Category Archives: Monopoly

By Popular Demand

Normally I feel that writing about my own experiences, or observations on life, the news and child development (my own limited understanding of) are pushing the limits of what this blog is about. This blog was set up to act as a touch-typing board for the events and emotions and some news following my dad’s heart attack nearly two years ago. However, as I have said elsewhere, dad’s news is not my news and I do not want to publish every detail of his life today without his permission. So I hope that he starts his own blog in time – he is an excellent communicator and has written things in the past, much of which I haven’t read. (I tried reading parts of his doctoral thesis a couple of years ago, but only to serve my own purposes and to laugh at the names he’d changed.) 

So what is the purpose of this blog now? Well, in some ways I want to vent some of my own creativity in this direction, so I am open to suggestion and to passing on ideas which come my way. I am ready to write by popular demand. Let’s see where it leads. Do you want me to write about quail eggs? The Paralympics? Monopoly and how my husband always tries to win, while I just try to have a nice game?

The first thing which needs to be said is that Lily and I went to London Town a few weekends ago. When we were there (with Lily’s daddy) we saw Lily’s cousin and his mummy and daddy (mummy’s brother), mummy’s sister and her landlady (mummy’s cousin), mummy’s other cousin (her sister) and her other cousin (also mummy’s cousin). This was not in any way confusing at the time. While we were in London Town we did not see any Olympic handover parties, although some of us saw James Morrison practising outside a certain Buckingham Palace. The Palace were ever so good and didn’t complain about noisy neighbours and ASBOs; even when we didn’t go down with Alice. We couldn’t find her. More importantly, while we (the cousins) were in London Town, we visited the Aquarium and waved at a number of fish and tried to take photographs of the kind of jellyfish which kept changing colour. We found the Aquarium to be mostly underground and mostly underwater, but we kept dry, thanks to the wonders of glass. Lily went on her first underground train, thanks to the wonders of Victorian foresight. Unfortunately, she also had a cold, which she no doubt spread around London Town, thanks to the wonders of sneezing.

A wonderful time was had by all.

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Embassadors welcome

Just when you think you can recognise every flag in the Olympic village, someone comes along and invents a new country. Or two, if they feel so inclined. South Ossetia is one thing (although it sounds like half a country to me). Abkhazia is a whole nother thing, as my American tutor used to say. I did not know that such a magically named place existed until this week, and am still unsure whether muggles are able to travel there, even with a British passport. I did not know how to spell it until a couple of minutes ago. You have to pronounce it with a frog in your throat and a surprise in your eye.

What people don’t realise as they start recognising new countries east, west and centre is that new countries need a lot of Stuff. A flag, for example. A team to send to London in 2012. A national day off to put in everyone else’s diary so you don’t upset anybody by phoning them then. And a small corner in every other nation in the world to call their own and to serve out Ferrero Rochers to beautiful people. A lot of countries have discovered that London is getting bloomin’ expensive recently and have been buying land for their embassies out of the centre of the capital. Some are as far out from the centre as Holland Park (Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Greece come to mind) and there is in Goldhawk Road, W12, some part of England that is forever Madagascar. It is just not Monopoly.

Where will these ambassadors go next? Well, seeing as no one can afford London prices, and everyone has been moving to such up-and-coming places as Suffolk in recent years, I suspect we may be meeting our new Abkhazian diplomats soon on the local streets. I am inclined to learn a few words in Abkhazian (assuming such a language exists) and practise my Ferrero-unwrapping skills. Who wouldn’t want to entertain the local mothers? Which reminds me, I really ought to tidy the house before my next visitors.

Pawn to Bishop four

If anyone asks, I am not intending to run for bishop, president or pope. However, I may spend more time over the next few months putting letters on pages and hoping they make sense.

It is my new game plan. It is a bit harder than Monopoly, however, which only goes round in circles.

How the Cuttlefish came to Be

Once upon a time I went shopping with dad last week. We parked in the parent-and-child parking, and as I was not a small child it was convenient that we also had Lily along with us.

Dad bought things like lentils and I bought things like chocolate and Lily didn’t buy anything but helped start conversations.

One of the things we found was a pack of game, such as one might use for making a game pie. (Not to be confused with International Pi day next month, dear reader.)

So very soon after I learnt how to make pastry and cooked a game pie. I did not pass Go and did not collect £200. It was not that sort of game. It was the sort of game where you find shot as you chew and you have to remember not to chew too hard, otherwise you take a chance and pay the dentist £100.

In order to make pastry for the first time in post-pregnancy memory, I had to use 2 egg yolks (the yellow bit) and leave the whites (the clear bit).

My husband, being a Clever Bloke, suggested that I use the remaining whites (still clear) to make a meringue. Ideally while the oven was still warm.

I read what St Delia of Norwich had to say and found the ingredients remarkably straightforward. 2 oz of caster sugar for each egg white (clear). ‘That’s fairly clear’ I thought. I did not think her idea of whisking until the eggs defied gravity suited my lifestyle of listening to a crying baby, so whusk until I felt ready to stop. At this point I added some of the sugar, and then all of it. I whusk and I whusk and I re-read the writings of St Delia and commited them to memory and I realised my error. There was no way I was going to create a meringue this way.

So I poured out the mixture (white) on to baking paper in a gooey line and cooked it. When I opened the oven this morning I discovered a surf board. So that was nice. Except it didn’t look very floaty or strong, and it was a bit little. So perhaps it was a cuttlefish in fact.

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Monopoly Night

So much can change in twelve months. It was this weekend, one year ago, that dad had his heart attack and we worried that we might lose him.

Go to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200.

