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.


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.


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


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.

How to win at Monopoly – Theory 1

I won at Monopoly on Saturday!

The main reason I won was that my husband M didn’t. And the main reason for that was that the rest of us realised he might (he is a calculated type), and ganged up on him. I was just the least unlucky and didn’t get bankrupt.

Theory #1 of winning: try and get the second bunch of streets on each side, as some (especially the oranges) get landed on more often and can be more lucrative for rent. The reds were also very good on Saturday, as M got ‘Go back to Trafalgar Square’ one time’ and ‘Go back to Pall Mall’ which led to landing on the reds another time. He landed on them three times altogether. I think three times is normally enough time to bankrupt another player.

I am so happy.

We went to a party last night; a 1977 theme as a colleague had conveniently been born then. Concorde was there too. As was R2D2, Morph, half of ABBA and a bunch of hippies I work with (I was one of them).

So now I ought to be finishing the mock SAT marking off and planning how to introduce Newton’s Laws of Motion to sixth-formers, and M is painting downstairs.

Clockwork pheasants

We got back from Christmas last night. It was a good time for us, with a lot of M’s relatives and more tuneful crackers (getting in order this time, and performing for M’s grandma).

We played monopoly with M’s family, which was very different from when we played the day dad had his heart attack. You can play the game so many ways. I couldn’t fight hard enough, so I let M buy me out early on.

I also found out that dad is suffering from a heavy cold. On Christmas day, after preaching twice at the weekend he wasn’t up to playing a game with the family (which is normal), and had missed lots of sleep. So my brother and his wife, mum and dad watched the video of dad’s 50th birthday, a surprise party we held for him 10 years ago. As well as my brother playing Vivaldi on the guitar and my teddy bear rap, there is a portion on Grandad doing a speech.

That afternoon, up with M’s family, I was particularly stressed and upset (twitchy, confused, anxious) and worried about dad. I knew that Grandad’s ashes were within half an hour’s drive of where we were staying, but couldn’t phone dad about it to ask where. I’m glad now that I didn’t. By the morning I felt better and phoned to ask directions.

We found the spot on Boxing Day, and it was interesting but void of emotion. In fact, it felt familiar and understated and there were pheasants, lots of beech nuts and a stream. The fells were misty, the stone bridges were narrow and the grass was very green. My dad’s dad and my dad’s mum both have ashes scattered around there. I was happy to see it but didn’t want to stay long.

When I called dad this morning he asked if we had found it. He didn’t sound disappointed that we had been. I would not have liked to hurt him by going, but a quarter and a quarter of my heritage are there and I wanted to know.

What happened next

So it’s Wednesday, and the first day I have really had to take it in. Maybe. I’m a good one for delaying dealing with emotional issues if I can help it.

On Saturday I was out with my friend in a local town, and missed a call on my phone. As we were in a cafe, I wasn’t able to hear my husband’s message very well, so I assumed it was something about meeting people later and carried on with my trip out. My friend and I were getting her out of her house, where she has been recovering from a fall.

Later on I thought I ought to check the message again. Quite clearly this time my husband was telling me to ring home as soon as possible. When I did, he was remarkably good about getting to the point in a sensitive way. Dad had been rushed to hospital and had possibly had a heart attack.

My friend was great – she told me to drive to the local hospital to find him and see about the situation. So we drove down to the local hospital, where another old friend was at the reception. She told me that he would be at A&E at the main hospital, and called through to locate him. He had been moved on to the Cardiac Monitoring Unit. I was given a chance to speak to the nurse there, who told me that I could visit, and took my home number.

As a result, 20 minutes and £2 later we arrived at the right hospital and I left my friend in the cafe while I went to dad’s ward. Mum was there too, taking notes for what to bring him. She looked relieved to see me, and dad smiled. He didn’t look like my dad. He was sat in bed the way one does in hospital – not quite up and not quite along. He had a lot of white pillows, blue bedding, electrical sensors and a pale, pale chest.

