is gone, but my child is suffering from something I can only dub 'Tiny Tim Syndrome'. She has developed a habit of limping piteously and beseeching her fond mamma to carry her in the most theatrical manner. Her reaction to the occasional tumble down is worthy of a Mrs Siddons. When her small brother pulls her hair, as is the wont of any child of such tender years, he being not yet one, it becomes a one-act tragedy. Yet when at nursery and eager to join in the frolics of her little playfellows, she is able to walk very well. In short, she is only afflicted when she remembers to be and I must hope that as her Grandpapa says of all her little vagaries which are at all productive of parental difficulty: "It's just a phase."

Sunday, 19 September 2010

In which 'The Woman in White' leads to a woman inadvertently yellow

The moral of this story is that reading, however enjoyable or elevating, should not be allowed to distract one from even the most mundane of tasks. After my initial post, I toyed with the idea of reading 'Poor Miss Finch' but decided that although an enjoyable read, it is so preposterous a tale that I would save it for another day when boredom was rife. Nonetheless, I felt a great inclination towards some work of Mr Wilkie Collins, eventually lighting on The Woman in White.

The story wove its immediate spell and I was reading while putting the laundry - a whites wash by the purest coincidence - into the washing machine, musing at the back of my mind on how charming it would have been to have a laundry maid and how altogether less charming it would have been to be a laundry maid. In my state of literary distraction, I put in with the bulk a dishcloth with which I had been cleaning up some turmeric spillages. I had made a boorani for some friends who gave us the pleasure of their company for dinner; a dish which involves rubbing turmeric and salt into slices of aubergine. The gloriously golden turmeric, I seem to recollect reading somewhere, has been used to dye clothes in the past. Its effects on my hands was to stain them yellow in a manner which rivalled Lady Macbeth's in durability and resistance to repeated ablutions, while its effect on my laundry has been to render my whites wash several interesting shades of yellow.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

In which I make your acquaintance

I bid you all welcome and am delighted to make your acquaintance.

This style of writing, strange as it may seem, really does start to become second nature to anyone who immerses themselves long and thoroughly in the literature of the 19th century. I started out when I was 11 and am now 41, so have 30 years' experience of a more leisured and formal mode of expression.

I was practically born with my nose in a book. I love to read and have become adept at getting through many of my daily tasks while reading: brushing my teeth, walking to the corner shop, making coffee. I have even been known to take a surreptitious glance at my page while sitting with my small daughter as she watches Charlie & Lola or with my baby son while he plays with his toys.

Amongst the lesser-known works of that popular novelist Mr Wilkie Collins is 'Poor Miss Finch'. The narrator, Mme Pratolungo, describes the heroine's stepmother in the following terms: 'always with a baby in one hand and a novel in the other'. I hope I resemble Mrs Finch in nothing else ('never completely dressed, never completely dry') but I rather think I do resemble her in that.

The purport of these outpourings is to share the extremely unnerving episodes which too great an immersion in the fiction of the 19th century can cause when the reader is too sharply brought back into contact with her own real life in the 21st.