Dear Sophisticated Ladies
I have had my Auntie to stay this weekend and the missive follows the visit; not exactly blow by blow but certainly in some detail. Forgive me for sharing the minutia of the diary of a dutiful niece. Can I wait for my rewards in heaven? It seems a terribly punishingly long time and very mean to me!!
Friday 4 March 2011 – Wales says yes to increased legislative powers, well the 35% of people who were minded to vote. More significantly in terms of its immediate impact on my life Auntie has landed. The 1325 from Nottingham delivered the parcel safely and intact with an impressively full suitcase for four days. Who needs two coats for four days?
The journey was thankfully problem free aside from an initial annoyance at the couple on the other side of the table having put their suitcase on the table. Mm that would irritate me too but for rather different reasons; Auntie booked a table so she could spread her news paper out! The Tory Graph still not having graduated to Berliner size.
It is now not yet 1900 hours and we have already done John Lewis (two goes) and a late lunch at Jamie’s. Her friend’s husband has leased a property in Nottingham for a Jamie’s restaurant and the refurbishment is apparently beautiful. The Georgian building is restricted is terms of what can be physically changed and they have been allowed to not install a lift; hmm access versus architecture where do you stand?
Well back to Jamie’s in the Hayes, Cardiff; a gorgeous sunny afternoon although bitterly and bone chillingly cold. We were unable to park in John Lewis as the car park was full! Second time in a week I have had to steel myself for the rollercoaster drive into St David’s 2 car park; Auntie is a nervous passenger with an advanced driving certificate. Irony knows no bounds.
We had to first have a coffee and John Lewis was the place to go. She astonishes me by asking if I wanted anything to eat despite the arrangement to eat at Jamie’s in an hour or so time. A careful tiptoeing around the confectionary follows; I am not keen on a toast teacake; she can’t face a (Toffee Apple) muffin (my all time favourite); we ended up sharing a cheese scone. Go figure because I can’t!
Auntie has a list of things to bother the JL staff with, do they realise they are all being individually appraised on performance I wonder. The Carrier Bag and Bin Liner from Simple Human fits inside a kitchen cupboard door; JL price the item at £20 with competitors’ prices ranging from £25 -30. The helpful assistant removes the contraption from the box (with my assistance) and we have a good look at its impressive features at which point Auntie’s says thank you but she’ll buy it at the Nottingham branch!
Jamie’s almost doesn’t get our custom as the music is loud as we open the door. Auntie has already decided, before sitting down, that she won’t be going to her local franchise. I have been several times before and it is standard fare which you like or don’t. The visit is dramatically improved for me by the attentive Irish waiter (the accent does it for me every time and yes I am that predictable (or should that be shallow)). When paying we ask if he will get a tip if we add it to the credit card transaction, he explains that they get a % as it is now taxed. I had heard this somewhere before. I give him the tip in cash saying ‘do with it what you will’ to which he responds ‘it will go towards (insert name of technical part) for my camera’. How sexy is that ladies ~ a man with creative ambitions! Could I cope with those less than perfect teeth is the question?
Saturday 10.15am Auntie is in the bath; it’s has taken her sometime to get the water to a suitable temperature i.e. cool enough to get in. It occurs to me that the temperature of bath water is rather like Goldilocks porridge; not too hot, not too cold, just right!
We went to bed at a reasonably early hour – 2200 after watching Embarrassing Bodies, not something I have spent minutes of my life on before; I doubt I shall be repeating this experience. The man who has problems with ‘his bottom’ quite frankly needs Gok to examine his taste in cardies; perhaps now his problem has been resolved he can spend the three hours a day previously spent on the toilet considering such matters.
Auntie confesses that she does watch Dr Phil (and Dr Pixie and friend) seeking to get to the bottom of the nation’s health dilemmas. I am only slightly surprised; the most prurient of us are drawn to the traumas inflicted on lesser members of society. There is something not very nice about getting enjoyment out of the pain of others. Breasts and bottoms seem to feature in most episodes; British men’s latent homophobia linked perhaps to anxiety about the anus ~ or is that me just being unkind?
I told Auntie I was sleep walking again, I felt it only fair to warn her should I pop in to say hello in the early hours or more likely be found asleep at the bathroom sink. I kid you not I can fall asleep leaning against a doorway (cite Wednesday this week)! Last night I report only one coughing fit and, aside from a sweaty few hours requiring 3 changes of PJ top late on, the night was uneventful; at least for my visitor.
The hours are elastic when someone else is seeking to synchronise their body clock with yours; please let me not hear ‘I don’t mind’ or ‘I’m easy’ when asking what to do today! I could feel a trip to M&S at Culverhouse Cross coming, the question was simply today or tomorrow. We are not going to go out for the day as the weather is unpredictable and cold even when sunny.
The timetable for the weekend has been punctuated with restaurant bookings; dinner today at the Beech Tree Culverhouse Cross; and lunch tomorrow at the Fig Tree in Penarth. I notice on the website for the latter they are looking for staff to fill every possible position from Chefs to front of house; this could potentially not bode well. Unfortunately this prediction proved accurate and we got a reduction in the bill to compensate for a 10 minute wait for vegetables after the main meal had been put on the table.
Am I just a mean ungrateful niece? An already grumpy spinster fitting the shroud of singledom a little too well or just someone who is accustomed to living alone? Either way I have been told, indirectly via a throw away comment, that all my flowers need a drink so best I do that before getting in the shower!