I was scared. We were all scared. The days dripped past. Dad got to Papworth and had stents inserted in an artery. He changed his diet: radically and religiously. He started walking daily and cycling often. His fitness improved week by week. He observed the world around him and learnt the details of the fields and changing seasons around his home. His cholesterol levels improved and his girth receded.

Advance to Mayfair.

There was the joy of becoming a grandad in May. There was the excitement of welcoming my sister back from New Zealand in August. There is the prospect of a second grandchild any day now. Some things ended and new things began.

Pay School fees of £150. 

Some things surprised us. Dad was not sure about travelling at first, but took journeys around the country, including a refreshing holiday we all took to Herefordshire in May. Emotionally he was a different person. Reflective in a new way. Grateful for new details. For a time we thought that the encouraging, positive dad we had always relied on had gone for good. He came back.

You have won a crossword competition. Collect £100.

Relationships have strengthened. I am still learning more about my dad. This week I learnt how to cook pot roasts and Hungarian goulash from him. I always assumed he cooked in the same way I do: look at the ingredients you’ve got and throw in extra things if they might go out of date. No. My dad is remarkably similar to my husband (the theories must be right, or maybe it is a Cambridge thing). Dad makes sure he puts the right ingredients into his cooking. And he knows what works and what doesn’t: why you would put two onions into goulash rather than an onion and a leek; why you wouldn’t put mushrooms in. Less is more. The right ingredients matter. How to get the right amount of liquid, or when to add things. I learn to cook by trial and error. I am amazed at how much my dad (like my husband) will refer to reliable cookbooks for advice and to work out the principles behind cooking. Of course, dad is now much more aware of the implications of what he eats.

You have won second prize in a Beauty Contest. Collect £10. 

This weekend marks another event – his younger brother turns 60 and all four brothers and wives are meeting to celebrate. Two lots of threescore. It will do dad good and will be a positive time. 

It is your birthday. Collect £10 from each player.  

I don’t believe any of this is down to chance. I believe God has graciously given us this year, and I for one am incredibly grateful for it. We’ve been around the board a few times, but we know that each day is precious.

Reflecting and preparing

‘I haven’t spent much on buying things for the baby yet’, I said to mum and dad yesterday.

‘You will!’ dad replied.

He’s right. Does he have the monopoly on being right?

Even when I needed to moan at their cat and offload a number of trivial hormonal matters to him, he could see the positive, educational side. If something goes wrong, according to dad’s philosophy, it is a useful learning experience.

This is what I missed in the months following his heart attack. I am so grateful to have that cheerful, ‘let’s see the bright side’ dad back. It is hard to believe that it is almost a year ago. Dad has mentioned that it happened last October, but I didn’t need reminding. The first week of October is my favourite week of the year. It reminds me of summer and winter all at once. Of the cornflake frenzy of leaves and the milk-bottle chill that wakes you up as you step outside. Of what it means to be cosy.

Yesterday mum and I intended to visit a quilting exhibition at Sutton Hoo. However, it was closed, so we went to Woodbridge instead. We had a lovely time and I bought a taggie, which was an exciting purchase and makes me feel slightly more posh than I am prepared to admit.

Today, a friend who is off work long-term ill and I went to buy the necessary maternal kit needed for The Hospital Bag. Very exciting, in a disposable knicker and breast pad kind of way, making me feel slightly more normal than others may be prepared to admit.

On Saturday my husband and I bought the car seat. This was exciting, as it is not often that a shop assistant has to help you fit something outside of the shop. She did not make it look easy, which was reassuring. It wasn’t, which was also reassuring.

Earlier I visited my midwife, who I hadn’t actually seen for 8 weeks. She told me she was retiring on 12th October, after 40 years. This was not reassuring.

However, the baby is the right way round now and facing correctly, which is.

I felt like spending more on the baby, to celebrate.

Dad was right.

Pregnancy and Art

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Barbara Hepworth was no mathematician. I say this because I always felt she represented the pregnant form until I sat and thought about it.

Women do not have a hole going through them. If we did, the baby would fall out. We would feel like big doughnuts (all the time) and people would look straight through us (depending on our height).

The mathematical name for a doughnut with a hole in it is a Torus. This is a great word and a great shape, and one I find peculiarly attractive. Perhaps Hepworth did too. She made it a lot more feminine. Her fantastic sculptures are meaningful to me as a woman. I always thought they directly represented the pregnant form.

I do not know the name for the mathematical shape I actually resemble, which would be the equvalent of a hollow sphere. Perhaps ‘hollow sphere’ is technically correct. A hollow sphere with offspring is clearly not hollow, and when the day of birth arrives I will no longer be a sphere but a vessel. All very weird.

What I mean to say is, there is matter inside me which is not me, which is making me more philosophical and hormonal than I can work out. My brain is no longer functioning as normal, which is probably why Barbara Hepworth did not need to represent the heads.

On to my toes, in that case, which are more humourous than usual. Yesterday, with feet swelling into my summer sandals, I went in to town. When I got home I discovered my little toes had gone red. On the right little toe were two perfectly circular white blisters in a diagonal, much like the ‘two’ on a dice. While giggling at this discovery I looked at my left little toe, and discovered a single round blister, much like a ‘one’ on a dice. They reminded me of Monopoly, but when I realised that they could only take me as far as Whitechapel Road (£60) I was less impressed.

Monopoly also has a toroid element, but it is all about going around in circles. The same way each time. Being a woman is to be the circle.

I had thought recently that the Lord of the Rings might also be a symbolic artistic representation of pregnancy in a male-dominated world. The protagonist has a period of time to carry a precious burden to a place of pain and new beginnings. All along the way there are dangers and the burden gets heavier and heavier. The hero gets more and more irrational and relies on all sorts of new acquaintances to get through the journey. Even the closest travelling companion doesn’t always know how to help.

And what shape is this burden, this gift, this treasure?

A torus.