Thursday, 28 June 2018

I Try To Stay Cool

Living on the top floor has advantages - no footsteps overhead, a roofscape that is as good as any view I've lived with, in-built climbing-stair exercise, some separation from the bustle of a thriving town.

But heat rises - and as the day goes on, it traps itself under the roof, accumulates in the late afternoon sun, slumps on the sofa and is reluctant to move. And heat gets trapped behind the glass of my office window when the sun swings round to the front of the building in the afternoon.

During this heatwave, I've been giving considerable attention to keeping my cool - leaving curtains drawn when I leave for work, closing the blinds in my office at noon, circulating air by opening windows, doors, turning on fans: leaving them on whilst going for evening walks by the river ... getting things moving.

As a child, I slept in a London attic room, and in the summer of 76, I learnt to take a bucket of water to bed with me and, when I couldn't fall asleep, to sit on the edge of my bed with my feet in the relief of tepid water.

Sleep comes more easily these days. At lunch time, I've been spreading a rug under a tree in the university courtyard, dozing for a while.

I nearly lost my cool yesterday - by 4pm my office had reached 30 degrees. My computer screen was pumping out its bright, dry demands. The train home was busier than usual and when I got back, I received some unwelcome news that niggled away at an old, familiar hurt. I felt sweaty, defeated: I got myself into a stew.

I couldn't simmer down, so quite late, after nine, took myself out for a walk. Before I'd got 200 yards, I saw Emily pass in her car. She stopped, got out, and we hugged. We went for mint tea, sat in a courtyard under an indigo sky, chatted about Scotland, mountains and secrets. We giggled a lot, and made plans for wild swimming, and I found my way back into peace.

How cool was that?

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

We Finish With Frasier

One of the comic situations which recurs in Frasier is the moment when another woman ends her relationship with him, usually because of some clumsy misdemeanour: he's accidentally dating two women and they find out about each other, or he calls his date 'mother' in a moment of intimacy, or he brags about his date's celebrity identity, losing her confidence in the process. Much of the humour depends on the way in which, as a psychiatrist, Frasier struggles to apply to his own life the insights he has, and those he ought to have.

In a final twist of plot, both my younger son and I have finished with Frasier, or rather with the eponymous series. After a year, probably two, spent watching each episode of each of the eleven seasons, we finally reached the last one.

We've enjoyed the ritual - sitting side-by-side on the sofa for twenty minutes of undemanding entertainment, which often had the satisfaction of a well-crafted line of script, or an exquisite moment of acting from David Hyde Pierce (Frasier's brother, Niles), or a great put-down from Roz, or simply the panoramic view of Seattle from Frasier's balcony: a backdrop to the series which is apparently not visible in this precise way from any actual apartment. Such was our commitment to the Crane family, that when John Mahoney (Marty Crane, Frasier and Niles' father) died earlier this year, we texted each other our sympathy. I felt gratitude for all the laughter  he (and his dog Eddie) gave us.

Although I didn't think I would be, we were both ready to finish with Frasier when we did. Those early seasons sparkled with wit and originality: by Season 11, the predictability of plot trajectories and the increasing unlikelihood of Niles and Daphne's long-going romance were not sufficiently balanced by wit. I grew tired of Frasier's ineptitude: of the inevitable moment when he would dim the apartment lights, flourish the remote control towards his high-end hi fi in an attempt to set the mood for yet another first date. It was becoming irritating - either he or I would have to move on.

The slow decline eased the ending. And so it was that we finished with Frasier without regret - or maybe, in the end, it was Frasier who finished with us.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

I Complete My 51st

I have finished my Fiftieth (50th) parkrun, but that was last week's news. Today, I ran my Fifty-First (51st). I was fuelled and inspired by the cake and candle Lucy Jay (LJ) gave me to celebrate.

I ate my slice of cake whilst my younger son ate a slice of his birthday cake, leftover from Monday's celebrations of his 18 years. We discussed the significance of 18 (voting, marriage without asking parental consent, drinking in pubs, 18 films). We discussed 17 and driving, then 16 (marriage with asking parental consent, age of consent).

He asked: Who'd want to get married at 16?
I said: Well, I did.
He said: You've changed.

We wondered if reaching adulthood is a process, or attained on one day, or, for him, at 9.04pm on Monday.

For my 50th parkrun, I dreamed of achieving a Personal Best (PB). I ran a harder than usual course in the grounds of beautiful Montacute House in Somerset with my Longest-Serving Friend (LSF), achieving a Personal Worst (PW). So, rather than hanging up my trainers and resting on my laurels, I got up today with renewed determination, did what I thought was a brisk run around my familiar Shrewsbury course, achieving a Personal Average (WTF).

My 50th cake was very good - almond and blueberry - for which it was absolutely worth waiting Two Hundred and Fifty Kilometres (250km).

My son said that the cake I made him, topped by a floppy-haired Hugh Grant, shows that I understand him completely. Now that's what I call a PB.