I hate this time of year

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Tuesday 29th October 2019

It’s dim and dark when I get up despite the clocks changing last weekend. I hate this time of year. Swimming at 7.00, in the office by 8.00. I need to finish a fair bit off this morning as I am away at a funeral this afternoon.

My oldest friend’s mother. I have fond and happy memories of the little twinkly lady who often fed me as a child. She was both mumsy and glamorous even in her chip shop clothes, a lovely woman. It’s strange to see my lightly battered friend with his wife and daughter. We usually meet at his restaurant or at rugby matches, I’ve not seen them together for many years.

At the funeral I am approached by a rather sinister looking, bearded chap who wears heavy, statement glasses. He is an old school friend I last saw in 1982. We catch up 37 years in ten minutes, list our achievements, recognise fellow feeling and promise to connect on social media. I catch glimpses of his younger self in his face as he talks, stripping the beard and the years away in my mind to see the jolly youth he once was.

I dash back to the office after the funeral consumed with guilt that I didn’t go back to the buffet in our old school in Brynaman, it would have been fitting in many ways.

I leave at 5.45 for life drawing at the Elysium Bar. It’s only a couple of miles into town but it takes me half an hour. It’s worth the effort though, as the model is a magnificent, curvy, primitive goddess of a woman. She exudes confidence through her ample presence in the room. Her pale, pale skin seems to glow from inside and reflects multiple colours from all about. A sheer joy to paint. My best work in ages emerges.

Wednesday 30th October 2019

Swimming at 7.00 in the office by 8.00. A snatched coffee in between and a chat with Gareth before he goes off to Uni. He’s been preparing himself a breakfast of oats, nuts, honey and dried fruit in milk the night before and is very proud of the results the next morning. His girlfriend is having an increasing influence on him, as she should.

Work is slow with most of my clients away for half term so at 10.00 I slope off to the monthly life drawing class at the Print Workshop. We have a new female model who is lithe and still — a good combination. It dawns on me while she’s talking that she was in school with my daughter and I know her parents. I am a little uncomfortable with this but she seems fine about it — she’s 25 and very confident.

I stop to get a Panini for lunch on the way home. I have paint on my face and, when I explain why, the lady who runs the café says she is interested in life drawing and will come next week. Most people find it a bit weird.

Work in the afternoon. A blur of exhibiton stand design, fielding questions on a sign design and sending work to print.

I have a quick chat with Meg who is away on a course in Canterbury for two weeks. She sounds happy and pleased with her efforts. She is a great kid, ebullient at all times, the world doesn’t deserve her.

We have a tofu curry for tea as Lowri is joining us. She sits and talks to me after eating and it occurs to me that our nitwit son may have struck gold. She’s funny and engaging and interested in what I have to say. A winning formula even if she wasn’t also a little stunner.

Thursday 31st October 2019

Brexit day, but not, thank god. A general election looming instead, which gives a little hope for now. It constantly baffles me that anyone would throw away the freedom, strength and security we have in Europe just to keep out a handful of perceived undesirables. Barmy, but a testament to the power of lies and propaganda.

Same old routine, swim, coffee, work. I am designing a recipe book for a charitable organisation, so bugger all money and far more work than was discussed. Still it may help save the planet, so might be worth the effort, who knows?

I do some organidling too, filing, moving piles of paper around, moving them back again. A kind of administrative feng shui.

I ring Steve to see who the model is for this evening’s class and find it is a woman who seems to think she can just stand poker straight to delight and inspire us with her negativity. So lacking is she in dynamism or grace I give it a miss and cook Shakshuka for tea instead. We are abandoned by the lads so Sarah and I eat in the kitchen, feeling very smug for some reason.

We watch some crap film which turns out to be very entertaining in an “our expectations were so low it had to be better than we thought it would be” kind of way.

Friday 1st November 2019

Wake to find the country hasn’t exploded after all, what a surprise, perhaps they meant Guy Fawkes night?

Swim, coffee, rugby this morning — Wales in the utterly pointless third place play off at the World Cup in Japan, made more utterly pointless as we lose 40–17 to the All Blacks. Bastards.

Work for a couple of hours before lunch out with the fragrant one. An old haunt which has come good again, the Village Idiot in Killay precinct.

The Gŵyr school prospectus samples arrive and I am again relieved at a successful job. Even after all these years I feel a pang of trepidation when I first get my hands on a print run.

Bryn back from Uni for a couple of nights admits he’s caning it a bit and needs to knuckle down. He’s already been away six weeks!

Sarah struggling a bit with her sore heel confirms the decision to order a Japanese takeaway instead of cooking. We share a couple of beers and catch up with Bryn on his week. Gareth playing another gig means just the four of us for dinner so we eat in front of the TV, lazy, but it’s Friday.

