Personal News

Ceredigion, December 2011

Our Wedding

This year we celebrated our Silver Wedding with a lunch party in the venue where we held the original reception, the elegant Assembly Room in St John’s House, Winchester, decorated with pink and white eighteenth-century plasterwork, which makes it feel like being inside a piece of Wedgwood. Paganini is said to have played there when touring Britain. The entertainment was a CD of the music from the wedding, a video of the wedding, which caused everyone to exclaim at how young and 1980s we all looked, and a speech by Creina, which was much applauded. We ate rare roast beef, coronation chicken, vegetable tarts and cupcakes, and drank Crémant de Limoux. Creina gave me a Kindle, which is probably not going to stop me filling the house with secondhand books, but does open up another reading front, and I gave her a jade ring I bought on eBay. It is described as mutton-fat, but is actually pale green.

In February we spent an opulent weekend with Creina’s godson Simon Aitken in the Kensington flat he was decorating for a client: dinner at Launceston Place, where the scallops were served on a bed of hot shingle, a visit to the Tate Gallery to see the watercolour exhibition, and lots of shopping. Another trip was to Shaftesbury to stay with my brother and sister-in-law, John and Hilary: we saw some spectacular flowering shrubs at Minterne, and an impressive food festival, and had dinner in their newly appointed conservatory / dining room.

This year we have been to music festivals in St David’s (a city we have fallen in love with), Gregynog and Machynlleth, but one of the best performances was held just down the road from us in the tiny church of Aberarth, surely one of the unlikeliest locations to hear an outstanding cello-violin duo. Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble in St David’s Cathedral was another highlight: on the way out, we walked past the great man himself, tall, thin and ascetic-looking, standing in the porch clutching the miniature case holding his soprano sax. I stammered out our thanks for a wonderful concert and he gave a minimalist Scandinavian nod. After another recital, we passed the pianist drinking a beer outside the van he used to transport his piano. He was more talkative, complaining that he had heard of blind piano-tuners before, but this was the first time he’d come across a deaf one.

Our holiday this year was culture-related, too: we spent a week in Pateley Bridge on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, partly so that we could go to Harrogate, where there was an exhibition of the Victorian painter Atkinson Grimshaw, whose moonlit and gaslit cityscapes we’d often seen reproduced. It was every bit as good as we expected, and Pateley Bridge is delightful, but the weather was as one expects on British holidays. I set out for several walks, but was driven back in by the rain most times.

Miranda gave us a scare this spring, when she went off her food and started sulking in front of the fire, looking ill. We phoned the vet’s helpline and were told it was possibly kidney failure. It was late at night, and the nearest available vet was several miles away, so we put her in her travelling cage, and set off into the night, Creina driving like a maniac, and Miranda, who hates cars, being sick in the cage. The vet, a young woman obviously devoted to animals, treated Miranda very gently and gave her a blood test there and then. It was a virus, and she soon recovered. I had a couple of hospital trips myself over the summer (one of them in an ambulance – a bit of an overreaction) when I started getting nosebleeds. It is alarming when blood is pouring all over the carpet, but it doesn’t usually mean anything, and they dealt with it eventually by inflating a balloon inside my nostril.

At present I am on sabbatical, in theory finishing a poetry collection. But I am treating November as a mini-sabbatical-within-the-sabbatical by taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month), an annual pact between would-be novelists to write 50,000 words during November. The month is half over, and I have completed my scheduled 25,000 words. I don’t usually write this way, and what I have written is probably rubbish, but it’s fun. After writing I take a long walk, partly to try to deal with a trapped nerve in my neck which is causing pins-and-needles in the left hand. I had something like it once before, but this is not so painful and debilitating as that was, and I am having regular sessions with a physiotherapist, which should sort it out. The walks are enjoyable in the mild autumn weather, and there is always something different to see: a heron fishing on the shore, a seal poking its head out of the waves, two pheasants whirring the length of a wooded valley.

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