Son&Heir was in pensive mood as we drove the 30 minutes home from school in the dark tonight (did I mention that the nights are drawing in?). Apparently he'd been watching a particularly inspiring Commonwealth Games hockey match on TV during social time after tea, and was now bitterly ruing the broken wrist which currently prevents him from doing any more than coach the Juniors one-handed for the next few weeks. But he said something which made me think, namely that he'd rather play at the Commonwealth Games and/or the Olympics than be rich. Now, coming from a boy who is normally a typically materialistic, hedonistic teenager hellbent on accumulating fame and fortune in equal measure, his sudden volte-face took me somewhat by surprise.
And it got me thinking about what is really important in life, reminding me of a quote that I once read many years ago: "Life is nothing but a collection of memories - so get out there and start collecting." Back in those Halcyon days (or should that be daze?!) of my youth, I initially wondered what the writer meant. Yet the words stayed with me all the same, and with each passing year, their meaning has became ever clearer. For the older you get, the significance of the memories of the highs and lows of your life grows proportionately, and you learn to treasure recollections of great occasions such as wedding days, memorable achievements on the sporting field or in the workplace and - especially - simple, everyday events like a child's first steps or even a particular moment that marked a turning point in your life. There is, quite simply, no monetary value to be placed on such memories, and it made me somehow happy that he had come to this conclusion at the comparatively tender age of fifteen. I hope he holds on tight to his dream.
Meanwhile, down in the depths of Oxfordshire, his big sister certainly seems to be living hers. My faithful Blackberry was subject to a veritable barrage of MMS photos during the course of the day: photo of the view from her bedroom window in halls; photo of the student bedroom (complete with mandatory empty bottle of wine just sneaking into the photo in the bottom right-hand corner); photo of the amazing chocolate - ornately decorated with the College crest - which had apparently been served at the previous evening's academic dinner. What does one do at an academic dinner I wonder... spout Shakespeare during the starter, mull over Molière during the main course and dissect Dostoevsky over dessert perhaps? If Daughter No. 1 ever pauses long enough for me to ask her, perhaps I shall find out.
Just as there are life's tongue-rollers and non-tongue-rollers, there are life's scarf-tiers and non-scarf-tiers. Now, I can roll my tongue pretty darned well, though I say so myself. But I have never ever been able to wrap a scarf around my neck without appearing seriously intent on hanging myself, and I strongly suspect I never will. As a teenager I observed enviously as my fashionable friends entwined themselves swiftly and dexterously with all manner of neck attire, and emerged looking casual, suave, sophisticated and sexy. Meanwhile, six hours later, I could still be standing red-faced in front of the mirror, with an increasingly rag-like length of cotton, silk or whatever material, looking like an extra from the latest zombie movie.
Of course, my darling daughterly duo are acutely aware of their mother's fashion infirmities. Very early they realised that if they wanted an example to follow of how to look good, it certainly wasn't going to be coming from Yours Truly. Fortunately for them, Supergran fits the bill to perfection, being a dedicated follower of fashion. Just as her not-quite-fifty-year-old daughter (aka me) always manages to look a mess - without even trying, Supergran always succeeds in turning herself out to coordinated perfection. Better still (in her grand-daughters' eyes), Supergran also adores shoes - pretty, delicate shoes...shoes with feathers and buckles and dainty little straps. Meanwhile, Yours Truly has an embarrassing (apparently) proclivity for plain, flat shoes, trainers and (my absolute favourite) trusty old wellington boots. In fact, I seriously reckon that the first 17 years of my life galloped by without me wearing anything other than wellies - I mean, I was a farmer's daughter, after all.
The love of things lovely (unless you consider "lovely" to be a sleek pair of Hunters - as the writer does) very definitely skipped a generation in our family, with the result that the girls coveted Supergran's shoes, jewellery, smart scarves and jackets almost from the time they first realised that the most fashionable item likely to appear from their mother's wardrobe was an ancient hockey skirt. So when it came to buying Daughter No. 1's first ballgown, Yours Truly dutifully bailed out early on and delegated the task to Supergran instead. Now, much as she adores her grandmother, D. No. 1 was far from impressed by this dereliction of maternal duty. "Most mothers," she wailed, "can't wait to go shopping for their daughter's first ballgown". Not this one, I explained kindly but firmly, adding that in view of my inability even to sport a pair of matching socks most days (where do all the other ones go, by the way?), I felt seriously ill-equipped for the hugely responsible role of co-ballgown selector. And that's even before we start on how much I loathe the very sight of the "Changing Room" sign in any shop. So disinterested in shopping for clothes am I, that I'd genuinely rather just don a hessian bag every morning (though on reflection, it might need lined so it didn't itch too much). Hence, whilst ever-game Supergran and the disillusioned debutante strutted the streets of the Big Smoke à la recherche de the ballgown of D. No. 1's dreams, Yours Truly was out in the garden hanging out the washing - possibly the only job involving clothes that I will ever feel remotely qualified to do.
At precisely 8.29 a.m. this morning, a photo message appeared on my BlackBerry from Daughter no. 1. Upon opening, it proved to be a photo of her "Bod card". Luckily she had already begun to educate her quasi-illiterate mother on the vast terminology which goes hand in hand with life as an Oxford student. Cleaners are"Scouts", holidays are "vacs" and a "Bod card" looks a bit like a credit card only it allows you access to that Oxfordian literary goldmine the Bodleian Library. Her cheery face smiles up at me from the card on which are printed the portentous words "UNDERGRADUATE reading for BA Mod Langs (FRE) Medieval & Modern Lang Fac." Her message below reads: "Bod card yay xxx". Do you ever look at your children and wonder where they really came from, and how you could have raised them to be so different from their parents and from each other? I do. Regularly.
Meanwhile Daughter No. 2 is in the final throes of her personal statement for UCAS, agonising over the ungenerous character restriction that means half of what she wants to say (and D. No. 2 has a lot to say!) has to be consigned to file thirteen (aka the bin). She may have too many words at her disposal, but she doesn't have a lot of time left before the dreaded deadline. And as the school seems intent on having her spend at least 20 hours out of every 24 chasing a ball up and down a hockey pitch for them at the moment (despite shin splints that bring tears to her eyes every time she sets foot on Astroturf), she's a tad unsure about how the personal statement is actually going to reach the stage where its even remotely fit for consumption by the monocled monitoring officials of the various illustrious academic establishments which she has handpicked as being suitable venues for the next step of her academic career.
Son&Heir has had far more important things on his mind today i.e. getting a new plaster cast to cocoon his broken wrist. Having just come out of a completely different plaster early in September following a broken ankle sustained playing hockey, he chose his first game of the rugby season - a week past Saturday - to find out what would happen if he charged full tilt at the opposition with his left arm outstretched and the palm at an angle of 90 degrees to the wrist. The result, as he discovered, is a fractured distal radius. Wrist plaster number one, which went on last Monday (his negligent parents having studiously ignored his pain and suffering over the weekend) was a pleasantly muted shade of purpley blue (not dissimilar, in fact, to the colour of his wrist by that time...). The new one is a shocking luminous uncompromising pink, which no doubt went down exceedingly well with his stricter than strict school housemaster. Obviously keeping a low profile is not on Son&Heir's agenda. Which is a shame, as you can hardly blend in with the crowd following any schoolboy misdemeanor if your arm is coated in a bright pink shell...