Saturday 2nd November 2019

It was a rough night. Heavy rain, high winds and a thunder storm made for a restless sleep and a vivid dream involving a large cast of characters in a surreal drama involving a light show.

I wake early and decide to swim even though it’s Saturday. I complete a shortened routine of forty lengths before going to the bakery on the way home.

I make breakfast for the boys and we settle to watch the Rugby World Cup final which England are strongly fancied to win against South Africa. They blow it, the Boks satisfyingly puncturing their over inflated sense of entitlement.

After the match I prepare the onions for pickling tomorrow. They’re hateful little buggers, making my eyes and nose run and I have to repeatedly remind myself that they will be worth the effort in a few weeks time.

Sarah and I venture out in the shitty weather to buy fireworks for tomorrow. Lucy and Catherine coming for a barbecue along with the eldest two and girlfriends. We struggle to find any but eventually discover them hidden away in Morrisons (fireworks, not girlfriends). The lady who serves me says they probably won’t bother next year. Garden bonfire parties are in sharp decline it seems. She neglects to ask if I’m over 25. Ah well.

I used to love our tiny display when I was a kid. My dad always made a guy from his old work clothes stuffed with paper. It scared the crap out of me one year when I went out to the shed in the evening not knowing he’d already made the guy and stood him in the corner with a glow-in-the-dark mask for a face.

I make corned beef hash for tea. A daddy special that always sees clean plates. I once thought it a good idea to put together a dad’s collection of simple recipes gleaned from fellow fathers at the rugby club the boys played at. The problem was there were only so many versions of corned beef hash the book could sustain.

Sunday 3rd November 2019

Nice start to the day with all three boys home and Sarah making pancakes for breakfast. They natter and tease, with me the butt of most of their jokes. I’m like a pig in shit.

I gather the jars for pickles and prepare the vinegar, the onions having been salted overnight. A new recipe – Agrodolce – sweet, spicy pickles in balsamic with sultanas. It requires me to melt some brown sugar in a pan to coat the onions. Sounds easy, but I end up making onion flavoured toffee. Sarah rescues the situation.

I take Bryn the few miles back to uni after lunch and the familiar poignant sadness returns as I drop our beautiful boy off. The house a little larger when I get back.

I fall asleep with the cat on my lap for a blissful twilight half hour before the evening onslaught. The rain arrives from Brynaman with Catherine just as I am going out to prepare the fire and barbecue. Sarah’s making salads and organising the kitchen as I stand outside slowly absorbing a month’s drizzle and steaming gently in the heat from the fire. I cook the food by braille due to the smoke and the dark but it all goes well — I don’t poison anyone.

Ev keeps popping out to check the fire’s still going. I marvel at his huge presence in a room now, intimidatingly muscular but equally jovial and witty. He has so much potential, he just needs time to find his way. Christ, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

We go back outside. The girls enjoy the sparklers, losing their years and giggling while making rude shapes with the incandescent wands.

I delegate sons to light the fireworks and step back to enjoy as the rain stops. We fill the kitchen with noise and laughter after a successful display. Still maudlin after taking Bryn back, I find it hard to engage and wonder after 25 years how many more times we’ll do this.

Monday 4th November 2019

Swimming a struggle this morning, the water feels thick, my back is stiff from brushing the patio yesterday. I’m already looking forward to my fortnightly massage with Sandra on Friday.

Into work and some good news, we have had our quote accepted for the new Gŵyr school website. It’s been such a dire year for new work it will be good to do something different.

I take an hour for one of my least favourite jobs of the year, picking up the spent fireworks and cleaning the barbecue for the winter. Everything is so bloody wet, the compost steams as I tip the still hot ashes in. I try to find the positives as I put the Webber away in the shed, The next time I get this out, winter will be over and warmer weather upon us. But I’m not fooling anyone.

Entered the Royal Society of Portrait Painters competition again. £18.00 to be told you’re crap would be a bargain to most masochists.

I find my stomach growling at 3.00 as I remember that Sarah has already prepared a beef stew and dumplings for tea tonight. I welcome the concept of winter warmers as I would an old friend invited in to share the fire and a cozy chat. I pop into the house to stretch my legs as I find my inner Tom, guided by my twitching nostrils following a waft of warm, meaty comfort.

Gareth, back from uni, taps my office window for a brief chat. He looks tired but our rock god is still going to band practice this evening.

It’s Quizzy Monday on TV. Only Connect and Universally Challenged stretch the brain for an hour or so but it is a mere speedbump on the slow road to bed.

Written by

All this, and Welsh too.

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