He looked a lot like my grandad – his dad – who had died a year ago. Grandad had had a heart condition and was in hospital having an operation when he died. It occured to me that the vulnerability and utter love and fear I was feeling was something like what my own dad had felt when he had seen his dad in hospital. He had been the last of his sons to see him before he died, and insisted that Grandad have a proper meal.

Mum had to leave, and so I was left to waffle a bit and spend time just being with dad. He was not himself, so there was not a great deal of use talking, but I still talked too much. The food they brought him worried him (was it ok to eat it? why didn’t he feel hungry?)  and I insisted they bring him some water. A nurse gave him ‘something to keep it down’ with his morphine.

I left feeling vulnerable and a little shocked. But there was still work to do. Mum had begun to tell people, and there would be plenty of correspondence to sort out.

My friend and I headed home and as my husband was there, we ordered our Chinese takeaway. We talked, and then put the TV on. Mum arrived, and ate what we had saved her. The plate was hot and the food was cold. Just when your parents need you to provide for them.

It was clock-change day, so my husband continued in the family tradition by organising a game of Monopoly, as there would be ‘an extra hour to play’. But at around 10 mum was ready to go. She had phoned one of dad’s brothers and asked him to contact the others, as it would be easier for him. He would know whether to contact dad’s second brother (whose birthday was the next day). Mum took my friend, as they were going in the same direction.

I figured I would stay awake all night and work, but after persuasion from my husband I had a bath and went to bed.

On Sunday I played the drums at church, prayed with my minister after the service and contacted various people. I kept busy, as there was still work to prepare for school the next day. Later in the evening mum suggested we visit dad in hospital, where he was looking a lot better. The doctors were hoping to send him to Papworth, and had decided it had been a heart attack. I didn’t sleep so well on Sunday night.

Monday at school was intense and there were tests to do and mark, lessons to teach (and cover!), a morning duty, a lunchtime meeting and a detention after school. My sixth form class of 4 were down to 2, which was a shame as I had brought in a toy VW Beetle and Henry the train to go through Forces. In the evening I had more to do. There were a lot of kind emails and people phoned and were interested to know how dad was getting on.

Tuesday was also busy, with PSE and 5 other Maths lessons. By the evening I was exhausted, but still not sleeping well. Some of my classes had gone badly, as I had been snapping and ‘losing it’. One lesson was difficult as I had prepared a new seating plan and powerpoint explanation of some test questions, but the computer wasn’t working as it had lost its network connection. The class were noisy in the corridor, noisy when I wanted them to listen and unhelpful when the computer didn’t work. I felt crushed, but couldn’t show it. There was no internet connection in the evening.

Today I made sure the laptop demo worked before school started. I had a difficult time in registration as a few of the people in my form didn’t have ties or school shoes. We had to elect two form reps, but the two (naughty) boys who stood were being silly, so I postponed that part. There were two helpers in my first lesson (a Teaching Assistant and a sixth former; first time ever!), but I couldn’t focus and felt everything was falling apart. The next lesson with year 10s got harder and harder; people who had made good progress last year in Maths were messing around. Break duty started late as a result, which I hate. Then my laptop lesson, which wasn’t easy. And as it is All Saints, my school has Mass, so half of the class went down to the hall for that. I went down too.

Most of the Mass was ok, although the year 11s did keep being silly. At the point where the priest mentioned the blood of Christ it hit me.

I knew I couldn’t hold it together, so I walked out of a nearby door. A kind colleague came out and listened to me and made me a drink. She got the Head’s PA in and they told me to go home for the rest of the day. So even though it had been 4 days since dad’s heart attack, the shock was only starting to hit me. They told me to stay away for longer if I needed it. And to be fair, I am in no fit state to teach.

I don’t know whether to go and call on dad – he is back from Papworth now, having had an angiogram and two stents put in (angioplasty?), but needs to rest. And I don’t want to give him anything to worry about. He doesn’t like me leaning on him any more.

Maybe I’ll do some research on what angioplasty is. I’m very grateful at his being treated so well and so quickly. There have been so many answers to prayer in this. But we’re all still fragile. And mum says their heating is down, so I don’t want to get in the way.

We’ll just have to see.