Sunday, 8 July 2012

Preparing To Fly The Nest

In many ways our sixteen year old daughter is still very young, she is physically slight and her devotion to Harry Potter has not yet waned. Attending an all-girls school has meant a lack of contact with boys ( until recently) and whilst some other girls in her year are out at parties and clubs, her group of friends seem to prefer a meal at Nando's followed by a ride on the Trafford Centre dodgems.
However, the times are a-changing. Subtly, the signs of a growing independence are there and in only two years time, A level grades permitting, she will be flying the nest. Recently she had her "Prom" and as she tried on various frocks, I saw her transformed into a "young lady", although the sheer bloody agony of choosing a dress did eventually knock any sentimentality out of my system. After the Prom, she went to an "after-party" and she and her friends have since met up regularly with a group of boys they shared a table with at the Prom. My half-Italian husband's boy antennae are twitching alarmingly. Bel has also recently got a part-time job in that den of darkness that is Hollister, one more step on the road to adulthood.
I do not like the expression, "empty-nest syndrome", life is a series of milestones, some unexpected, you adapt and you march on. Bel is our only child and recently I have been wondering what life will be like in a couple of years. I have been an "at home" mum since she was born, what will my role be when there is no one at home for me to be a mum to? I have a couple of projects in mind, my days are always full and I would hope I won't find it too strange. However, sometimes I glance at her and see a flash of the young woman she is turning into, and my heart momentarily aches. I am excited for her, on the cusp of adulthood and whatever the future holds. I know life can be hard too, all you want to do is to protect your child from harm, heart-break and penury. So off you go, Isobel, spread your wings but know that we are always here and the nest will be kept warm for you whenever you decide to return.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Tales From The Tearooms, The Royal Exchange Cafe

 The Royal Exchange in Manchester has to be my absolute favourite place in this great city. I have seen so many sublime performances in its innovative theatre, indeed my love of theatre was sparked off by watching Robert Lindsay play Hamlet here in 1983. I love the airy space of the old cotton exchange with its original, grand, Victorian architecture and within its great hall, the futuristic theatre.
The cafe in the Great Hall is open 9:30 to 7:30 daily and serves a good selection of cakes, drinks, soup and sandwiches. The cakes are delicious and a bit more quirky than usual cafe fayre. My daughter and I love to come in for a break from shopping, but I feel equally comfortable on my own.
 The Craft Shop is a real Aladdin's cave of off-beat hand-made jewellery, pottery, glassware, art and other assorted crafts. I have bought many gifts here and could not resist this owl by ceramicist Hannah Turner.
So, if you are in Manchester and need a fuel-stop, pop into the Royal Exchange, you won't be disappointed.

Books I Have Read In June

I have been able to read a lot of books this month, thanks to daughter's GCSE revision meaning I have been under virtual house-arrest. Still, every cloud and all that. My absolute favourite read of the month was "The Age Of Miracles" a stunning debut by Karen Thompson Walker. I read this in one day, I was so gripped by this tale. The earth starts to slow on its axis and as the narrator says, "it was, at the beginning, a quite invisible catastrophe". The narrator is a young Californian girl called Julia, and her account of the strange times she finds herself in, is disturbing yet beautiful. As the world faces disaster, she faces the usual teenage troubles, friends falling out, first love, parental disharmony. However, this is all set against an impending sense of doom, as the human race faces environmental melt-down. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it is fantastic. My teenage daughter is now reading it and thinks it is excellent too.
The Isabel Dalhousie novels by Alexander McCall Smith, are a favourite of mine, I do enjoy the gentle tales of philosopher Isabel and her life in Edinburgh. This is the eighth in the series and they are best read with a slice of Dundee cake and a nice cup of tea.
"The Captain's Daughter" by Leah Fleming isn't my usual sort of read, but it was going cheap on whilst I was buying some other books so I thought I'd give it a whirl. It is a story of two women who are caught up in the Titanic disaster and how their lives become inter-twined. It was an easy read, the chapters were short, and I did care about the characters and wanted to see how it would all end. It was a bit cheesy, however, and the ending was no surprise and very contrived. My mum is reading it now, and is really enjoying it.
My vintage read this month was "I Capture The Castle" by Dodie Smith. I first read this years ago, but lost my copy. I got this one in Oxfam and I really enjoyed it all over again. The tale of the Mortmain family is timeless and the heroine, Cassandra, is such a well written and admirable character. It is a very funny book and you do wish the best for the whole phalanx of eccentrics who populate the novel. A perfect sunny day read.
I am a big fan of Tina Fey and think "30 Rock" is utterly brilliant. Her autobiography "Bossypants" is hilarious. It contains a lot of American cultural references which passed me by, but her very non-serious account of her life does make some very important points about the role of women in show business. I laughed out loud quite a few times reading this, her account of her honeymoon is worth the price of the book alone.
Jude Morgan's book, "The Taste Of Sorrow" is a fictionalised account of the Bronte's life. I recently saw Northern Broadside's excellent play, "We Are Three Sisters" which did basically the same thing. I love anything which brings the past to life, and this novel did do that. We all know the story and, of course, its tragic end, but Jude Morgan did breathe new life into it, especially the account of Charlotte and Emily's trip to Belgium and the influence that had on them. The death of Anne moved me to tears,and poor Charlotte, once the middle sibling of six, seeing her sisters and brother all die before her.
I had been meaning to read "The Hand That First Held Mine" for ages, and I am really glad I did. Maggie O'Farrell has written a really good book set in the fifties and modern day London. The account of the days after a traumatic birth are expertly written , the brain-fog that descends is acutely described. Again, I was moved to tears as the story unfolded, I really cared what happened to the characters. Well worth a read.