1618 we are about to go on Facebook Auntie wants to see what it’s all about. She is disturbed by and does not understand the concept. Hmm will report back but must avoid giving her the address of the wordpress blog after all it would not be sophisticated to show even a passing interest in something one has a minor starring character role in.
1832 OMG OMG my patience has been tried and fatigued and has now been put into a dark room with the sound of whale music! Me well I’ll tell you tomorrow following dinner out god help me. Auntie is a bit of a calorie counter and there is nothing quiet as effective as an appetite suppressor as someone watching what you eat! I love this as it is usually preceded by ‘Have whatever you fancy!’
Sunday 1721 hours and the finishing line is in sight. Today saw us beavering productively away in the garden at a time when I am usually still in my nightwear. The endeavours were indeed most worthwhile and the garden looks much tidier. Not quite like Vita Sackville West and Virginia Woolf as that analogy would be neither appropriate nor accurate but two women past their prime armed with secateurs snipping delicately away.
As part of the project involved sweeping the leaves from the garden out into the back lane I had prepared by opening the gate leading to the lane. At some point mid morning a voice called ‘hello I live at number 19 can I look at what you’ve done to your garden?’ As I turned a woman a few years older than me, somewhere between my mid 40’s and Auntie’s 70, popped her head in and animatedly gabbled away.
I’m not exactly unfriendly nor am I overwhelmingly welcoming as I guard my privacy closely. Put it this way I haven’t hurried to fix the front door bell as I don’t like uninvited visitors; a faded post it note saying ‘knock loudly door bell not working’ is stuck to the window. But I smiled and responded with comments about the garden; she continued walking with her dogs after 10 minutes or so.
Curious behaviour; a touch of friendly brass neck but hardly offensive; more amusing in reality. Half an hour or so later I am emptying my trug of garden rubbish over the wall into the park and I see her walking back towards me. I quip that she has caught me in an illegal act and we chat for longer this time. Wendy takes my mobile number and says I am her new best friend! This declaration follows my mentioning the Salons and the delights of being single in particular smoking in the bath. It turns out she is a smoker too and we work in similar sectors with common points of reference. Small world
The gardening completed we go inside to get ready for lunch at the Fig Tree in Penarth. Last night we ate at the Beech Tree Inn at Culverhouse Cross; on a previous visit Auntie and I had eaten there when it was Gilbys. The establishment is still a fish focused restaurant with a good Welsh Black steak range too. We indulged in a full three courses although accompanied by the usual guilt imbued comment about how seldom Auntie does this and the fact she shouldn’t be eating so much! Ahhh we are only eating out so much because she asked to!!
The Beech Tree offered some excellent people watching opportunities as the clientele were a mixed bunch albeit none of whom had put sufficient effort into their dress (apart from us of course). Most notable was a woman whose age was hard to determine. She had a shoulder length blonde bob that had been straightened into oblivion and she wasn’t about to waste this investment of time. This meant that she held her head perfectly erect in a Cleopatra type pose above a fur edge poncho. Irritatingly I didn’t see her remove the garment as I feel sure it was done with great care!
Erect Cleopatra was with an older couple and a bruiser (male) of broadly her era. There were a great number of women who outshone their male partners on the appearance front. What is it about women who sell themselves short; are there really hordes of men with hidden depths requiring an exploratory mining technique I have yet to discover?
As soon as the poncho was off the posture slipped as if the rigidity of her spinal column had suddenly disappeared. The down side of the haircuts that caress ones chin line is that it’s hard to keep your hair out of your mouth when eating. I wonder how long it takes to wash a good strong chilli sauce out of white blond locks.
On the hair front I am now 18 months into growing out the blonde highlights I have had for the last two decades. As a consequence my hair is dark blonde these days but it’s really not that dark except in Auntie’s eyes! If she said ‘I can’t believe that your hair is that dark’ once she said it four times. My jocular humour was beginning to get lost in the bottom of my proverbial mental handbag!
The evening was pleasant enough and the food well OK. Enjoyable if unexciting although the tiny woman on the next table confessed that her steak had exceeded her expectation. She took her uneaten portion home in a foil shaped handbag fashioned to create a handle. Nice touch I thought. Is it sophisticated to get out the discount voucher to clarify what exactly is covered? Difficult one as one doesn’t want to incur unnecessary expenditure.
This morning mum told me my uncle, who is in Christchurch (New Zealand) with family, had sent an email updating us on the earthquake situation. He reported 14 aftershocks in 24 hours over this weekend which is frightening. So as Auntie was away mum forwarded the email to me for us to look at. After lunch we were looking at the emails and then she continued to stand behind me as I attended to some responses.
On explaining that I needed to do this missive she said ‘oh you should send that to me’! God help me if she ever becomes really web literate as I’m not convinced she could be persuaded to see the funny side of my musings!
Well there is so much more I could share with you but it would probably be more cathartic for me and besides which South Riding finishes tonight and as host I must ensure she doesn’t need anything more on the refreshment front before then.
I will be corresponding further on the next Salon, in celebration of our own very special Fiona Allan’s contribution to Welsh cultural life, on 21 March. The response so far has been very encouraging with many of you keen to come along and give her a sophisticated send off in true Victorious Endeavours style!
In exhausted sophistication