A bird dive bombed our barn window yesterday as I stood doing the ironing. It’s a common occurrence up here on the hill; birds disorientated by the trickery of light from changing skies, that or being chased by Bobby, our ten month kitten as he hones his hunting skills.
I dashed out to see whether (as is often the case) the bird was simply stunned. A swallow with a slightly dull metallic blue jacket and tail streamers lay twitching on the decking. The absence of the usual russet colouring told me it was a juvenile, probably from next doors field shelter which is onto the third clutch. It would never have made it in time to migrate with the others anyway.
Most of the swallows departed a couple of weeks ago, two weeks earlier than last year. As they prepared for their journey to warmer climes, I knew there would be no Indian summer. The air thronged with their song; a rambling warble of trills and twitters, reminiscent of radio interference. Large flocks perched on wires and practised their aerial acrobatics, circling gracefully overhead and swooping low over the garden and fields in front, entertaining us one last time.
Meanwhile, the only flutter from the swallow in my hand was from the breeze which fanned its feathers. His head hung downwards. I waited a couple of minutes but nothing. Even Bobby, who had been smarming expectantly against my legs rolled his eyes, flicked his tail in disgust and stropped away in the direction of the blue tits chirruping over the buddleia, eager for more action.
The swallow had died and with it, in the blink of an eye, the last of summer disappeared. What a summer it has been...
It’s a blog all of it’s own, and a very long story but this summer I found two sisters whom I have never met. Until a few years ago, they didn't even know I existed. They say truth is stranger than fiction. You couldn’t write my life story. No-one would believe it.
I’ll always remember it as the summer that Idle Jack became a man. We found out at the end of last term that he had been skipping lessons. He even missed an exam.
His year at college was supposed to be re-taking the GCSE’s he'd failed at school.Instead, he spent a year doing nothing, or nothing to do with enhancing his education. We’d had enough. Having tried everything; positive parenting, grounding him, withdrawing privileges, it was time for tough love. And it was tough.
We told him we wouldn’t support him to go back to college - it was time to get in the real world; get a job. We suggested an apprenticeship; Trainee chef. He would always find work as a chef; he could go on a cruise ship once he qualified, maybe travel the world. The girls all love a chef.
He resisted, of course. He came back from his first apprenticeship interview regaling us with how it had gone, how the head chef had praised him, the questions he’d been asked and how grateful he was that I’d helped him with his interview technique. The following day while he was out, I had a phone call. It was the manager of the restaurant, ringing to re-arrange the appointment my son had cancelled due to a family crisis.
Oh, there was a family crisis that night, I can tell you. My son, Idle Jack - now Walter Mitty.
I drove him to his next interview and sat outside, waiting for him.
“They said I did really well,” he gushed, as he came out after only ten minutes. “And they want to offer me the job. I have to ring them tomorrow to let them know whether I’d like it or not.”
I ask you. In today’s economic climate. I still don’t understand what he was thinking.
Needless to say, he didn’t have time to take his shirt and tie off when he got home before I made him ring them back to graciously accept their kind offer.
It was the right decision. A couple of weeks after starting the apprenticeship it was GCSE results day. This was one occasion when I would have been happy to be proved wrong. But I wasn’t. Eldest son failed all his re-takes. It had indeed been a wasted year.
Academia isn’t for everyone, I told him, putting on my best positive voice. This summer he’d turned it around; he’d got himself on an apprenticeship - a worthwhile career plan - in a couple of year’s time when all his friends are leaving college and Uni looking for a job, he’ll have the advantage.
Six weeks into the job, I’m beginning to think I might have to change his nickname. I can’t exactly keep calling him Idle Jack when he works in a kitchen from 10am until 10pm, on split shifts.
But in true Jane Austen (and Helen Fielding) style it is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces. As hubby and Son No 1 ride off into the sunset in gainful employment my next set of life challenges spring up as sure as night turns to day.
With major surgery knocking at my door, my youngest son has to see a Rheumatoid Paediatrician tomorrow. He keeps getting deep necrotic ulcers in his mouth and after several appointments with Paediatricians and numerous blood tests the worry is, he may be showing signs of developing my Behcets disease – certainly, his immune system seems to have been compromised.
It’s another worry, to add to the many. But then that is life, full of ups and downs. Seasons change. Some are harder than others.
For our house, the summer has gone, along with the swallows, winging their way for winter in South Africa.
We’re off too – not emigrating, but we’re going to the Caribbean on Tuesday for some sun, fun and relaxation.
After the summer we've had, we need it.
So until another day
Banned Books Week 2019
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